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Oral Hygiene and Tailored Mouthwash Recommendations

Mar 21, 2017

Author: Jen Collins,RDH

Here is an overview of mouthwashes, their ingredients, and how to tailor recommendations to best fit your patients' oral health needs.

According to the American Dental Association, there are cosmetic and therapeutic indications for adding mouthwashes to daily home care regimens, and so your patients may be wondering which one to choose or which is best for them. Patients value the knowledge and skill of dental hygienists and often ask for your oral hygiene product recommendations. It's important for dental hygienists to stay current on new products, perhaps by reading monthly dental hygiene journals and attending courses.

Cosmetic Mouthwashes

Cosmetic mouthwashes are often over-the-counter mouthwashes intended to simply freshen breath and mask bad odors. These mouthwashes have the same basic main ingredients. In general, they are made up of mostly water, cleaning agents, flavor and color. Alcohol may be added to mouthwashes to help reduce the level of bacteria present. Flavoring helps make the mouthwash more palatable to use and may impart a clean feel and scent, while the coloring agents add to its appeal to your patients.

Therapeutic Mouthwashes

Therapeutic mouthwashes are a part of oral care recommendations because they contain active ingredients and have specific oral hygiene indications for use. Active ingredients used in mouthwashes include antimicrobial agents and fluorides. Antimicrobial medicaments include chlorhexidine gluconate, zinc chloride, cetylpyridinium chloride and essential oils. One example is Colgate Total® Advanced Pro-Shield™ Mouthwash which contains 0.075% cetylpyridinium chloride and is alcohol-free.

Mouthwash Indications

Therapeutic mouthwashes may be recommended to help with conditions such as dental caries, plaque and gingivitis, and halitosis. Health conditions such as diabetes, Sjogren's syndrome and cancer therapy can impact oral health, and are some of the reasons therapeutic mouthwashes may be indicated. Some active ingredients are available only by prescription, including chlorhexidine gluconate mouthrinse.

Contraindications for mouthwashes are listed on the labeling and instructions for use. Patients with prior alcohol abuse should avoid using any rinse containing alcohol, and patients must avoid any mouthwash containing an ingredient that they are allergic to. Also be sure to advise your adult patients who are parents of young children that children under the age of 6 should not use fluoride mouthrinses because the child may accidentally swallow while swishing.

Guide for Recommending Mouthwashes

Staying informed on mouthwashes shows your patients that you are professional and knowledgeable. Products change, packaging changes and companies merge. Patients rely on their dental professionals for oral care recommendations.

To keep up-to-date, be sure to do your research on the latest mouthwash products. Resources like Dimensions of Dental Hygiene's simple guide on common cosmetic and therapeutic mouthwashes is a good start. This comprehensive list notes the manufacturer, product name, active ingredients, indications and contraindications.

Another great tool you could use is Colgate Professional's new Gum Health Physical. This easy-to-use tool is free to dental professionals registered on Colgate Professional, and it helps dental professionals create a custom and detailed report of a patient's periodontal status. In this report, there is also a special section to fill out your home care recommendations. Gum Health Physical can then be printed for the patient to take home and can be saved as a PDF file.

Walking down the oral care aisle and facing an array of options may overwhelm patients, especially if they don't remember the options you reviewed during the appointment. So send your patients home with this information on the specific products you recommend and a summary of your advice. This will cut down on possible confusion patients may have.


  • Know the differences between cosmetic and therapeutic mouthwashes, and their ingredients.
  • Study available oral hygiene products so you can give thoughtful and researched recommendations.
  • Stay organized with Colgate Professional's Gum Health Physical tool for offering home care recommendations.

Why It's Important

Mouthwashes are important for many cosmetic and therapeutic reasons and are crucial in maintaining optimal oral health. Guiding patients on which mouthwash is best for them will ease their confusion and increase their compliance to the plan you outlined for them. Using Colgate's Gum Health Physical will organize your reports to better ensure your patients have optimal oral health.

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