Mouthwash can be a great addition to any dental hygiene routine. Mouthwash has a wealth of benefits such as freshening your breath or improving your oral health by reducing plaque buildup. As pediatric dentists, parents often ask our opinion on the best oral health products for their children. We are always happy to make recommendations based on your child’s unique needs. However, there are a few things you should know first before introducing mouthwash to your kids.
Does my child need mouthwash?
There is no straightforward answer to this question as it depends on the age of the child and several other factors. Most likely, the answer is probably not. Your child does not need mouthwash, but it may be able to boost his or her oral health.
If your child is younger than 6, the American Dental Association (ADA) strongly recommends against using mouthwash. This is because most children’s mouthwashes contain fluoride, and while it is good for preventing tooth decay, too much fluoride too early can damage your child’s teeth. Another reason to avoid using mouthwash for children under the age of 6 is that younger children are more likely to swallow the rinse instead of spitting it out. The active ingredients in mouthwash are not meant to be swallowed and can prove harmful if ingested. It is typically safe for children over the age of six to use mouthwash. However, with good brushing and flossing habits, there is not much need for it unless otherwise recommended by your dentist.
Choosing a Mouthwash
There are two general types of mouthwashes on the market: cosmetic and therapeutic.
- Cosmetic mouthwashes are used to cover up bad breath, whiten teeth, and provide a clean flavor in the mouth and are rarely recommended by dentists.
- Therapeutic mouthwashes contain active ingredients that can kill bacteria, reduce your risk for plaque and gingivitis, and boost overall tooth health.
Mouthwashes are made to boost the effects of daily brushing and flossing. They can also help to treat certain aspects of your oral health. Some rinses can help whiten teeth or remove surface stains, some focus on fighting decay, while others strive for total care. However, as stated above, these conditions can often be tackled with good oral health practices. We are cautious about recommending mouthwash to children as they may use it as a substitute for brushing or flossing and can harm their dental health inadvertently.
It is important to note that mouthwashes are not a must-have for anyone, so be sure to check with your child’s dentist before purchasing a mouthwash. They will be able to offer the right recommendations for your child’s oral health care. Mouthwashes are meant to support good brushing and flossing habits and they should not be used as a substitute cleaning method. Even if mouthwash is only used to freshen breath, be cautious. If you are experiencing persistent bad breath unrelated to food, it may be a sign of an underlying health condition and should be examined by your dentist further.
We are hesitant to recommend anti-bacterial mouthwash to our patients as these mouthwashes destroy all bacteria indiscriminately, the good and the bad. This can damage the microbiome within your mouth and its ability to fight against cavities, gingivitis, and bad breath. You may also be surprised to note that alcohol is a common ingredient in many types of mouthwash, including children’s rinses. Our best advice is to seek out an alcohol-free fluoride rinse.
There are some ingredients in mouthwashes such as artificial colors and sweeteners that parents may choose to avoid. All-natural mouthwashes are also available on the market or you can decide to make your own at home.
Homemade rinses can clean your mouth while maintaining a healthy pH balance among other benefits. Common recipes for DIY oral rinses include:
- 4 sage leaves, 1 tsp of baking soda, and 1 tsp of salt mixed in 1 cup of water
- 3 drops of *peppermint oil, 4 drops of tea tree oil, and 1 tbsp of baking soda mixed in 1 cup of water
*If peppermint isn’t your flavor of choice, other essential oils like citrus or clove can help.
Before purchasing a mouthwash, make sure to check with your dentist first so that you can ensure you are doing what’s best to maintain your child’s oral health. We typically recommend anti-cavity fluoride rinses for children of age who want to use mouthwashes. Always seek products with the ADA seal of acceptance, which means that the product in question has been evaluated by independent experts and found to be both safe and effective. If you find yourself unsure, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist for help. For more information on mouthwashes or to schedule a consultation, contact Alameda Pediatric Dentistry today.