Mouthwash does way more than just freshen your breath upon waking up or after particularly garlicky meal—it’s also an important part of an effective oral hygiene routine for protecting your teeth and gums against gum disease as well as cavities. And while there are many different kinds of mouthwash, the best mouthwash for gums contains certain ingredients you should know about.
If you’re already someone who is known to swig mouthwash, it’s possible that the bottle you currently use for the express purpose of fixing bad mask breath or refreshing the bad taste in your mouth isn’t effective for boosting your mouth’s health. Below, dentists provide a breakdown of what to look for in a mouthwash for gums and their favorite options to buy so you can maximize your oral care routine and preserve the health of your pearly whites.
Ingredients to look for in the best mouthwash for gums
There are several mouthwash formulations, and they’re intended for different specific uses, all of which promote oral health. “The purpose of mouthwash is to decrease microbes in our mouth, which helps with gum disease and cavities,” says, Sage Pollack, DMD, owner and general dentist at Dentistry of Colorado.
“The purpose of mouthwash is to decrease microbes in our mouth, which helps with gum disease and cavities.” —Sage Pollack, DMD
If the mouthwash in question is specifically for preventing cavities, for example, it likely has a mineralizing agent in it, such as fluoride. “Topical fluoride use in this way is known to improve the micro-hardness of the enamel, which makes it stronger and more resistant to decay,” says Joyce Kahng, DDS, a dentist in California.
If the mouthwash is for gum disease or gingival inflammation, you want more of an antimicrobial-based mouthwash for your gums. In general, the best mouthwash for gums will have antimicrobial ingredients, like chlorhexidine, chlorine dioxide, cetylpyridinium chloride.
But keep in mind that mouthwash for gum health and cavity prevention are related: Tooth decay can, after all, lead to gum disease. And since both gum disease and cavities can cause bad breath, by using a mouthwash geared toward gum and teeth health, you’re really preventing future breath issues, as well.
What to avoid in your mouthwash
Regarding potentially harmful ingredients you might find in mouthwash, the pros say to stay away from alcohol used as an ingredient. While it is found in many formulations currently available, it can be abrasive on the gums, causing dry mouth and irritation. It can also remove some good-for-you bacteria in your mouth, which is actually detrimental to your gum and teeth health.
What’s more is that the mouthwash should be alkaline. “When a mouthwash is alkaline, it will help neutralize the pH of the mouth,” says Dr. Kahng. On the pH scale, lower numbers are more acidic, while higher numbers are more alkaline. “The pH at which cavities form is 5.5, and our goal is minimize the amount of time our enamel spends in the lower pH ranges, as low or acidic…