The Therapeutic Guides Australia (TGA) classifies mouth rinses as either cosmetic or therapeutic, or a combination of both.
Cosmetic rinses are commercial over-the-counter products that help remove oral debris before or after brushing, temporarily suppress bad breath, diminish bacteria in the mouth, and refresh the mouth with a pleasant taste.
Therapeutic rinses have the benefits of their cosmetic counterparts, but also contain an added active ingredient that helps protect against some oral diseases. Therapeutic rinses are regulated by the TGA and are voluntarily approved by the ADA. Therapeutic rinses also can be categorized into types according to use; anti-plaque/anti-gingivitis rinses and anti-cavity fluoride rinses.
The need for rinsing depends on a number of factors. Most rinses, while curing halitosis, are not extremely effective in preventing tooth decay, gingivitis, and periodontal disease.
Anti-plaque rinses have been shown to be effective in reducing the plaque that causes gingivitis only about 20 to 25 percent of the time. Fluoride toothpaste alone is more than adequate protection against cavities.
Some patients who have recently undergone periodontal surgery or who have severe oral problems such as periodontal disease, gum inflammation, and dry mouth are prescribed rinses. In addition, many therapeutic rinses are strongly recommended for those who can’t brush due to physical impairments or other medical reasons.
Anti-cavity rinses with fluoride have been clinically proven to fight up to 50% more of the bacteria that cause cavities. But the same results, ironically, can be achieved by simply rinsing your mouth with water.
Be aware that some antiseptic mouthwashes contain high levels of alcohol (ranging from 18 to 26 percent) and may produce a burning sensation in the cheeks, teeth, and gums. Many rinses can lead to ulcers, sodium retention, root sensitivity, stains, soreness, numbness, changes in taste sensation, and painful mucosal erosions. Most anti-cavity rinses contain sodium fluoride which, if taken excessively or swallowed, can lead over time to fluoride toxicity. Because children tend to accidentally swallow mouthwash, they should only use rinses under adult supervision. If you experience any irritating or adverse reactions to a mouth rinse, discontinue its use immediately and consult your dentist.