The 7 Best Mouthwashes for Gingivitis of 2020

Keep dental issues at bay with these top-picks

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First Look

Best Overall: TheraBreath Healthy Gums Oral Rinse at Amazon

"This periodontist-formulated rinse hits a home run for its ingredient quality and value for the money."

Best Budget: Listerine Oral Care Antiseptic Mouthwash at Amazon

"The Cool Mint flavor makes it easy to use every day as part of your dental care routine."

Best Alcohol-Free: Crest Multi-Protection Rinse at Walmart

"All of the bacteria-fighting benefits of a gingivitis mouthwash without the unpleasant aftertaste."

Best Sensitive: CloSYS Original Unflavored Mouthwash at Amazon

"Gentle enough to use even if you have painful canker sores or swollen gums."

Best for Dry Mouths: Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse at Walmart

"Immediate relief from dry mouth for up to four hours."

Best for Canker Sores: Orajel Antiseptic Mouth Sore Rinse at Amazon

"A mouthwash that doesn’t irritate already-sensitive gums."

Best Tasting: Listerine Ultraclean Antiseptic Mouthwash at Amazon

"It tasted like an orange soft drink or popsicle."

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: TheraBreath Healthy Gums Oral Rinse

TheraBreath Healthy Gums Oral Rinse

Courtesy of Amazon

This periodontist-formulated rinse hits a home run for its ingredient quality and value for the money. It contains FDA-approved ingredients that are clinically proven to fight germs and bacteria that lead to gingivitis. It’s alcohol and sugar free, so it won’t sting your mouth or damage your teeth, and additional zinc compounds fight halitosis, so your breath will be as clean as your gums.

Multiple customers mentioned that they avoided costly, painful dental procedures after several months of daily use, and said their dentists were amazed by the turnaround in their gingivitis. Overall, TheraBreath’s rinse is one of the best values for the money.

Best Budget: Listerine Ultraclean Oral Care Antiseptic Mouthwash

Listerine Ultraclean Oral Care Antiseptic Mouthwash

Courtesy of Amazon

Listerine is a familiar brand to anyone who’s strolled up and down the mouthwash aisle, and this rinse has plenty of ADA and FDA-approved ingredients to fight gingivitis on a budget. It’s clinically proven to prevent tartar buildup and germs. Although this mouthwash contains powerful antiseptics, the Cool Mint flavor makes it easy to use every day as part of your dental care routine.

Many reviewers praised the brand’s consistent quality over the decades, as well as the refreshing flavors and wide availability. They also mentioned noticing a reduction in visible plaque after using this wash and said the price was just right.

Best Alcohol-Free: Crest Pro-Health Multi-Protection Alcohol-Free Rinse

Crest pro-health multi-protection alcohol free rinse

Courtesy of Amazon

There are plenty of reasons to choose an alcohol-free mouthwash when you’re trying to control gingivitis: they don’t have the initial burning sensation of other rinses, and washes with alcohol can worsen dry mouth in the long term. Crest’s Pro-Health Multi-Protection Alcohol-Free Rinse has all of the bacteria-fighting benefits of a gingivitis mouthwash without the unpleasant aftertaste.

Germs and microorganisms are no match for this mouthwash. It’s also effective for removing plaque for a brighter smile. When you’re done swishing it, you’ll enjoy a minty flavor instead of an alcohol burn.

Best Sensitive: CloSYS Original Unflavored Mouthwash for Sensitive Mouths

Protecting yourself from gingivitis when you have sensitive teeth or gums is no easy feat: many mouthwashes include alcohol, colors, additives, or sulfates that create a burning sensation. If you’ve struggled to find a rinse that fights plaque without fighting your mouth, CloSYS Original Unflavored Mouthwash was designed with you in mind.

CloSYS line of products contains an ADA-approved, patented ingredient that keeps gum disease at bay without the discomfort of traditional mouthwashes. Its pH-balanced formula is gentle enough to use even if you have painful canker sores or swollen gums.

Best for Dry Mouths: Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse

Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse

Courtesy of Walmart

Dry mouth is an uncomfortable condition that occurs when your salivary glands fail to produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Insufficient saliva makes it harder for your mouth to wash away plaque, which aggravates current gingivitis or puts you at risk for developing the condition. A special rinse can mean the difference between a healthy mouth and progressive gum disease, and Biotene’s Dry Mouth Oral Rinse is up to the task.

Biotene’s rinse provides immediate relief from dry mouth for up to four hours, but using it on a consistent basis can improve overall oral health for patients with gingivitis and dry mouth. The formula is alcohol and sugar-free, and it tackles the bad breath, discomfort, and higher risk of cavities and gum disease that comes with dry mouth.

Customers looking to fight gingivitis noticed that the rinse made a huge difference in their medication-induced dry mouth. Customers with sleep apnea praised it for reducing side effects associated with their CPAP machines.

Best for Canker Sores: Orajel Alcohol-Free Antiseptic Mouth Sore Rinse

Dealing with symptoms of gingivitis is difficult on its own, and adding canker sores to the mix makes treating your gums even more difficult. People with co-current gingivitis and canker sores may struggle to find a mouthwash that doesn’t irritate their already-sensitive gums, and rinses with alcohol, harsh additives, or added flavors make it harder to stick to your gingivitis treatment plan. Orajel’s Alcohol-Free Antiseptic Mouth Sore Rinse is easy on your gums without losing any effectiveness.

This rinse kills bacteria with hydrogen peroxide, an effective ingredient that attacks the germs that cause gingivitis without any burning sensation. The wash’s added menthol also gives it a subtle mint flavor kick that will make your daily dental care routine comfortable to follow. In addition to working quickly on canker sores, this mouthwash has been proven to help with other oral irritations, like sore throats or cheek bites.

Best Tasting: Listerine Ultraclean Oral Care Antiseptic Mouthwash, Fresh Citrus

Using a mouthwash daily can help you reach difficult corners of your gums. This anti-gingivitis mouthwash helps fight back against gum disease without the unpleasant aftertaste or chemical flavors that come with other rinses. It’s got the powerful punch of American Dental Association-recommended ingredients that will get your gums back in top shape, with a refreshing citrus burst that makes it a pleasure to use.

Fans of Listerine’s Fresh Citrus flavor noted that it tasted like an orange soft drink or popsicle, making it especially nice to use on hot summer days. They also appreciated that the flavor was available in large bottles, saying that this flavor can be hard to find on drugstore shelves. The rinse is also available in mint for gingivitis sufferers that want a different taste for their gum disease prevention plan.

Which Mouthwash Is Best for You?

By Steven Lin, DDS

It’s probably the most common question dentists get: "Which mouthwash should I be using?" Or, "is this mouthwash good?"

The answer often depends on what your needs are. People look to mouthwash as a breath freshener or to stop bad breath, but mouthwash is also used to stop bleeding gums, tooth decay, and some are used for teeth whitening.

One big misconception is that mouthwash can remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Swishing a mouthwash may have antibacterial action, but won’t remove plaque itself, so it should never replace brushing and flossing.

Before using any mouthwash you should go through these steps:

  1. Determine the primary reason for using mouthwash. Is it to treat a condition or simply to prevent dental disease?
  2. Consult your dentist. You should first gain a diagnosis of your problem and get your doctor's recommendation before using a mouthwash.
  3. Read the label carefully: be judicious in understanding what is in the product.
  4. Follow the directions.

The health claims and benefits of mouthwash vary quite a bit, so let’s see which contains what and if they live up to their claims.

Mouthwashes With Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the most common mouthwash ingredients. The thought is that alcohol kills bacteria that cause diseases in the mouth, but alcohol in mouthwash isn’t the active ingredient. Alcohol is present to help diffuse other active ingredients, like essential oils.

Most alcohol mouthwashes are used to freshen breath and fight bleeding gums or gum disease.

Bleeding gums and bad breath are due to the presence of certain types of bacteria in the mouth. The problem is that little is known about the specific mode of action alcohol has against them. Generally, it’s believed that alcohol destroys bacterial cell walls, but it’s not known whether it is effective against those that cause gum disease and bad breath.

Alcohol mouthwash has drawn widespread concern regarding alcoholic content being a risk factor for oral cancer. There is research to show that alcohol makes the mouth's cells more vulnerable to cancer-causing agents. When alcohol is broken down, the product is acetaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.

There can be temporary side effects of alcoholic mouthwash, such as:

  • Taste disturbances
  • Tooth staining
  • The sensation of a dry mouth
  • Worsening bad breath: Alcohol-containing mouthwashes may make dry mouth and halitosis worse since they dry the mouth out more. Soreness, ulcerations, and redness may sometimes occur.

Do your best to avoid alcoholic mouthwashes. They aren't particularly effective against gum disease or bad breath and may increase the risk of oral cancer.

Chlorhexidine Mouthwash

Chlorhexidine is an antibacterial used as an active ingredient in certain mouthwash brands. It is a broad spectrum antimicrobial with particular use against bacteria that cause gum disease.

Dentists do sometimes employ chlorhexidine mouthwash to treat patients with gum disease. Studies have shown it can reduce inflammation caused by periodontal bacteria.

One concern is that chlorhexidine may not be that effective against the particular bacteria known to cause bad breath.

Long-term use of chlorhexidine mouthwash is known to cause tooth and tongue swelling. It can also alter or decrease taste and cause dry mouth. In some patients, it can increase the build-up of dental tartar. This may be due to shifts in oral bacteria. It may also interact with toothpaste ingredients, so should always be used separately.

Some people experience rash or burning sensations, in which case use should be ceased immediately.

Chlorhexidine mouthwash may be helpful in treating gum disease, however, it is not effective for bad breath. It should always be used under guidance from your dental professional.

Fluoride Mouthwash

Many types of mouthwash contain fluoride to help prevent tooth decay.

Fluoride has been shown to be effective in preventing tooth decay, with five to 50 percent less dental decay. However, it should only be used in high-risk cases. 

Situations where fluoride rinses may be effective are:

  • For orthodontic patients: this is a good alternative (or supplement) to foam tray applications if you are having orthodontic treatment.
  • Moderate to high caries risk, including for elderly patients and early enamel caries
  • Partial dentures
  • Patients with xerostomia

It’s important that you don’t accidentally swallow fluoride-containing mouthwash, as it can be toxic. Fluoride mouthwash should be avoided in children under seven because the chance is too high that they will swallow it. The daily rinses are probably the most effective and contain about 0.05 percent fluoride. Weekly or fortnightly mouth rinses at 0.2 percent are also available.

Fluoride rinses probably only have a significant effect if you are at an increased risk of dental caries and certainly should not be used as a substitute for brushing with a fluoride toothpaste—you need to do both. Fluoride-containing mouthwash should only be used for patients with high-risk tooth decay. It should be taken under direction from your dental professional.

Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash

Hydrogen peroxide is the active ingredient found in most household cleaning products. It has wide anti-microbial properties due to its oxidizing chemical action. Oxidation acts to damage and kill bacterial cells.

It has been proven safe at one to three percent concentrations. The problem is that people have very different reactions to hydrogen peroxide and safe use depends on proper dilution. Studies suggest that there may be a slight decrease in gum inflammation. There also may be a slight teeth whitening effect.

Hydrogen peroxide is known to cause damage to the cells of the dental pulp. It can cause the tooth nerves to become infected and eventually die (called pulpitis). Do your best to avoid hydrogen peroxide mouthwash. There doesn’t seem to be enough research on the benefits to balance the risks that hydrogen peroxide mouthwash has.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are extracted from plants that are known to have aromatic or healing properties. Some mouthwashes do have essential oils added to their ingredients. However, you can make your own by adding drops of essential oils to the water.

Essential oils contain the "essence of" the plant's fragrance—which is characteristic of the plant from which it is derived. Their properties include antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory actions. These healing oils are rapidly growing in popularity because they act as natural medicine without any side effects.

Generally, these mouthwashes are considered as safe as they are natural products. Some essential oils have been found to have particular antibacterial properties that may make them useful as a mouthwash. These include:

Essential oils mouthwash may be a good breath freshener. You shouldn’t solely rely on essential oil mouthwash ahead of oral hygiene practice, though.

Salt Water Mouthwash

Salt water is an isotonic solution, which means it contains the same salts and minerals as our body fluids and won’t irritate your gums.

Salt water is commonly used and recommended after dental extraction. The anti-bacterial properties seem to decrease dental infections and gum inflammation, as well as a dry socket. Warm salt water is known to help with sore throats and tonsils. It also can alleviate mouth sores or ulcers.

As it has a low pH, salt water may help to treat bad breath. Bacteria that cause bad breath require a high pH in the mouth in order to thrive. You can make a mixture at home by adding ½ a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water. You can do this two to three times and repeat up to four times a day. Salt water is a good DIY option for keeping your mouth feeling fresh and clean.

Other Considerations When Using Mouthwash

Other Ingredients: Most mouthwashes contain other chemicals that help to increase shelf life or give it a desirable color. You should read the label carefully to make sure you know all of the ingredients in the type you are using. If you have an adverse reaction it could be due to one of these substances.

Detergents: Water-soluble cleansing agent combines with impurities and dirt to make them more soluble. It’s stated that they loosen residue that has accumulated on teeth; however, this claim isn’t heavily supported. Common detergents are listed on labels as sodium benzoate and sodium lauryl sulfate. There are concerns about the safety of consuming these chemicals and some people do report adverse reactions.

Flavors: Artificial flavoring will give the mouthwash it’s color and taste. They don’t contribute to its action or effectiveness and may have adverse reactions.

Preservatives: These prevent the growth of bacteria in the mouthwash. Common preservatives are sodium benzoate or methylparaben. They don't contribute to the action of the mouthwash.

Water: Water is used to dissolve and carry the other ingredients.

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