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Swirl and Swish — Mouthwash and Children

Should kids use Mouthwash?

It is proven that the earlier you start teaching your child good oral hygiene habits, the healthier their teeth and gums will be. While there are tons of kid-friendly oral care products on the market designed to engage young kids by using fun graphics and kid-friendly flavors, the ADA recommends waiting to introduce mouthwash into your child’s oral hygiene routine until they’re over 6 years old. Why? There are two main reasons:

  1. Many rinses contain active ingredients like alcohol or fluoride which can be toxic if swallowed in large amounts, potentially causing nausea, vomiting and/or intoxication.
  2. While fluoride is a good thing, too much fluoride exposure in developing teeth can cause fluorosis, creating spots or streaks on your child’s teeth. Thankfully this is purely cosmetic, but who wants spotted teeth?

The purpose of Mouthwash

Despite the safety precautions, mouthwash can be an effective tool in reducing the risk of cavities and gum disease, by reaching areas in your child’s mouth where their toothbrush can’t, or areas they might miss. Mouthwashes that contain fluoride provide an extra layer of cavity prevention by boosting the effects of daily brushing and flossing. This is especially important for kids wearing braces! Mouthwash helps to loosen food particles that like to stick to brackets, ensuring a more thorough cleaning. Mouthwash is designed to assist with:

  • reducing plaque (bacteria that can form on teeth).
  • reducing the rate that tartar (hardened plaque) can form on the teeth.
  • preventing/controlling tooth decay (by up to 60% if it contains fluoride).
  • preventing/reducing gingivitis (early stage of gum disease).
  • freshening your child’s breath.

So if your kids are going to use mouthwash, remind them that mouthwash is not a substitute for regular brushing and flossing, it only enhances good oral hygiene practices!

Types of Mouthwash

There are two general categories of mouthwashes:

  • Therapeutic mouthwashes will contain active ingredients that kill bacteria, reduce plaque, cavities, gingivitis and bad breath. If they contain fluoride, they’ll also help prevent/control tooth decay. Some therapeutic mouthwashes require a prescription, but there are many other-the-counter options available too.
  • Cosmetic mouthwashes will leave a pleasant taste in your mouth by temporarily controlling/reducing bad breath, however they don’t contain the active ingredients that help reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease.

Is my child ready to use mouthwash?

It’s always a good idea to talk with Drs. Rubin or Sentelle to determine whether your child needs a mouthwash and what kind of mouthwash to use, depending on their dental health needs. That said, typically elementary-aged children are ready if they’re able to understand that mouthwash is not a drink and they can rinse and spit without swallowing. It can be tricky for young kids to get use to swishing liquid in their mouth rather than swallowing it like a drink! You can test your child by pouring a measured, small amount of water into a cup. Have them rinse and spit the water back into the cup. If they spit it all water back out, then they’re probably ready to use mouthwash.

Even when they start using mouthwash, it’s a good idea to supervise, double checking they don’t accidentally swallow it. Kids, around the ages of 6-8, find it fun to make using mouthwash into a game. Try using a clock or stopwatch and say “swish!” as they swish and swirl the mouthwash in their mouth. After a minute, say “spit!” when it’s time to spit it out.

Selecting a kid-friendly mouthwash

To help you narrow down mouthwash choices on the grocery aisle, look for products that are ADA-Accepted products for kids which carry the ADA Seal of Approval. The American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance means these products have been rigorously tested and shown to be safe and effective for children’s dental care needs. Be sure to also check the manufacturer’s label and follow safety precautions before using any over-the-counter mouthwash. If you are concerned about alcohol, look for alcohol-free rinses that still contain fluoride.

Got Questions?

Mouthwash is a great addition to regular brushing and flossing to help maintain proper oral hygiene in elementary-aged children and teenage developmental years! If you have questions about kid-friendly mouthwash recommendations or concerns about your child’s oral hygiene, contact our office by Online Appointment Request or call 214 618 5200 for an evaluation.

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