Mouthwashes can be beneficial for oral hygiene and help keep your mouth feeling clean and fresh. Many over-the-counter types of mouthwash are designed to kill bacteria, reduce plaque buildup, and freshen your breath. They can also help prevent gum disease by controlling bacteria growth in the mouth and creating an environment that is less conducive to bacterial growth. Some mouthwashes contain antibacterial ingredients such as cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) or chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG). These active ingredients work by killing harmful bacteria in the mouth while simultaneously reducing inflammation within the gums caused by periodontal disease. Additionally, some antiseptic mouthwashes can even help prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by certain types of bacteria. For those looking for an added level of breath-freshening, mouthwashes can also contain ingredients such as essential oils, mints, and spices that help to mask bad breath odor.
In A Hurry? Our Top Picks:
- Best Overall: Crest Pro-Health Mouthwash
- Best for Gingivitis: GUM PerioShield Mouthwash
- Best for Bad Breath (Halitosis): TheraBreath Mouthwash
Mouthwash is a great supplementary measure to ensuring your oral hygiene is in good standing and that your breath stays fresh longer.
In this guide, we’ll review the best mouthwashes for many different use cases. So, whether you want to prevent gingivitis or simply want to freshen your breath – by the end of this guide, you will find the perfect mouthwash to meet your unique needs.
After the reviews, we will provide you with some great info on many considerations to take into account when purchasing mouthwash along with walking you through a few other oral care products that many dentists recommend.
Let’s get started on the journey together of improving your oral health today:
Best Overall: Crest Pro-Health Mouthwash
If you’re looking for something to quickly freshen up your breath before that first date or a big presentation while improving the health of your mouth, look no further than the Crest Pro-Health Mouthwash. This is our pick for the best overall mouthwash for its quick and instant effect.
It comes in a clean mint or wintergreen flavor and on top of giving you fresh and clean breath, it also helps to kill 99% of germs in your mouth without the use of alcohol in its ingredients.
- Shot of fresh breath
- Not for those seeking all-natural ingredients
What You Need To Know
Best for Gingivitis: GUM PerioShield Mouthwash
If you’re suffering from gum inflammation, or gingivitis, you’ll help to reduce it by taking the GUM PerioShield Oral Health Mouthwash.
At 10 fluid ounces (300 mL), you’ll get more than a few rinses with this gingivitis-fighting mouthwash. On top of fighting gum inflammation, this mouthwash also helps to break down plaque and prevent buildup of it in your teeth.
- Reduces gingivitis
- Reduces plaque buildup
- One bottle will only last you ~5-6 days
What You Need To Know
Best for Bad Breath (Halitosis): TheraBreath Mouthwash
Halitosis is the scientific term for bad breath and when you have it, the TheraBreath Fresh Breath Mouthwash is one of the best mouthwashes for bad breath.
Sometimes it can be hard finding the right treatment for bad breath. Fortunately, TheraBreath helps to find and fight off sulfur-producing bacteria in your mouth and is proven to be effective for up to 24 hours.
You have options with this mouthwash as it comes in a travel size version (less than 100 mL) and one for home as well (473 mL). Thus, you can take this bad breath mouthwash with you on those quick business trips or you can have it sitting at home ready to help out with your halitosis.
- Effective for up to 24 hours
- Comes in a variety of sizes
- The mild mint flavor leaves an undesirable aftertaste
What You Need To Know
Best for Gum Disease: Crest Gum Care Mouthwash
If you’ve noticed that your gums are particularly sensitive, you might be prone to gum disease. To help combat this, try out the best mouthwash for gum disease, the Crest Gum Care Mouthwash.
This Crest Mouthwash helps to neutralize plaque buildup around the gum lines. This helps to keep your gums strong and resistant to inflammation and soreness. It comes in a large, 500 mL bottle and in a cool wintergreen flavor that helps to freshen your breath as well.
Something to be mindful of when you take this mouthwash is that in order for this mouthwash to take effect, you cannot eat or drink anything for a half an hour after you take it.
- Helps to prevent against gum disease
- Can’t eat or drink anything for half an hour after use
What You Need To Know
Best for Periodontal Disease: Periogen Mouthwash
Periodontal translates to “around teeth” and periodontal disease is a condition where you have an infection in the structure or area around your teeth. Fortunately for you, the Periogen Complete Oral Health Mouthwash can help with that.
The Periogen Mouthwash is unique in that it does not come in a liquid form. Rather, it comes in a powder substance where you have to take half a spoonful of powder and dissolve it in half a cup of warm water.
It comes in a 3-ounce bottle that can make up to three gallons of mouthwash providing tremendous value. The benefit of Periogen is that it has a unique combination of safe ingredients that is gentle on the gums and helps to strengthen the enamel (protective layer) on teeth.
- Helps to prevent infections from periodontal disease
- Can make up to 3 gallons of mouthwash
- Strengthens the enamel on your teeth
- Lacks flavor
What You Need To Know
Best for Receding Gums: Colgate Total Mouthwash
Receding gums is a direct effect of gum disease and plaque accumulation. To help mitigate this, you should use Colgate Total Gum Health Mouthwash.
This Colgate Mouthwash is clinically proven to improve your gums by up to 45% and this should help to reduce the effects of receding gums. For those tough to reach areas for toothbrushes and dental floss, this mouthwash will easily be able to fight plaque buildup between the teeth and along the gum lines.
It comes in a cool, clean mint flavor and in a massive one liter bottle. It’s recommended that you rinse twice per day with this mouthwash.
- Helps to reduce the effects of gum recession.
- Can fight plaque in the tough to reach areas of your teeth and gums.
- Massive bottle
What You Need To Know
Best for Tonsil Stones: TheraBreath Oxygenating Mouthwash
Tonsil stones is the accumulation of mineral and bacteria deposits on your tonsils. This can lead to bad breath on its own and the best solution for this problem is the TheraBreath Neutralize Oxygenating Mouthwash.
This mouthwash actually comes in a TheraBreath tonsil stones kit that also includes toothpaste and dry mouth lozenges. This TheraBreath mouthwash seeks to destroy tonsil stones through their proprietary blend of safe-to-use ingredients. The ingredients skew towards the healthier side and are certified kosher and vegan. It is also an alcohol-free mouthwash.
- Uses healthier ingredients to fight off tonsil stones
- Comes in a pack including other products that all help to fight off tonsil stones (raises the price)
What You Need To Know
Best for Sensitive Teeth: CloSYS Ultrasensitive Mouthwash
If you have sensitive teeth, mouthwash that is gentle and conducive to taking the pressure off your teeth, while strengthening the enamel on your teeth, might be the way to go. The best one we know is the CloSYS Ultrasensitive Mouthwash.
The CloSYS Mouthwash is the perfect mouthwash for gums as it helps to reduce harmful bacteria that irritate gums and cause bad breath. It comes in a 32 fl oz bottle (less than 1 liter) and is the first one on our list that comes without any sort of flavor.
You won’t have to worry about feeling the burn with this mouthwash as it’s alcohol-free and is designed for those with sensitive teeth.
- Reduces bacteria that causes irritation of gums and teeth
What You Need To Know
Best for Cavities: ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rinse
Every so often on our visit to the dentist, we’ll be hit with the news that we have a cavity or two. When this happens, the dentist might recommend one of the best oral rinse mouthwashes, the ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rinse.
As the name suggests, this mouthwash with fluoride helps to prevent cavities while also strengthening your teeth at the same time.
This fluoridated mouthwash is one of the top ones recommended by dentists. It features a great blend of ingredients that are fast-acting and its ability to help people from the ages of 6 and up. It also is alcohol-free and does not burn when you swish it around in your mouth.
- Prevents cavities and strengthens teeth
- Cannot eat or drink for more than 30 minutes after using it
What You Need To Know
Best All-Natural Mouthwash: Tom’s of Maine Wicked Fresh Mouthwash
Tom’s of Maine manufactures products that focus on natural and ethically-sourced products and that’s what you’ll get with their Wicked Fresh Mouthwash.
The Wicked Fresh Mouthwash comes in a peppermint wave flavor. It is packed with health-conscious ingredients including, but not limited to, aloe vera, propanediol (vegetable source), zinc chloride, and natural flavors. When combined, these ingredients help to prevent bad breath in a healthy and natural way.
- Natural and ethically-sourced products
- Keeps the breath fresh
- Does not have stronger, bacteria-fighting ingredients found in other mouthwashes
What You Need To Know
Before Buying: 6 Considerations when purchasing a mouthwash
The first thing you should know about mouthwash is that they’re not all the same. As you’ll see, there is a difference in the types of mouthwash and the usefulness of each can vary depending on what you need it for.
1. Type of Mouthwash
The two most common types of mouthwash are cosmetic and therapeutic.
Cosmetic mouthwash is designed for those who want to get rid of chronic bad breath. They often come with some sort of minty or fresh flavor and using this type of mouthwash aims to provide you with a quick solution to remove bad breath.
Another use of a cosmetic mouthwash is one that helps to whiten your teeth. You’re relying on bleaching agents (hydrogen peroxide) within this mouthwash to help whiten your teeth and to remove stains. If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to put bleach in your mouth, the simple answer here is yes, but do so in moderation and do not ingest it.
Therapeutic mouthwash is geared towards alleviating gingivitis, or the inflammation of gums, due to plaque buildup. It is often prescribed to patients when their gums flare up and can also be found over-the-counter in pharmacies.
The buildup of plaque on gums can lead to gum disease and can cause aches and sores in the area. Thus, using a therapeutic mouthwash helps to reduce the pain and remove plaque buildup.
Therapeutic mouthwashes also have teeth-protecting fluoride in it and this helps to prevent teeth decay and to fight off cavities.
2. Bottle Size
When buying mouthwash, you can find them in a variety of sizes but they usually range from small, travel-sized bottles to large bottles.
While you could opt for a larger bottle, buying a smaller, travel-sized bottle just might be better for you for a couple of reasons.
One, if you travel often, buying these smaller bottles allows you to bring them with you on your travels. If the bottle is less than 3.4 fluid ounces, TSA will have no problems with your bottle as it will meet the liquid rule limit.
Another good reason for buying smaller bottles is because you can have a variety of flavors. If you buy a larger bottle, you may end up hating the flavor right away and you would be stuck with the rest of this bottle. Whereas, if you purchase a few different flavors of the smaller-sized bottles, you can see which flavors suits you best. It also helps to keep things fresh (pun not intended) so that you don’t get tired of just one flavor.
With all of that said, if you’re loyal to a particular brand and don’t have plans to travel with it, larger bottles do often cost less per ounce.
3. Active Ingredients & Chemicals
The ingredients in mouthwash can vary by brand and product; however, there are many commonalities in their chemical compounds. A typical formula often includes: alcohol, essential oils, fluoride, sodium chloride, triclosan, cetylpyridinium chloride, and chlorhexidine.
We’ll do our best to describe each in laymen terms.
Alcohol – the alcohol in mouthwash is a necessary ingredient because it helps to actively kill bacteria. While the amount of alcohol in each mouthwash can vary, in some cases, a significant amount is included. The ironic part of alcohol is that sometimes it can cause dry mouth, which may actually lead to bad breath as the mouth tries to quickly rehydrate. As the mouth is rehydrating, it produces more saliva, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Listerine is perhaps the best example of a mouthwash that has alcohol in it.
Essential Oils – this ingredient is more commonly found in natural mouthwashes that may provide some additional benefits. We say ‘may’ because dentists have said that this ingredient has yet to be scientifically proven to be more effective than mouthwashes without essential oils in them.
Dentists recommend that if you do use mouthwash with essential oils that you do so on occasion and not on an everyday basis.
Fluoride – is a common ingredient found in toothpaste and, since it works so well in that, it’s found in mouthwash too. This ingredient is important because of its cavity-fighting solution that helps to protect your teeth.
Fluoride is particularly important for children and younger adults’ mouthwashes as it helps to strengthen their teeth.
Sodium Chloride – sodium chloride is just the scientific term for salt water and is its own kind of mouthwash. This ingredient is used primarily in the post-operation of tooth extractions. Using this type of mouthwash after a tooth extraction helps to prevent infection in the gums of the extracted tooth.
Triclosan – this is an ingredient that is added to many over-the-counter products that intend to fight off bacteria, such as mouthwash. As great as that sounds, research suggests that there may be some safety issues revolving around high exposure to triclosan. We should mention that this ingredient is not a common ingredient in mouthwash but a good rule of thumb here is just to be mindful of your mouthwash dosages if it does contain triclosan.
Cetylpyridinium Chloride – setting aside the fancy scientific name of this ingredient, all you really need to know is that it is commonly found in mouthwash and it helps to kill bacteria. It is one of the more effective ingredients in mouthwash and helps to prevent dental plaque and gingivitis.
Chlorhexidine – Often prescribed by a dentist, Chlorhexidine is an antimicrobial mouth rinse that will remove most of the bacterial from your mouth. This antimicrobial doesn’t burn or sting when used. This dentist-prescribed solution also helps in the reduction of swollen or bleeding gums due to gingivitis. Some symptoms or side effects include tooth staining, increased tartar buildup, and dry mouth.
4. American Dental Association (ADA) Seal Of Acceptance
Studies show that when it comes to purchasing mouthwash, purchasers are much more inclined to buy products that have a seal of acceptance. The American Dental Association (ADA) provides a seal of acceptance on mouthwash they deem to be safe to use.
This seal can have a massive effect on the purchasing decision as statistics show that 71% of people said that they would choose a product with a seal over a similar product without a seal. Having this seal on the product takes the guesswork out of the purchasing decision and adds a level of trust.
This quality assurance measure is commonly found on more well-known brand name products such as Crest, Colgate, and Listerine, to name a few, while smaller brands at major online retailers, unfortunately, don’t usually carry this seal.
Like any product you buy, there usually is a price discrepancy between brands and types of mouthwashes. For mouthwashes that offer a more natural offering, they tend to be pricier.
For bigger name brands, these products are more competitively priced and tend to be cheaper. You’ll often find the products of these larger brands to be within a similar price range.
Price can also be impacted by the colors and flavors offered by the mouthwash and they tend to vary as well.
There are plenty of brands out there that sell mouthwash. Some of these brands you may be familiar with already such as Crest, Colgate, and Listerine, to name a few. But there are also other brands out there on the market that you haven’t heard of yet but may like what they have to offer.
If you are interested in a particular mouthwash, we strongly urge you to do your due diligence if you’re shopping on your own. We highly recommend spending some time doing research and this includes reviewing product pages and user reviews. Since you will be putting this liquid in your mouth, you want to be 100% sure that it is completely safe to do so.
While we can’t vouch for every single mouthwash out there, we can say that it is generally safer to go with a larger brand. These companies extensively test their products and fine-tune them to the point where there should be no harm. We do recommend, however, carefully reading the instructions on the bottle before use to ensure you know what to do if you encounter an allergic reaction. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Complimentary Oral Hygiene Products
On top of using mouthwash as an effective tool in oral hygiene, here are some of the other products that are just as effective in keeping proper and healthy oral hygiene.
The tongue scraper might just be the most underappreciated tool in oral hygiene. It’s important because it physically removes bacteria particles from your tongue, which is the primary area halitosis comes from.
Using a tongue scraper instantly freshens your breath and is the perfect bridge between brushing your teeth and using an antibacterial mouthwash.
As great as this tool is, the results, however, aren’t permanent as bacteria will continue to grow on your tongue throughout the day. That’s why you need to use this product every time you brush your teeth. Check out our list of the best tongue scrapers.
The last decade has seen an increase in the usage of electronic toothbrushes. These toothbrushes are much more easy and effective to use than regular toothbrushes because they provide a deeper and more consistent scrub without having to do much scrubbing.
Some electronic toothbrushes come with an on and off button so that you can control how much cleaning is done. Others come with built-in timers (i.e. 2 minutes) to ensure that the proper duration of cleaning is done while brushing your teeth. Since it is able to get a more deeper and thorough scrub, it leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean.
Toothpaste is a type of gel applied to a toothbrush and that helps to clean the teeth. The toothpaste you buy can serve a number of different purposes including gingivitis, sensitive teeth, periodontal disease, whitening, tooth decay, and bad breath.
If you’re looking for the best toothpaste for gum disease or the best toothpaste for gingivitis, we’ve got you covered with our list of toothpastes for bad breath.
Among the two things dentists say you should do, at a minimum, everyday, is brush your teeth and floss. Despite it being a piece of string, dental floss can actually come in many different varieties and can be used towards a particular symptom or type of teeth (i.e. sensitive teeth). Some of the more common types of floss include: standard, threader, dental tape, flat floss, and natural waxed floss.
Flossing is great at removing the food or any particles that’s stuck between your teeth. It is great to floss right before you use your mouthwash as any loose food particles that didn’t come out during your flossing will be sure to come out after a few rinses of mouthwash.
If you want to learn more about dental floss, check out our article on the best dental floss.
The water flosser is an alternative to those who don’t enjoy flossing but it should not be treated as a valid alternative. It is not as effective as regular dental floss but it does help to provide an instantly fresher breath.
Water flossers are generally inexpensive and it’s great because the entire family can use it or you can share it with your spouse. To do so, you simply swap out the tips so that each person has their own.
Here are some of the best water flossers around.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about mouthwashes
Q: Is it dangerous to swallow mouthwash?
Swallowing mouthwash is definitely not advised under any circumstance, but if you do happen to do it, you should immediately contact the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
If you have accidentally swallowed a large amount of mouthwash, head straight to the emergency room at your nearest hospital or visit a medical practitioner as soon as possible.
Some side effects you may experience after swallowing mouthwash include dizziness and diarrhea.
Q: Is it ok to use expired mouthwash?
Generally speaking, it should be okay to use expired mouthwash although you shouldn’t make it a habit of doing so just because we say it’s okay.
It likely won’t cause any side effects but the mouthwash itself won’t be nearly as effective as mouthwash that is not expired.
If it’s been months since it has expired, do yourself a favor and throw it out and buy a new bottle – any of the ones we listed in our guide will do.
Q: Is it safe to use mouthwash after a tooth extraction such as wisdom teeth?
You’ll want to err on the side of caution with this one and stay away from mouthwash for a few days after your wisdom teeth extractions.
That’s because mouthwash often contains alcohol which will actively dry out the gums and may even cause complications to the extraction hole. This may either result in an infection or cause the blood clot to loosen.
Q: Why is glycerin used in some mouthwashes?
Glycerin is an ingredient that is commonly found in moisturizers and lotions for soft skin and can also be found in some mouthwashes.
In mouthwash, glycerin also acts as a moisturizer by helping to prevent the mouthwash from drying out your mouth. Glycerin is more typically found in natural mouthwashes, or ones that are alcohol-free.
Q: Why does mouthwash burn so badly?
Perhaps one of the downsides to using mouthwash, like Listerine, is the burning sensation that comes when you swish it around in your mouth. This burning feeling is the direct result of your mouth tissues becoming irritated from the removal of germs and bacteria.
This burn is caused by the inclusion of alcohol as an ingredient within the mouthwash. Despite this burning sensation in Listerine, it is one of the best antiseptic mouthwashes since it prevents bacteria from reproducing in your mouth.
If you don’t enjoy the mouthwash burn, there are plenty of alcohol-free mouthwashes out there, namely ones made of natural ingredients.
Q: Does mouthwash replace brushing?
While mouthwash is great at preventing many oral diseases including cavities, gum disease and more – brushing is one of the best ways to clean your teeth. The physical removal of plaque will reduce the risk of adverse oral conditions. Furthermore, brushing (along with flossing) helps to remove any food that may be trapped between teeth – which mouthwash simply won’t be nearly as effective in removing.
Q: How often should you use mouthwash?
It is recommended that you use a mouthwash twice daily. Regular use of the mouthwash should help in the reduction of plaque and gingivitis. It is recommend that you should swish the mouthwash for about 30 seconds before spitting it out.
Mouthwash vs. mouth rinse vs. salt water rinse
Let’s discuss briefly the differences between each term and why you shouldn’t use mouthwash and mouth rinse interchangeably.
Mouthwash is typically used after you’re done brushing and flossing your teeth and helps to kill off any remaining germs or bacteria that remains in your mouth after brushing and flossing. The specific formula of mouthwash can also vary depending on its primary purpose (i.e. antiseptic mouthwash, gum disease mouthwash, etc).
Mouth rinse is used before you brush and floss your teeth and this helps to keep your breath fresh by adding moisture into the gums. Since it adds moisture, mouth rinses typically do not contain alcohol, as alcohol is the primary ingredient used to dry out the mouth in mouthwashes.
Salt Water Rinse
A cost-effective alternative to mouthwash is the DIY solution of saltwater rinse. This natural remedy for bad breath is easy to do as you simply combine salt with warm water. However, the lack of a fresh taste can be off-putting for some people.
How we selected the best mouthwashes
The addition of mouthwash to your oral care routine can have a profound effect on solving bad breath or any other dental issue you may be facing.
But when it comes to choosing the right mouthwash for you, we recommend choosing one that is based on the condition you’re facing. Our top 10 list of the top mouthwashes provides the best choices for a number of different purposes. There’s a good chance that whatever condition you’re facing, you’ll find a suitable mouthwash on our list.