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Let’s Talk About Mouthwash with Dr. Adena Borodkin of Golden Valley Kids Pediatric Dentistry in Golden Valley, Minnesota

One of the questions I get on a regular basis is about mouthwash. Should I use mouthwash with my child? At what age is it appropriate? Do mouthwashes help prevent cavities? What kind of mouthwashes should I use? Here’s a breakdown of what I think is important to know.

Age matters! Please don’t use it on children younger than 6 years old.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) all recommend not using mouthwash before the age of 6. Children younger than 6 years of age do not yet have full control of their swallowing reflexes, so while they may spit out some of the mouthwash, the odds of them ingesting are pretty high as well, and can lead to nausea, vomiting, and intoxication. They can also get higher levels of fluoride than is recommended, which can lead to fluorosis in their permanent teeth. A lot of mouthwashes also contain ethanol, and there have been reports of ethanol toxicity from young children drinking mouthwash.

After the age of 6, I only recommend mouthwashes to address specific oral health issues with your child.

  • Cavities and tooth decay – Fluoride mouthwashes like ACT and others with sodium fluoride levels of 0.05%. Using a fluoridated mouthwash is a great idea for kids with braces or other orthodontic appliances.
  • Bad breath – Cetylpyridinium chloride mouthwashes like Crest ProHealth or Scope.
  • Control plaque and gingivitis – Essential oil mouthwashes like Listerine contain eucalyptol, menthol, thymol, and/or methyl salicylate.
  • Dry mouth – Look for products like CloSYS that don’t have ethanol (alcohol) because alcohol dries out your mouth and can sting.
  • Whitening – Whitening mouthwashes contain 1.5-2% hydrogen peroxide. There are also prescription whitening mouthwashes that contain 10% carbamide peroxide.
  • Chlorhexidine – Prescription only. Controls plaque and gingivitis, may stain teeth.

There are also cosmetic mouthwashes on the market. They taste good and temporarily control bad breath, but they don’t address any oral health needs. They do not carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance. I don’t recommend these.

Here are some links to find mouthrinses with the ADA Seal of Acceptance:

Mouthwash does not replace brushing and flossing but may have some added benefits for some patients. Remember: the only way to clean between your teeth, is flossing!!!! As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 763-222-1299 or email me at