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Charge Up for Good Health

The Surprising Benefits of Mouthwash

Mouthwash can do much more for you than fix bad breath. Here, the ingredients you should look for to...

A mouthwash is a mouthwash is a mouthwash -- or so you may think. Sure, some may be green or blue or extra-minty, but really, how different could they be?

Turns out there’s a key difference: Some rinses help you more than others, and some even contain ingredients you should avoid, says Nils Ingvar Magnusson, D.D.S., Ph.D., a research professor in oral biology at the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Gainesville. For example, many rinses have sodium lauryl sulfate, which tends to dry and irritate the mouth -- especially if you have canker sores. And some studies have found a link between rinses with a high alcohol content (25 percent or more) and oral cancers.

It’s smart to ask your dentist for a rinse recommendation that suits your specific dental hygiene needs. But in the meantime, here’s a cheat sheet for your next trip down the mouthwash aisle:

WANT TO…
Freshen your breath?

LOOK FOR …
Cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC)
and zinc lactate. Both effective halitosis fighters. Look for a mouthwash that’s been tested to kill 98 percent of bad breath germs and clinically proven to destroy strong food odors.

WANT TO …
Help prevent cavities?

LOOK FOR …
Fluoride
. Its ability to prevent cavities is well-established.

WANT TO …
Fight gum disease?

LOOK FOR…
Cetylpyridinium chloride
(CPC) or chlorhexidine gluconate. Recent research has shown these ingredients help prevent gingivitis and dental plaque.

WANT TO…
Moisten your mouth?

LOOK FOR…
Carboxymethylcellulose
or hydroxyethylcellulose, both of which simulate natural saliva. Bonus points if the rinse also contains fluoride, since dry mouth contributes to cavities.

WANT TO…
Soothe canker sores or mouth abrasions?

LOOK FOR…
Hydrogen
peroxide. It’s a safe bet because it’s antimicrobial without being overly abrasive.