Is Mouthwash Right for You? A Guide to Types, Usage, and Benefits

rendering of a bottle of mouthwash with a bright oversized tooth

Like many people, you may use mouthwash as part of your daily oral regimen. But do you know if you’re using the right one for you or if you’re even using it correctly? It may surprise you, but many people don’t realize there’s a wrong way to use mouthwash! Keep reading to learn about the different types of mouthwash, the best way to use it, its benefits, and if you even need it as part of your regimen.


What Does Mouthwash Do?

 Depending on the type you use, mouthwash can remove debris, kill bacteria, freshen your breath, and help relieve dry mouth.

What Types of Mouthwash Are There?

According to the ADA, there are two types of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic.¹ For the sake of this article, we’ll break down therapeutic mouthwash into two separate categories — over-the-counter and prescription — to further illustrate what it does.

Cosmetic Mouthwash

  • Is over-the-counter only
  • May temporarily reduce bad breath and leave a pleasant taste in your mouth
  • Doesn’t kill bacteria or contain preventive ingredients

Therapeutic: Over-the-Counter Mouthwash

  • Can help prevent cavities, gingivitis, and plaque
  • Can kill bacteria
  • May contain fluoride to help protect teeth

Therapeutic: Prescription Mouthwash

  • May kill bacteria, reduces inflammation, and improves oral health
  • Has stronger chemicals than therapeutic over-the-counter products, making it more effective

Two Types of Prescription Mouthwash

There are two types of prescription mouthwash, and they’re prescription because they contain one of two ingredients that require a prescription from your dentist:


This ingredient is very effective² but can have negative side effects.³ It not only tastes bad, but it could also cause changes to taste, teeth staining, a sore mouth, throat and tongue irritation, and shortness of breath.

It’s also possible to have more serious side effects such as tongue/throat swelling or trouble breathing.  However, these reactions are extremely rare.

Chlorine Dioxide

This ingredient does the same great job at reducing inflammation as chlorhexidine, but doesn’t cause the same side effects. Chlorine dioxide also kills fungi and viruses, like Covid.⁴

We believe chlorine dioxide is the best choice of the two, and we’ve seen a significant difference in our patients who use it. A common brand name that features this ingredient is Oracare, which we sell at our practice.

How Effective Are Mouthwashes?

That depends on several factors, such as the purpose of the mouthwash, the product itself, and your needs. For example, if you’re using mouthwash because you have periodontal disease, a prescription mouthwash like Oracare is beneficial (Over-the-counter mouthwashes aren’t very useful against periodontal disease.) Another example is using a dry mouth mouthwash to help combat dry mouth.

On the other hand, mouthwash won’t do much if you’re not brushing correctly and flossing properly first, and mouthwash is more of a complementary component to a proper dental routine.


Who Should Use Mouthwash?

The only time we strongly recommend using mouthwash is if you have dry mouth and/or periodontal disease. For periodontal disease, we suggest using the prescription mouthwash Oracare. If you have dry mouth, we recommend an over-the-counter dry mouth product. However, not everyone with periodontal disease needs a prescription mouthwash, and you may not even need it if your periodontal disease stabilizes.

Over-the-counter mouthwash with fluoride is especially good for kids, older people, and anyone with a compromised immune system.

How Often Should I Use Mouthwash?


Once or twice daily.

A Chlorhexidine-Based Prescription

Follow the directions on the packaging because it’s not intended for long-term use and can stain your teeth if you use it too often.

Alcohol-Based Over-the-Counter Mouthwash

We don’t suggest using one that contains alcohol because it could dry out your mouth if you use it too often. But if you do use it, refer to the directions and don’t use it more than once daily.

All Other Over-the-Counter Mouthwash

Once to twice daily.

bottles of oracare health rinse

Oracare Health Rinse

Oracare Health Rinse is a prescription mouthwash founded in 2012 that contains the active ingredient chlorine dioxide.

Who Should Use Oracare?

Because it’s so effective at killing bacteria, we recommend it for most patients with periodontal disease. However, not everyone who has periodontal disease needs it. For example, you may not need it if your periodontal disease has stabilized.


How Effective Is Oracare?

We’ve seen a huge reduction in bacteria and inflammation (bacteria cause inflammation) in our patients who use Oracare, results we haven’t observed with any other mouthwash.

How Often Should I Use Oracare?

Oracare’s manufacturer recommends using it twice daily, but we think once daily is suitable for most people.

In fact, it’s easy to keep up your mouthwash regimen when on vacation as Oracare has a travel size that meets TSA standards and has a 7 day supply.

How Do I Use It?

Oracare comes in two bottles with a pump attached to each bottle. Using the clear cup the mouthwash comes with, add four pumps from the first bottle, then four pumps from the second bottle. Allow the mixture to sit for 30 seconds to produce the necessary chemical reaction.

Most people use Oracare once daily before bedtime. Our article on a home oral hygiene routine  covers the order in which you should clean your teeth.

Where Is Oracare Sold?

You can purchase Oracare at some dental practices as well as pharmacies. We sell it at Longmont Dental Loft, but at a negligible profit. We sell it close to our cost and to help our patients.

You can’t buy Oracare at any dental practice, and we found that the ones that sell it have good periodontal disease programs and protocols. These practices understand the link between periodontal disease and other systemic diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease. We believe so strongly that periodontal disease is detrimental to the rest of our bodies, and we want to do everything possible to prevent and eradicate it.

How Much Does Oracare Cost?

We currently sell it for $50 for an approximate three-month supply (if used once daily). That amounts to about $0.55 per day.

How Do The Different Mouthwashes Compare?

To recap, we believe prescription mouthwashes are best, and we’ve seen firsthand significantly less inflammation with our patients who use it. We believe Oracare is the best brand because it doesn’t have the side effects other prescription mouthwashes do.

If you use an over-the-counter mouthwash, make sure it’s alcohol-free and has at least one or more of the following claims on the bottle: kills bacteria, prevents cavities, fights plaque, and fights gingivitis. This means the product is therapeutic.

The least effective mouthwash is cosmetic, as it does little more than reduce bad breath.



We hope this article gives you a broader understanding of the role mouthwash plays in your daily oral hygiene regimen. Although it’s most important to use mouthwash if you have issues like periodontitis, it doesn’t hurt to use it even if your oral health is good. Either way, however, you want to ensure you’re using it correctly to get the most out of it.


  1. Department of Scientific Information, Evidence Synthesis & Translation Research, ADA Science & Research Institute, LLC. (2021, December 1). Mouthrinse (Mouthwash). Retrieved November 7, 2023, from
  2. Deus, F., Ouanounou, A. (2022, March 12). Chlorhexidine in Dentistry: Pharmacology, Uses, and Adverse Effects. Retrieved November 5, 2023, from
  3. McCoy, L., Wehler, C., Rich, S., Garcia, R., Miller, D., Jones, J. (2008, February). Adverse Events Associated with Chlorhexidine Use: Results From the Department of Veterans Affairs Dental Diabetes Study. Retrieved November 7, 2023, from
  4. Jefri, U., Khan, A., Lim, Y., Lee, K., Liew, K., Kassab, Y., Choo, C., Al-Worafi, Y., Ming, L., Kalusalingam, A. (2022, March). A Systematic Review on Chlorine Dioxide as a Disinfectant. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from,minutes%20of%20application%20%5B15%5D.