Kids aren’t the world’s best tooth brushers (understatement of the year), so you may be looking for something beyond just some novelty toothpaste to protect their pearly whites from cavities. Mouthwash offers a quick and easy way to freshen breath, swish away missed food particles, and strengthen teeth. The best kids’ mouthwashes do all of the above while tasting great, which goes a long way in motivating littles to use it daily. Scary Mommy reached out to pediatric dentist Dr. Erin Issac to learn what to look for in a children’s mouthwash — and when it’s safe for them to use it.
Dr. Erin Issac is a board-certified pediatric dentist at Winning Smiles in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in neurobiology and physiology from the University of Maryland, College Park, and went on to earn her Doctor of Dental Medicine in Dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Issac earned a certificate in pediatric dentistry at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. She is a member of the American Dental Association.
When Can Kids Start Using Mouthwash?
The American Dental Association (ADA) does not recommend mouthwash for children under the age of 6 due to the risk of accidental swallowing.
Dr. Issac recommends ensuring your child can “reliably spit it all out into the sink on their own.” She suggests practicing with water first to see how they handle swishing and spitting and to “always supervise young kids when using mouthwash to make sure they aren’t swallowing it.” She recommends that kids use mouthwash once or twice daily once they’re able to safely spit. You can try using a timer to make it fun and help kids hit the 1-minute mark.
Dr. Issac has a genius hack for kids who would otherwise swallow mouthwash: “You can pour a little bit onto the toothbrush after brushing and wipe it across the teeth instead of having your child rinse and spit.”
Should I Choose Kids’ Mouthwash With Fluoride?
While mouthwashes aimed at children don’t generally contain alcohol, many do contain fluoride. Ingesting too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis (discoloration of the teeth) and issues like an upset stomach. That said, the ADA does recommend that children use fluoride in dental care products — including mouthwash — when the risk of swallowing is not an issue, since fluoride has been proven to help prevent tooth decay.
Dr. Isaac echoed that sentiment: “Fluoride mouth rinse is great for all kids that can rinse and spit. The extra fluoride really helps to protect teeth from cavities.”
But if you have a younger kiddo who is still inclined to swallow the “yummy” mouthwash, you’re likely going to need fluoride-free. You’ll want to look for a rinse containing xylitol, a sugar-free sweetener with plaque-busting benefits. Dr. Issac adds, “Xylitol can be helpful in mouthwash as it helps to inhibit overgrowth of bad bacteria.”
With all that in mind, it’s time to make some space next to your toothbrush holder: From unique flavors in fun bottles to brands with an easy-dose cup, we rounded up the best mouthwashes for kids below.