As with toothpaste, choosing a mouth rinse can be an overwhelming process. With so many options, how do you pick the right one? And does it even matter? That's what we'll cover in this article.

If You Get a Lot of Cavities: High-fluoride Mouthwash

If you get a lot of cavities, DO NOT use a gum-disease mouthwash. Rather, you should only use a high-fluoride mouthwash.

Explanation: Cavities (i.e. holes in the teeth) are produced if your mouth is acidic. The reason? Bacteria in an acidic mouth release acids that cause cavities, which are essentially "spots of demineralization." Fluoride — a very hard mineral — can fill in these spots and/or harden the surface of the enamel. That's why a high-fluoride mouthwash can help.

If You Have Gum Disease: Tartar-control Mouthwash

If you have gum disease, DO NOT use a high-fluoride mouthwash. Rather, you should only use a tartar-control mouthwash.

Explanation: Gum disease is caused by the buildup of tartar — mineral deposits colonized by gum disease-causing bacteria within hours of formation on the surface of the teeth.

Fluoride adds mineral to teeth in mouths that are prone to developing cavities (acidic mouths). Basic mouths, however, already have too much mineral. In these cases, adding fluoride simply nurtures more tartar and more gum disease-causing bacteria. And that's just what someone with gum disease doesn't need.

Instead, you should focus on stopping mineral from developing on teeth. The solution: a tartar-control mouthwash or plaque-control mouthwash (keep in mind that tartar is simply mineralized plaque).

The most effective over-the-counter mouthwash for people with gum disease is Listerine. It is the only natural mineral-oil mouthwash of its kind. And it is the ONLY mouthwash encouraged by the American Dental Association for use in patients with gum disease. If you have gum disease, you should be using Listerine daily.

Note: Listerine can be most effective if used in combination with a water pick. Shooting Listerine between the teeth into the gums can greatly reduce the quantity and strength of the gum disease-producing bacteria inside the gums.

If You Have Cuts/Sores in Your Mouth

If you have cuts and/or sores in your mouth, you should use either a saltwater rinse or a prescription "miracle mouthwash" concoction from your dentist.

  • If your problem is mild, the saltwater will be much more economical because you can make it at home.
  • If your problem is more severe, talk to your dentist about a customized mouthwash prescription.

Note: For some people, using tartar-control toothpaste can cause mouth sores (due to the presence of pyrophosphate, a chemical compound, in tartar-control toothpaste). As a result, you may need to discontinue tartar-control toothpaste use if it is determined to be the source of your mouth sores.