The Best Mouthwash for Healthy Gums, Clean Teeth, and Fresh Breath, According to Dentists

Photo: Getty Images/ Grace Cary
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. For example, the Mayo Clinic recommends people with dry mouth symptoms avoid mouth rinses with alcohol, as they can worsen your symptoms.

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, some much needed dental health tips, and their favorite options to buy so you can maximize your oral care routine and preserve the health of your pearly whites.

Experts In This Article
  • Joyce Kahng, DDS, dentist
  • Rhonda Kalasho, DDS, dentist and CEO of TruGlo Modern Dentistry
  • Safrina Kadri, certified feng shui consultant
  • Sage Pollack, DMD, Sage Pollack, DMD, is the owner of Dentistry of Colorado. She focuses on patient comfort and uses a variety of techniques to keep her patients relaxed and pain free throughout dental treatment.

Best Mouthwash for Gums at a Glance

What To Look For in a Mouthwash Ideal for Gum Health

An important feature of your gum-friendly mouthwash mouthwash is that it shouldn't have too many dehydrating agents, says Dr. Rhonda Kalasho, a cosmetic Doctor of Dentistry and CEO of TruGlo Modern Dental. "For example, mouth rinses with alcohol tend to give you that burn, but it can dry up the membranes and gum tissue in your mouth. Gum-cleaning mouthwashes mouth rinses with mild antiseptics like stannous chloride and zinc are great to kill bacteria that it is gum disease causing and plaque producing," she says. You can also look for natural essential oils, such as licorice oil, coconut oil, or castor oil, which Dr. Kalasho says have proved themselves effective in reducing gum disease when added to mouthwashes. Because of the dehydrating nature of alcohol, alcohol-free mouthwash is generally recommended for ideal gum health and cavity prevention.

Ingredients To Look For in the Best Mouthwash for Gums

There are several gum-friendly mouthwash formulations, and they're intended for different specific uses (the top mouthwash for gum inflammation may not be the best for someone with canker sores), all of which promote oral health. “The purpose of gum-cleaning 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 for gum health is to decrease microbes in our mouth, which helps with gum disease and cavities.” —Sage Pollack, DMD

If the gum-friendly 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 non gum-friendly 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 ideal gum-cleaning 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 to minimize the amount of time our enamel spends in the lower pH ranges, as low or acidic pH's will essentially dissolve enamel,” she adds.

It doesn't make sense for a product that is meant to restore enamel to be acidic, but many mainstream brands of mouthwash are lower than that pH threshold of 5.5, so it's important to read labels and make sure you’re finding one that’s alkaline, which has a pH of 7 or higher.

As for frequency of how often to use the best mouthwash for sensitive gums and teeth health, simply add it into your morning and evening routines. “Use mouthwash to strengthen gums once or twice a day, after you brush and floss,” says Dr. Pollack. Order can be important too, the ADA says that whether you rinse after brushing depends on your toothpaste and mouthwash.

Is mouthwash good for healing gums?

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. It is super common with almost half of all adults older adults reported to have some level of gum disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic. As we've laid out so far, mouth wash is absolutely a tool that can support your oral health including your gums. When it comes to healing gums, there are many things that can be done in terms of treatment and prevention. Some mouthwash for gum disease requires a prescription, but it might be the key to rebuilding your gums if store bought brands aren't helping you. Stopping in to see a provider when you have concerns is always a good idea.

What is the fastest way to heal receding gums?

If you're experiencing a flare in gum disease symptoms like inflammation, bleeding, sensitivity, and more, it can make sense that you want to heal them as soon as possible. Of course, the first line of defense is prevention which includes brushing twice a day for two minutes, flossing once a day, and rising with an ADA-approved mouthwash, according to the American Dental Association.

As far as the top mouthwash for gum inflammation or the best mouthwash for receding gums, it really depends on the state of your condition and symptoms. Some people may benefit from any of the listed mouthwash to strengthen gums, but you may also need to visit a provider and talk about receiving a prescription-based mouthwash.

At the end of the day, though, it's always about taking small steps in your daily life to improve your overall well-being, and that includes your oral health. Things like gum health, gum disease, finding the best mouthwash to strengthen your gums, and oral health can't be fixed overnight. Learning more is always one of the best steps on the path to feeling better and potentially healing your gums as well.

Best Mouthwash for Gums

Photo: Colgate Peroxyl Antiseptic Mouthwash and Mouth Sore Rinse
Best Healing Mouthwash to Strengthen Gums: Colgate Peroxyl Antiseptic Mouthwash and Mouth Sore Rinse — $10.00

“Chlorhexidine is probably the best for your gums if you have gum disease, as it has a strong antimicrobial effect,” says Dr. Pollack, who adds that this Colgate mouthwash is one of the best options for your gum health you can find.

Chlorhexidine can help prevent gum disease effectively, and this option aims to help heal small oral wounds and soothe minor gum irritation that may appear after dental procedures and gum surgeries, she adds.

Photo: Desert Essence Coconut Oil Mouthwash
Best for Gentleness: Desert Essence Coconut Oil Mouthwash — $9.00

Any type of mouthwash with coconut oil in it can be healing for the gums. “This is a great alternative to harsh mouthwashes and helps lubricate the gum line instead of drying them out,” says Dr. Pollack. “Coconut oil is cleansing and hydrating at the same time, and it offers a more gentle approach to mouthwash when compared to some other astringent and harsh mouthwashes.” It acts as an antibacterial agent to help keep the mouth and gums clean and bacteria-free, she adds.

Photo: CloSYS Sensitive Mouthwash
Best for Sensitive Gums : CloSYS Sensitive Mouthwash — $12.00

“CloSys is pretty good, too, since it balances the pH and decreases the chance of bad breath,” says Dr. Pollack. This one comes in a nice minty flavor, and by having a more alkaline state in your mouth, you can help prevent gum disease and cavities, as well as any unwelcome odors.

Therabreath Fresh Breath
Best for Bad Breath: Therabreath Fresh Breath — $16.00

This is definitely one of the top mouthwash for gum inflammation. Even better? It comes in cool, icy mint. “This particular mouthwash fights plaque, prevents gingivitis, and is more mild since it does not contain alcohol, artificial colors, or flavors,” says Dr. Pollack. “It also prevents germs from spreading to keep gums healthy and clean.”

This selection is also adept at fighting stinky breath and bacteria that may form on the gum line, she adds, which can lead to inflammation in the mouth and on the gums.

Photo: Elementa Oral Care
Best pH-Balanced: Elementa Oral Care — $19.00

“Hands-down the best mouthwash is Elementa Oral Care, and while it is a bit more pricey, it is very pure and has only five ingredients,” says Dr. Pollack.

Elementa is around a pH of 8, which helps to neutralize acids in the mouth. It also contains xylitol in a concentration that is actually helpful for your gums and teeth. “Xylitol is an expensive ingredient and I’ve found that mouth rinses on the market claim they have xylitol but the concentrations cannot be confirmed,” she adds. So, this mouthwash, which has a concentration of 25 percent, is a major winner.

listerine zero alcohol mouthwash
Best Alcohol-Free: Listerine Zero Alcohol Mouthwash — $30.00

Listerine has been in medicine cabinets for decades, and this formula contains no alcohol and has a less intense mint flavor for sensitive gums. It kills 99.9 percent of bad breath germs, and rinsing both morning and night can give you 24 hours of protection.

ACT Anticavity Zero Alcohol Fluoride Mouthwash
Best Anti-Cavity: ACT Anticavity Zero Alcohol Fluoride Mouthwash — $4.00

Help keep your teeth and gums healthy by strengthening your enamel; this once-daily ACT mouthwash has the maximum strength of fluoride in rinse form without a prescription. It’s alcohol-free and available in three different flavors, and the dosing cup makes sure you use the correct amount each time.

Crest 3D White Brilliance Alcohol Free Whitening Mouthwash
Best Whitening: Crest 3D White Brilliance Alcohol Free Whitening Mouthwash — $7.00

Alcohol and peroxide-free, the Crest 3D whitening mouthwash can help protect your gums and teeth and keep your pearly whites, well, white. It uses the same technology as the brand’s whitestrips, so it removes surface stains to brighten your smile after just seven days of use.


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