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

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

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 price.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$20
  • $$$ = over $20

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.

Crest Pro-Health Multiprotection Mouthwash

Price: $

The active ingredient in this mouthwash is cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), an all-around antimicrobial agent meant to lessen bad breath, tooth decay, and conditions such as gingivitis and receding or bleeding gums.

It’s alcohol-free so it shouldn’t burn, making it a solid 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 that contain alcohol, 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.

Pros

  • contains antimicrobial agents
  • made to fight bad breath
  • may help reducing gingivitis
  • alcohol-free

Cons

  • may leave an unpleasant aftertaste

Best for extra whitening

Crest Pro-Health Advanced with Extra Whitening

Price: $

This product is alcohol-free. It contains fluoride to help fight cavities, and hydrogen peroxide meant for removing surface stains and whitening teeth.

It’s also designed to strengthen tooth enamel and kill the germs responsible for causing bad breath. Users find that it can take several months to see whitening results.

Pros

  • alcohol-free
  • designed to help remove surface stains
  • meant to whiten teeth
  • may help strengthen tooth enamel

Cons

  • may take several months to see whiter teeth

Best anticavity mouthwash

ACT Total Care Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash

Price: $$

ACT Total Care is aluminum-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, and phthalate-free. Its active ingredient is fluoride, which has been known to be 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.

Pros

  • contains fewer chemicals than many other brands
  • meant to be effective against cavities
  • designed to promote healthy gums

Cons

  • some users find it harsh on teeth

ACT Total Care Dry Mouth

Price: $

ACT Dry Mouth mouthwash is alcohol-free, so it shouldn’t burn. It’s designed to be effective at reducing dry mouth for many hours after use. It also contains fluoride, which has been known to be 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.

If you’re using this product to help reduce dry mouth, the company suggests following package directions exactly — particularly swishing 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.

Pros

  • alcohol-free
  • made specifically to reduce dry mouth

Cons

  • some users find their dry mouth comes back quickly

Colgate Total Pro-Shield

Price: $

This mouthwash has a mild, peppermint taste and an alcohol-free formula. Its active ingredient is cetylpyridinium chloride. Colgate Total 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.

Pros

  • alcohol-free
  • users report a mild taste
  • made for reducing plaque

Cons

  • does not contain fluoride

Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic

Price: $

The active ingredients in Listerine Cool Mint 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, according to customer reviews.

The essential oils in Listerine Antiseptic have antimicrobial properties, which have been known to be effective at reducing plaque, gingivitis, receding gums, and bad breath.

Pros

  • designed to lessen bad breath
  • meant to reduce gingivitis

Cons

  • contains alcohol
  • users report strong taste

TheraBreath Fresh Breath Oral Rinse

TheraBreath is alcohol-free and antibacterial. Its purpose is to reduce sulfur-producing bacteria in the mouth and eliminate even severe bad breath for up to 1 day.

Active ingredients in this mouthwash 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.

Pros

  • made to eliminate severe bad breath caused by sulfur-producing bacteria
  • designed to last long
  • alcohol-free

Cons

  • more expensive than some mouthwashes

CloSYS Ultra Sensitive Mouthwash

Price: $$

This alcohol-free mouthwash is made specifically for people with sensitive teeth. It’s also designed to eliminate bad breath. It’s made with chlorine dioxide, an oxidizing agent, to try and rid of sulfur-producing bacteria in the mouth.

Pros

  • alcohol-free
  • users report gentle taste
  • made for sensitive teeth and gums

Cons

  • more expensive than most mouthwash brands

Peridex prescription mouthwash

Price: $$$

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

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

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, 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 was designed to kill 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.

Pros

  • made to treat gingivitis

Cons

  • requires a prescription

BrandContains alcoholFights cavitiesWhiteningReduces gingivitis
Crest ProHealth Multiprotection Mouthwashnoyesnoyes
Crest ProHealth Anticavity Fluoride Rinsenoyesyesyes
ACT Total Care noyes nono
ACT Total Care Dry Mouthnoyesnono
Colgate Total Pro-Shieldnoyesnoyes
Listerine Cool Mintyesnonoyes
TheraBreath Fresh Breath Oral Rinsenononoyes
CloSYS Ultrasensitive Mouthwashnononono
Peridexyesnonoyes

There are two types of mouthwashes: cosmetic and therapeutic.

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

Therapeutic mouthwashes include ingredients designed to 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 the price and 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 is known to fight tooth decay and strengthen enamel.
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride. This is meant to eliminate bad breath and kill bacteria.
  • Chlorhexidine. This is meant to reduce plaque and control 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 is meant to whiten teeth.

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. The ADA does not recommend mouthwash for children younger than 6 years of age.

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

Should I rinse after mouthwash?

No. Mouthwash contains helpful ingredients, such as fluoride, that need time to work. Rinsing immediately after use washes away the ingredients you’re using a mouthwash for.

Which mouthwash kills bacteria the best?

No mouthwash will kill 100 percent of the bacteria in your mouth. Look for a mouthwash that kills 90-99 percent or more of bacteria. There are several brands.

Which mouthwashes do dentists recommend?

The American Dental Association’s (ADA) Seal of Acceptance appears on many brands of mouthwash, including all of the brands on this list. You can see the ADA’s full list of approved mouthwashes here.

Mouthwash can be used to control bad breath and reduce cavities. It can also help to improve 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.