By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Visit the dental care aisle at any store and you will see a large array of dental rinses that meet several different dental needs. Of course, following the advice of your family’s dentist is what matters most. It can also help to understand the differences among the types of rinses available and how they affect dental health.
Nicole E. Mooney, pediatric dentistry specialist with Rochester Regional Health, recommends discussing with your child’s dentist what rinse may be appropriate at that age.
“For a fairly young child, supervise them,” she said. “They tend to accidentally swallow the rinses. Always supervise them.”
If a rinse is advisable, practice with water a few times, having the child spit into a cup so you can ensure the same amount is coming out.
Children at low risk for cavities may not need a rinse at all.
“If you’re a medium to high caries risk, they may recommend a fluoride rinse,” Mooney said.
That may include people living in areas without fluoridated water such as well water.
The American Dental Association (ADA) classifies rinses as cosmetic, like clean breath mouthwash, or a therapeutic rinse that has a biologic application. The ADA seal indicates a therapeutic rinse.
The cosmetic types “don’t strengthen the tooth or kill bacteria,” Mooney said. “Therapeutic rinses control gingivitis, tooth decay or things like that. A fluoride rinse helps prevent tooth decay. Some peroxide rinses are in a lot of rinses for tooth whitening, which is also therapeutic.”
Fluoride rinses promote the remineralization of tooth enamel to help prevent tooth decay.
People taking medication that causes dry mouth may need moisturizing rinses.
“These tend to contain mucin or enzymes to mimic saliva,” Mooney said. “They provide some relief to patients with xerostomia, a reduced amount of saliva in the mouth.
She also prescribes fluoride rinse to some of these patients to help protect their teeth.
Cynthia Wong, a pediatric dentist and the director for Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s Pediatric Dentistry Residency Program, said that rinses meant to kill bacteria help prevent gingivitis, usually more of an issue for adults than children.
For those who brush well, “mouth rinse is more of a gadget and doesn’t provide you with extra protection if your oral regimen is good,” Wong said.
For younger patients whose brushing may not be so good, she recommends plaque revealing rinse as an educational tool, especially during the time children begin to brush their own teeth.
Anti-plaque pre-brushing rinse may also help children who are not as careful as they should be, since this rinse helps loosen plaque before brushing.
“If they have a good habit of brushing, the mouth rinse before a brushing habit has little effect because they’re brushing everything off,” Wong said. “The most important thing in children is fluoride toothpaste. Especially for small children who are getting new, permanent teeth, the fluoride is important to reinforce and mature the new teeth. That takes three years. The fluoride topically applied by brushing is important to reinforce the crystals on the enamel.”
Beverages such as red wine, coffee and tea tend to stain teeth. Middle aged and older adults are usually the ones seeking tooth whitening.
Dentist Maricelle Abayon, associate professor of clinical dentistry, program director of the General Practice Residency Program at UR Medicine/Eastman Institute for Oral Health, said that whitening rinses can help reduce the effects of staining.
For people with multiple dental needs, there are rinses to address them. Abayon said that some combination products may offer more than one dental advantage, such as anti-plaque, anti-gingivitis and anti-cavity.
For post-surgical patients unable to brush for a while, “I’d prescribe a prescription mouthwash to help,” she said. “The same for someone with periodontal disease to help get that inflammation under control.”
Though Abayon views mouth rinses as a “great addition to our oral hygiene practices, but it’s not going to be the end-all, be-all to replace brushing and flossing,” she said.