Whether you are new to the different types of mouthwashes, you’re realizing the one you are using isn’t working out, or you just want to find something different, choosing the right type of mouthwash for you can be a daunting task. The oral health aisle at any store typically has a floor-to-ceiling selection of mouthwash options, all making different claims with different ingredients. To make your choice a little easier, here is our helpful guide for choosing a mouthwash that’s right for you.

What Are Your Current Oral Health Conditions and Concerns?

Your current oral health plays a large part in which mouthwash will be best for you. Do you suffer from halitosis (bad breath) or xerostomia (dry mouth)? Are you at risk for gingivitis? Are your teeth in good health? Do you have sensitive teeth or gums? This information is more important than you might realize.

Bad Breath

Bad breath (also known as halitosis) can range from mild to severe, and it can be embarrassing or even signal more serious oral health issues. Many people suffering from more mild or temporary cases of bad breath may opt for cosmetic mouth rinses. These rinses are primarily for the purpose of masking bad breath; they do not address or cure the causes of halitosis. Cosmetic mouthwashes are okay if it’s just a matter of having eaten onions at lunch and wanting to hide the smell. However, if you have persistently bad breath, it may be a sign of excessive bacteria, gingivitis, gum disease, or other oral health issues. In this case, you should consider more antibacterial mouthwashes, and you should also talk to your dentist to determine the cause of your halitosis

Dry Mouth

If you have dry mouth (also known as xerostomia), you want to avoid mouthwashes with alcohol in them. The alcohol will dry out your mouth further, exacerbating the symptoms and increasing your discomfort. Xerostomia sufferers should consider alcohol-free mouthwashes when perusing the oral health care aisle. If your dry mouth symptoms are particularly severe – and simply eliminating alcohol from your oral care routine isn’t enough – you may want to opt for artificial saliva and specialty rinses designed for dry mouth relief.

Gingivitis and Gum Disease

Whether you have it, you’re at risk for it, or you just want to prevent it, gingivitis is no minor problem and should be taken seriously. If you are looking to protect your mouth from these issues before they arise, pick a mouthwash to use that has antiplaque, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and/or anti-gingivitis ingredients. If your dentist tells you that you are at risk for or have gingivitis or gum disease, they will probably prescribe or recommend a stronger mouthwash with chlorhexidine, which will help kill the bacteria and restore your oral health (if you practice proper brushing and flossing as well).


Tooth sensitivity can be an inconvenient and uncomfortable reality. However, there are mouthwashes that can help anesthetize and/or strengthen your teeth and dentin to help lessen or relieve tooth sensitivity. If you suffer from tooth sensitivity, look for a toothpaste that lists potassium citrate, potassium nitrate, calcium phosphate, stannous fluoride, and/or sodium fluoride in the active ingredients. Potassium citrate and potassium nitrate anesthetize the dentin and nerves within the teeth. Calcium phosphate, sodium fluoride, and stannous fluoride all strengthen the teeth, preventing irritants from getting to the dentin in the first place.

Children’s Oral Care

If you are looking for a single type of mouthwash for the whole family, or if you are looking for a mouthwash just for the kids, make sure to look for alcohol-free mouthwash. Many types of mouthwash contain alcohol, which can be very harmful to children if accidentally swallowed. It’s best to err on the side of safety. Children also should not use mouthwash if they are under the age of six, as their teeth are still forming and are vulnerable to fluorosis, a primarily cosmetic issue that can damage the texture and color of the teeth. As an additional note, it is important to store mouthwash out of the reach of children, as they may think it’s a beverage and not a rinse.

Protection and Prevention

Even if you don’t have any existing oral health issues or concerns that you need to address, it’s certainly not a bad idea to use mouthwash to protect your teeth and prevent these issues. Look for mouthwashes that contain fluoride, which prevents tooth decay and strengthens tooth enamel. Using a mouthwash that contains antiplaque, antibacterial, antimicrobial, or anti-gingivitis ingredients is a good idea, as it can help prevent a host of serious dental issues such as gingivitis and gum disease.

What to Look for in All Mouthwashes

Regardless of what you want your mouthwash to do, you should always look for the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. This seal denotes that the claims made on the packaging – whitening, antimicrobial, anti-plaque, etc. – have been tested and proven by the ADA, an independent scientific organization.

Remember: mouthwashes are not a substitute for brushing and flossing. Rather, using a mouthwash is meant to supplement the effects of brushing and flossing. If you are still unsure of which type of mouthwash is best for you, or if you have other oral health questions, our experienced dental health professionals are here to help. Call Stonewalk Family Dentistry at (770) 777-1911 or contact us online to schedule an appointment, and we will happily help your smile.

We look forward to getting to know you and your family!