Many people add mouthwash to their dental hygiene routine. It can freshen breath and help boost the cleaning job that brushing and flossing accomplish. But what about people with braces? Some may wonder if there are special types of mouthwash for braces, or if it is even a good idea to use it at all.
First of all, using mouthwash with braces is perfectly safe. It will not harm the brackets or wires of traditional metal braces or clear braces. There are many different kinds of mouthwash and mouth rinses on the market. Some are even marketed specifically to braces wearers with names that include “orthodontic” or “braces-care”. Choosing which one to use might depend on the ingredients they contain. Ultimately though, it can be up to the patient’s personal preference.
Reasons to Consider Mouthwash With Braces
Brushing and flossing can be difficult with braces. It is not always possible to clean every part of every tooth when navigating around the brackets and wires. Food particles can get caught and start creating plaque. This will eventually lead to a cavity if it is not taken care of.
Swishing mouthwash around the mouth can help rinse away small pieces of food. And if the wash contains antiseptic or antibacterial ingredients, it can kill cavity-causing germs, too. When done along with routine brushing and flossing, it can leave the mouth cleaner and fresher.
(One question patients ask our dentists a lot is if they should rinse with mouthwash before or after they brush and floss. The order does not matter. What is important is that the patient is regularly cleaning their braces and their teeth.)
In addition to cavities, plaque can cause a reaction in the tooth enamel called decalcification or demineralization. When braces are removed, some patients notice white spots where the brackets were attached. Others may have stains around them. The chance of either of these issues can be reduced (and even reversed) with the use of a fluoride rinse or mouthwash with fluoride.
The typical patient wears braces for between 18 months and 3 years. It is important to keep teeth clean and cavity-free during the treatment so that the end result is straight teeth that are also healthy.
Is There Special Mouthwash Specifically for Braces?
Some products on the store shelves use terms like “braces care” or “orthodontic” in their names. These are meant to be used by people with braces. When examining their ingredients, however, they do not appear to be significantly different from many mouth rinses for general use.
What usually makes these specialized products different from ordinary mouthwash is that they contain all of the things mentioned below that are beneficial to braces wearers. For example, they typically have fluoride and are antibacterial (to protect the teeth from cavities and white spots that can form with braces). They are commonly alcohol-free so that they do not irritate mouths that are already sensitive, or pose any issues for young children. They may even add ingredients to help soothe sore teeth and gums.
The only sure way to know is to read the labels. Or ask the dentist or orthodontist about which products they recommend. Depending on the patient’s oral health, they may suggest a specific “for braces” rinse. In many cases, though, “regular” mouthwash is enough, as long as it has all of the properties someone with braces needs to keep their mouth clean and protect their teeth.
Preventing Cavities While Wearing Braces
Braces are more often worn by kids during their cavity-prone years than by adults. As mentioned above, adding mouthwash can help with rinsing away food and bacteria that cause decay. Using one with fluoride can provide even more help to prevent cavities.
There are two ways to get the added benefit of fluoride: A fluoride rinse or a mouthwash that contains fluoride.
Mouthwashes typically have a number of ingredients that kill bacteria and freshen breath. They may also contain fluoride. Fluoride rinses, on the other hand, often do not include those other ingredients. Their main purpose is to introduce additional fluoride (which helps fight cavities) into the oral care routine.
Both mouthwashes and fluoride rinses can be beneficial to braces wearers. But it is important to remember that neither should be a substitute for thorough brushing and flossing.
Protecting Teeth and Gums
Bacteria in the mouth is normal, but too much of certain kinds of bacteria can be harmful. Some cause bad breath. Others react with the sugars in the mouth to form cavities. Antibacterial mouthwash ingredients can keep those bacteria under control.
Antiseptic or antimicrobial mouthwash is even more powerful. Not only will it kill bacteria, but also other organisms like fungi and some viruses.
All of these products are beneficial for keeping a patient’s mouth clean. They can also help fight germs that attack the gums, causing gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Should You Avoid Mouthwash With Alcohol?
Most mouthwash choices contain alcohol. Alcohol is what causes the burning sensation that many people associate with mouthwash. In many cases, it is also the antiseptic ingredient that does the most good to kill harmful organisms. There has been a lot of debate in recent years about the safety of these products.
While alcohol in mouthwash is not dangerous and will not harm braces (it is approved by the American Dental Association) it isn’t always recommended. There are some reasons why braces wearers may want to choose an alcohol-free option.
- Wearing braces can make teeth sore and sensitive. The burning and tingling that patients feel with alcohol-based mouthwash can add to the discomfort.
- Alcohol in mouthwash can cause dry mouth which can contribute to decay and bad breath.
- Small amounts of mouthwash might be swallowed. Children or anyone who should not have alcohol may swallow more than is safe. For this reason, mouthwash of any kind is not recommended for children under 6.
The important lesson is that mouthwash and mouth rinse can contain a number of different ingredients. Consumers should read the labels to be aware of what the products they are using. This is true whether one is trying to avoid alcohol, looking to protect tooth enamel (fluoride), or wanting to kill germs (antibacterial or antiseptic).
Add Mouthwash to Your Cleaning Routine
It can be challenging to keep teeth healthy while wearing braces. Brushing and flossing aren’t always enough to get teeth as clean as they need to be. Adding mouthwash to the oral care routine will help. And regular dental visits are a must too. Your dentist or orthodontist can recommend which type of mouthwash might work best for your teeth while your braces are on.
Deciding to get braces is a big commitment, but the end results will be a straighter smile that is worth the time and effort. Make sure that once the braces are removed the teeth beneath them are as healthy as possible.
If you don’t have a dentist and would like to schedule an appointment to discuss braces or your dental health, you can use our search tool to find a professional near you.