Mouthwash holds a useful place in a daily oral health routine. Some mouth-rinses contain fluoride for strengthening tooth enamel, which helps to protect from cavities and dental decay (caries). There also mouthwashes that may help you remove dental plaque to protect your mouth from gingivitis. As an added benefit, mouthwash makes your mouth feel fresh by masking bad smells.
However, while mouthwash makes your mouth feel extra clean and gives your breath a boost, rinsing alone will not keep your mouth healthy and is not as important as brushing and flossing.
I am going to outline most popular therapeutic uses of fluoride mouth rinses below:
TO PREVENT DENTAL CARIES
Use fluoride mouthwash. Check the amount of fluoride on the bottle - it should state at least 225 ppm F (parts per million) fluoride.
Enamel is made of hydroxy-apatite crystals. Fluoride contained in the mouthwash becomes embedded into enamel and forms fluoro-apatite crystals which are stronger, therefore the enamel is more resistant to dental decay.
It can help to restore enamel before it becomes cavitated (before you get a hole in the tooth). Acid formed by bacteria from dental plaque causes demineralisation of the enamel; fluoride will help to re-mineralise this early lesion and prevent it from becoming a hole. However, it will not act properly if the tooth is covered with dental plaque as it will not penetrate the layer of bacteria - you need to keep your teeth clean to benefit from the mouthwash.
WHEN YOU WEAR BRACES
Cleaning your teeth becomes more demanding when you wear a fixed brace. Your dentist, orthodontist or dental hygienist should give you detailed advice on how to keep your 'new' mouth clean. But it is still easy to leave plaque in areas around the brackets, therefore using FLUORIDE mouthwash will help greatly to maintain your teeth cavity-free while wearing braces.
TO PREVENT ROOT CARIES
If you have gum recession and the roots of your teeth became exposed you need to make sure you brush those surfaces as well to remove dental plaque; the surface of the root is not as hard as that of the enamel and this is why caries will progress much faster on the root than on the crown of the tooth. FLUORIDE mouth rinse may help to inhibit this process.
Using FLUORIDE mouth rinse will also help to reduce the sensitivity of the teeth. It is important that you use the mouthwash at different times to toothbrushing.
FLUORIDE mouthwash may help to prevent the effects of acid erosion; It will aid re-mineralisation of the enamel of the tooth to keep your teeth from wearing away.
HIGH RISK CARIES
If you are at high risk of getting dental caries, you may need to use a mouthwash with higher concentration of Fluoride, e.g. 500 ppm. Your dentist may prescribe you a special toothpaste with high fluoride concentration.
Always use mouthwash at a different time to tooth brushing; this will allow to gain full benefit from the fluoride in the toothpaste - just spit out the toothpaste after brushing and don't rinse with either water or mouthwash, so that the fluoride can stay and act on your teeth.
Do not eat or drink for thirty minutes after using mouthwash, to allow the time for fluoride to act on your teeth.
Make sure you use alcohol-free mouthwash. Alcohol in the mouth rinse can make your gums dry.
It is important that mouthwash is not given to children under six years of age as they cannot spit out properly. Fluoride can be dangerous if ingested in large quantities.
You can use any brand mouthwash, own brand is as good as the leading brands when it comes to the therapeutic action of fluoride, just make sure it contains 225 ppm fluoride.
Fun factor: I use my mouthwash with Airfloss - device that cleans spaces between the teeth!