Taking care of your teeth and gums is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. However, sometimes it can feel difficult to know exactly how to have the best possible oral hygiene. Knowing how often and what techniques to brush your teeth, how to properly floss, and what foods to avoid seem to dominate most oral care conversations, but what about mouthwash? There are so many options at any given store, knowing what is best for your oral care can be overwhelming. While you should consult your dentist for the best advice for your personal situation, here is a general guide to choosing a mouthwash!

Alcohol vs. Alcohol Free Mouthwash

One of the biggest indicators of whether or not you should purchase an oral care product is if it is American Dental Association (ADA) approved, which will likely be clearly shown on the packaging. However, though some alcohol based mouthwashes have been ADA approved, there is still debate about whether or not this is a good option for the general consumer. It might seem like the differences would be minor, but you might want to consider choosing an alcohol-free mouthwash for a number of reasons. 

Downsides to Killing all Bacteria 

One of the main arguments made in favor of alcohol based mouthwash is that these options kill almost all bacteria that is present in your mouth. Great! Right? But we must remember that not all bacteria are bad. In reality, our bodies actually rely on several forms of good bacteria to operate at a healthy level. The downside to alcohol or ethanol mouthwash is that it robs your mouth of its natural defenses. So, while alcohol based mouthwash might be a quick and occasionally good solution for bad breath, consistent use might actually open the door for more serious infection down the road. With the good bacteria depleted, gum disease and cancer causing bacteria is left to thrive, which is probably the opposite effect you want your mouth wash to have!

Alcohol Causes Dry Mouth

The saliva that your body produces is your mouth’s number one defense against bacteria, lingering food particles, and more. Saliva is an absolute necessary part of good oral health as it constantly washes these sources of infection away before they can cause issues for your teeth and gums. This is one reason why individuals with chronic illnesses tend to have a hard time maintaining oral health, as one of the symptoms of many medications is dry mouth. Alcohol also creates dry mouth, so using an alcohol based mouthwash is likely to cause a shift in your body’s natural saliva levels. 

Benefits of Alcohol Free Mouthwash

One of the biggest draws to alcohol-free mouthwash is that it is safe for everyone to use, while most physicians warn against the use of alcohol based washes for children, diabetics, and people with other major illnesses. Plus, choosing an alcohol-free mouthwash will help you treat bad breath in the short term while giving your body a leg up on its natural defenses against it in the long run. 

At the end of the day, the best thing is to consult with an oral care physician on what option is going to benefit you the most. With many factors that vary patient to patient, this will help you make the most informed decision on your best course of action!