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There are a ton of mouthwashes to choose from, so figuring out which is best for you can feel challenging.

Healthline’s medical review team zeroed in on the mouthwashes designed to support dental health. We looked at specific features, such as the active and inactive ingredients in each, as well as taste and cost.

One thing all of these products have in common is the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance, which provides assurance based on scientific evidence that the product meets specific standards for safety and efficacy.

There are two types of mouthwashes: cosmetic and therapeutic.

Cosmetic mouthwashes control bad breath temporarily and leave a pleasant taste in your mouth.

Therapeutic mouthwashes include ingredients that provide long-lasting bacterial reduction and can be used for conditions such as receding gums, gingivitis, dry mouth, and plaque buildup. They’re available over-the-counter and by prescription.

What do you want your mouthwash for?

When choosing a mouthwash, the first thing to consider is your personal oral health goals.

  • Bad breath. If your main concern is bad breath, using a cosmetic mouthwash on the go during the day may be sufficient for increasing your confidence during that important afternoon meeting.
  • Dry mouth. If you’re taking medications or have a condition that produces dry mouth as a side effect, using a mouthwash designed to provide oral comfort for many hours at a time may be your best bet.
  • Plaque or gum issues. Other conditions, such as plaque buildup, receding gums, and gingivitis can be addressed by choosing mouthwashes containing fluoride, or those with other active ingredients that fight bacteria.

Other considerations

  • Price per ounce. Cost may be another factor to consider. Take a look at price as well as the number of fluid ounces each bottle of mouthwash contains. Packaging can sometimes be deceiving. Buying larger bottles or in bulk can sometimes reduce the price per ounce, making the mouthwash cheaper in the long run.
  • ADA Seal of Acceptance. Check the mouthwash label for the ADA Seal of Acceptance. It means that it’s been tested for effectiveness. Not every mouthwash has it, including some with well-known names.

It’s important to take a close look at the ingredient list. Many products have multiple ingredients geared to treat specific conditions or overall dental health. Some ingredients in mouthwash to look for include:

  • Fluoride. This ingredient fights tooth decay and strengthens enamel.
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride. This eliminates bad breath and kills bacteria.
  • Chlorhexidine. This reduces plaque and controls gingivitis.
  • Essential oils. Some mouthwashes contain compounds found in essential oils, such as menthol (peppermint), eucalyptus, and thymol (thyme), which have antifungal and antibacterial properties
  • Carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. This ingredient whitens teeth.

There are lots of great mouthwashes out there, and this list is by no means complete. We’ve included therapeutic mouthwashes you can buy over the counter and some that require a dentist’s prescription.

1. Crest Pro-Health Multi-Protection

The active ingredient in this mouthwash is cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent that’s effective against bad breath, tooth decay, and conditions such as gingivitis and receding or bleeding gums.

It’s alcohol-free so it won’t burn, making it a good choice if you have dry mouth or areas of irritation. Users say they like the minty aftertaste it leaves.

This product may temporarily stain your teeth, requiring strategic teeth brushing or regular cleanings at the dentist’s office. If you have sensitive gums and can’t stand the burning sensation caused by other mouthwashes, this negative may be worth the trade-off.

For a small number of people, the CPC ingredient may leave a taste in their mouth that they find unpleasant, or it may temporarily affect the way foods taste. In these cases, you may want to look at a different mouthwash.

Cost: $

2. Crest Pro-Health Advanced with Extra Whitening

This product is alcohol-free. It contains fluoride for fighting cavities and hydrogen peroxide for removing surface stains and whitening teeth.

It also strengthens tooth enamel and kills the germs responsible for causing bad breath. Users find that it can take several months to see whitening results.

Cost: $

3. ACT Total Care Anticavity Fluoride

ACT Total Care is aluminum-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, and phthalate-free. Its active ingredient is fluoride, making it an effective choice for reducing dental decay, strengthening tooth enamel, and promoting healthy gums.

This mouthwash comes in two flavors: one formulated with 11 percent alcohol and the other alcohol-free. Check the inactive ingredients list.

Cost: $

4. ACT Dry Mouth

ACT Dry Mouth mouthwash is alcohol-free and doesn’t burn. It’s highly effective at reducing dry mouth for many hours after use. It also contains fluoride, making it an effective cavity fighter.

This mouthwash lists xylitol as an inactive ingredient. Xylitol increases the amount of saliva in the mouth and reduces S. mutans bacteria, which cause plaque to form on teeth.

You’ll get the best results for dry mouth if you follow package directions exactly, and swish ACT Dry Mouth in your mouth for at least 1 full minute. Many users report that this mouthwash tastes good, making this task fairly easy.

Cost: $

5. Colgate Total Pro-Shield

This mouthwash has a mild, peppermint taste and an alcohol-free formula. Its active ingredient is cetylpyridinium chloride. Colgate Total Advance Pro-Shield is a good choice for reducing plaque buildup and for keeping breath fresh.

It kills germs for up to 12 hours, even after eating meals. This mouthwash is a good choice for eliminating the germs and bacteria that cause gingivitis, which can lead to periodontitis and receding gums.

Cost: $

6. Peridex prescription mouthwash

Peridex is a brand of medicated mouthwash known generically as chlorhexidine gluconate oral rinse.

Prices vary based on your prescription plan. You may be able to purchase generic chlorhexidine gluconate oral rinse at a lower cost than the name brand.

Other brand names include Perisol, Periogard, PerioChip, and Paroex.

Peridex is a prescription germicidal mouthwash used to treat gingivitis and gum conditions, such as those that cause bleeding, swelling, and redness. It works by killing bacteria in the mouth.

Peridex isn’t right for everyone, and it may cause side effects, such as tooth staining, tartar buildup, mouth irritation, and a decreased ability to taste food and drink. It may also cause allergic reactions that are sometimes serious or life-threatening in some people.

Cost: $$$

Peridex is only available by prescription, from a pharmacy or your dentist’s office.

7. Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic

The active ingredients in Listerine Antiseptic are menthol, thymol, eucalyptol, and methyl salicylate. Along with its alcohol base, these essential oils provide an intense, minty tingle that’s pleasing for some users, but too strong for others.

The essential oils in Listerine Antiseptic have antimicrobial properties, making them very effective at reducing plaque, gingivitis, receding gums, and bad breath.

Cost: $

8. TheraBreath Fresh Breath

TheraBreath is alcohol-free and antibacterial. It reduces sulfur-producing bacteria in the mouth, eliminating even severe bad breath for up to 1 day.

Its active ingredients include peppermint oil, citric acid, castor oil, tetrasodium edta, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chlorite, and sodium benzoate. Some people find that TheraBreath alters their taste buds temporarily.

Cost: $$

9. CloSYS Ultra Sensitive

This alcohol-free mouthwash is a good choice if you have sensitive teeth. It’s also excellent for eliminating bad breath. It uses chlorine dioxide, an oxidizing agent, to eradicate sulfur-producing bacteria in the mouth.

Cost: $$

Using the right mouthwash can support dental health and make your smile its most radiant. Mouthwash is able to reach parts of your mouth that brushing and flossing might miss, making it an effective tool for treating conditions such as:

Unless they’re designed specifically for young children, most mouthwashes are meant for those who are 6 years old and up. Children older than 6 who might swallow mouthwash should be supervised during their use.

Before purchasing mouthwash for your child, it’s a good idea to check with their dentist.

Mouthwash containing alcohol may not be suitable for people who are trying to avoid alcohol.

Mouthwash can be used to control bad breath and reduce cavities. It can also help to combat conditions such as receding gums, gingivitis, dry mouth, and plaque buildup.

Mouthwash should be used in addition to brushing and flossing. It’s important to use a mouthwash that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.