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 and their favorite options to buy so you can maximize your oral care routine and preserve the health of your pearly whites.
Best mouthwash for gums at a glance
- Best healing: Colgate Peroxyl Antiseptic Mouthwash and Mouth Sore Rinse
- Best mint-alternative: Desert Essence Coconut Oil Mouthwash
- Best for sensitive mouths: CloSYS Sensitive Mouthwash
- Best for bad breath: Therabreath Fresh Breath
- Best pH-balanced: Elementa Oral Care
- Best alcohol-free: Listerine Zero Alcohol Mouthwash
- Best anti-cavity: ACT Anticavity Zero Alcohol Fluoride Mouthwash
- Best whitening: Crest 3D White Brilliance Alcohol Free Whitening Mouthwash
What to look for in a mouthwash ideal for gum health
An important feature of your 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, mouthrinses with alcohol tend to give you that burn, but it can dry up the membranes and gum tissue in your mouth. Mouthrinses 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.
Ingredients to look for in the best mouthwash for gums
There are several mouthwash formulations, and they're intended for different specific uses, all of which promote oral health. “The purpose of 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 is to decrease microbes in our mouth, which helps with gum disease and cavities.” —Sage Pollack, DMD
If the 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 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 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 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 gums and teeth health, simply add it into your morning and evening routines. “Use mouthwash once or twice a day, after you brush and floss,” says Dr. Pollack.
Best Mouthwash for Gums
“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.
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.
“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.
This mouthwash for your gums 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.
“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 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.
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.
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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