Types of Mouthwash: Which one Should You Use?

It’s easy to throw a mouthwash into your shopping cart that’s nearest to you on the rack in the grocery store, without ever reading the label. But is that really how you should be shopping for a tool meant to benefit your oral health?

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The truth is mouthwash comes in several different varieties, each with a unique active ingredient. Brands aside, the mouthwash you’re reaching out to could be tailored more to teeth whitening than for killing off bacteria – something that you might be actively seeking instead.

Before you make a purchase, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions to so you can choose the best mouthwash that will suit you

  • Why do I need the mouthwash in the first place? Is it to make my breath fresher, get rid of cavities or whiten teeth?
  • What does my doctor say about my oral health and what does he recommend?
  • Does the mouthwash contain the active ingredients I’m looking for?
  • Am I using the mouthwash the right way?

Once you know the purpose of using a mouthwash, your hunt for the best type will be made much easier. Since each type of mouthwash serves to achieve a different target, you’ll need to read the label of the mouthwash carefully before you can decide if it’s what you need.

There is no hard and fast classification of mouthwashes, but here are some of the major types of mouthwash that you’ll find in the market today:

#1: Fluoride Mouthwash

Just like fluoride toothpaste, fluoride mouthwash provides a high level of dental care. This type of mouthwash is perhaps one of the most common in the market today and it has teeth/enamel strengthening properties. Fluoride also helps ward off cavities and infections and prevents tooth decays.

When mixed with alcohol, which is usually the case, fluoride mouthwash can serve to not only protect and strengthen teeth but also kill bacteria through its anti-bacterial properties. This further decreases the likelihood of cavities and plaques and leaves your breath smelling fresh.

However, there is a certain degree of precaution that must be exercised when using fluoride mouthwashes. Since too much of this mineral can paradoxically affect your dental health as well as overall health, it is recommended to use the mouthwash only in limited amounts.

#2: Mouthwash with alcohol

Antiseptic mouthwash has a high concentration of alcohol that eliminates bacteria in the oral cavity. Although you will find many types of mouthwash that will only have alcohol as an active ingredient, it’s not uncommon to see a blend of alcohol and fluoride for a summative effect.

Antibacterial mouthwash restricts the growth of bacteria thereby reducing the chances of both dental and gum infections or disease. This also prevents cavity formation and plaques from building up. Rinsing the mouth with an alcohol-based mouthwash will also get rid of debris in the mouth, and act as the best mouthwash for bad breath.

As with fluoride mouthwash, too much of anti-septic mouthwash is not recommended either. That’s because this type of mouthwash solution will not only kill off the bad bacteria in your oral cavity, but also the healthy bacteria that promote a balanced environment in the mouth. Also, alcohol-based mouthwash can be highly irritating especially if you have a sore or an ulcer in your mouth.

#3: Chlorhexidine mouthwash

Chlorhexidine, or simply hexidine mouthwash, is another anti-bacterial variety of mouthwash that can effectively get rid of bacteria in the mouth. It has broad-spectrum antibacterial properties so all kinds of bacteria are a potential target for chlorhexidine based mouthwashes.

Dentists recommend the use of this type of mouthwash mainly because it works wonders against gum disease, and reduces the risk of gum inflammation. This makes it the best mouthwash for gums in the market.

However, there have been concerns with using too much of chlorhexidine mouthwash with reports of intense burning sensation, rashes and even tongue swelling. It’s best to use all types of mouthwashes in a limited, recommended amount to avoid any potential side effects

Chlorhexidine mouthwash is also not as effective as other types for combating bad breath

#4: Peroxide Mouthwash

Hydrogen peroxide acts as an anti-oxidant and an active ingredient in some types of mouthwashes. The oxidation property effectively kills bacteria in 1-3% concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. Anything above this per cent might be too irritating and even harmful for the mouth; anything below might not be effective.

There is also clinical proof that this particular type of mouthwash can help whiten teeth in the long run, and decrease the incidence of gum inflammation and infection.

As with other mouthwashes, too much of hydrogen peroxide mouthwash rinsing can cause damage to the pulp of the tooth. The pulp is where the nerves are located so damage to the pulp can lead to infection, loss of sensation and other adverse effects.

#5: Natural Mouthwash

If you’re looking for the least irritating, most benign and safe to use mouthwash, then natural mouthwash is the way to go. These mouthwashes contain no alcohol, chlorhexidine, hydrogen peroxide or other synthetic substances. Instead the ingredients in these types of mouthwashes are all-natural and may even be infused with a hint of essential oils.

Although natural mouthwash is the safest option in the market and can be used much more frequently than any other type of mouthwash, it’s also the least effective in killing bacteria, preventing infections and delivering a fresh breath.

#6: Salt Water Mouthwash

This isotonic solution is usually only recommended after you’ve had a dental procedure such as an extraction done. Because it is literally saltwater, it won’t irritate your gums or teeth but it will have a certain extent of anti-bacterial properties.

Saltwater mouthwash might be the best option if you have mouth sores, sore throat or ulcers

It can also be made at home DIY simply with warm water and a pinch of salt.


Knowing the different options you have in mouthwash will make the decision of choosing what’s best for you. Understand what you need out of your ideal mouthwash the next time you make a mouthwash purchase!