Understanding Different Types of Mouthwash - Smile Dental Center

man pouring mouthwash into capTypes of mouthwash continue to expand based on the purpose and oral condition. Learn about the different rinses available, so you’re not using a mouthwash that’s ineffective for your dental needs.

What Does Mouthwash Do?

Mouthwash is often the finishing touch of your oral care routine. After you floss and brush, it helps rinse away any remaining particles and reaches hard-to-access areas. Formulas can help kill bacteria, protect your gums and apply fluoride.

There are two general types of mouthwash. Therapeutic rinse is the most common, with prescription and over-the-counter varieties also available. These help control plaque, gingivitis, tooth decay and bad breath. The other is cosmetic, which ultimately functions as a breath freshener.

For your dental health, look for a mouthwash with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Avoid giving mouthwash to children 6 and under, as they are at risk of swallowing the fluid.

Therapeutic Mouthwashes

Therapeutic mouthwashes are typically formulated with:

  • Cetylpyridinium chloride, used to control mouth odor
  • Chlorhexidine, which helps fight plaque and gingivitis
  • Peroxide for its whitening effect
  • Fluoride for reducing tooth decay
  • Essential oils

Learn more about the common types of therapeutic mouthwashes.

Fluoride Mouthwash

Fluoride mouthwashes help fight tooth decay by reducing cavity risks. You’re advised to rinse with a fluoride mouthwash after brushing to help with remineralization. However, be sure to not ingest this solution, as it can contribute to dental fluorosis when combined with fluorinated water.

Antiseptic Mouthwash

Also called an antibacterial mouthwash, this typically alcohol-based solution stops bacterial growth and controls bad breath. In conjunction with brushing your teeth and flossing, using an antiseptic rinse can help manage halitosis and prevent mouth infections. Be sure to use it after flossing and before brushing. Along with bad breath, antiseptic mouthwashes are optimal for controlling plaque and gingivitis.


Available with or without a prescription, these mouthwashes contain ingredients like carbamide or hydrogen peroxide to help reduce staining. Whitening mouthwashes can help support the results of professional teeth whitening or offer a gentle, at-home solution to gradually decrease staining.

This mouthwash is essentially a fluoride-antiseptic hybrid that helps control plaque, tartar and bacteria, often combined with a whitening agent. The result can help reduce bad breath, strengthen your teeth and gums, and support other whitening treatments.

Prescription Mouthwashes

Your dentist may provide a prescription for a mouthwash that assists with:

  • Managing dry socket, which can occur after a tooth extraction. In this case, rinsing helps reduce bacteria in the open socket.
  • Pain relief. The mouthwash is formulated with a topical anesthetic to manage discomfort related to ulcers or another dental condition.
  • Managing reduced saliva production. Mouthwashes are alcohol-free to reduce drying and may contain an enzyme or cellulose ingredient to wash away debris and help moisten the mouth.

In all cases, use a prescription mouthwash exactly as directed.

Preprocedural Mouthwash

Your dentist may give you a solution prior to a procedure to reduce microorganisms in your mouth and from any sprayed saliva. This is typically an antimicrobial or virucidal solution.

Cosmetic Mouthwash

Cosmetic mouthwashes help cover up bad breath but do not actually address the source. These products, which come in bottle and spritz form, often serve to freshen your mouth, rather than control bacteria.

Natural Mouthwashes

Often formulated with essential oils, these products provide similar properties as therapeutic mouthwashes. Alcohol-free mouthwashes often fall into this group.
Ready to discuss your at-home oral care routine with a dentist? Contact Smile Dental Center to schedule an appointment today.