Is It Safe For My Child To Use Mouthwash?

Tooth Character

Using mouthwash has numerous benefits: fresher breath, cleaner teeth, and to a small degree, plaque and tartar control.  But is it safe for children?

Small Children Should Steer Clear of Mouthwash and Oral Rinses

Most dental experts agree that mouthwash products should be avoided until the child reaches at least the age of six. This is about the time when they can control their swallowing reflex and spit out the wash after rinsing.  Even child-safe rinses aren’t really made to be ingested by young children.
Remember, the ingredients in these rinses can be harmful if swallowed.  

Elementary Aged Children Can Begin to Rinse

Around the age of 6, it is usually safe to begin introducing child-safe rinsing products.  Most are alcohol free and can help the child begin to establish a healthy oral care routine that will last a lifetime.  Here are some tips for helping your children use mouthwash safely:

  • Give younger children small amounts of rinse at the beginning until they are used to the process. That way if they accidentally swallow some, it will be okay.
  • Show children how to rinse and spit. Believe it or not, this isn’t always an easy concept.
  • Never use oral rinses as a substitute for brushing.  Mouthwash cannot get rid of food debris or remove plaque like brushing and flossing do.  It should be used to rinse the mouth at the end of the tooth cleaning regimen, unless it is a disclosing solution that the child is using at the beginning of the brushing routine, to see the plaque for thorough removal.

Kids with Braces Should Always Rinse

Children with braces should use mouthwash and high fluoride rinses to help keep the teeth healthy.  One of the biggest pitfalls of wearing braces is that food gets stuck in them which can lead to tooth decay. Using an antimicrobial mouthwash can help kill bacteria that produce the acid that causes cavities.  This can save your child from dental treatment and possibly needing the braces removed until better hygiene habits are formed.

Teens Love Mouthwash

Of course, teenagers are very aware of bad breath and often turn to mouthwash to help freshen the breath. This is perfectly fine, as long as they are still brushing and flossing regularly.  Bad breath is a sign of bacterial buildup in the mouth, which is often the result of poor brushing and flossing habits.  Stress this fact to your teen. While mouthwash can help to give anyone a fresher feeling mouth, it is no substitute for good oral hygiene practices. 

Which Mouthwash is Best?

One trip down the oral care aisle and you will notice quite a few oral rinses available for both children and adults.  When choosing the right one, consider these important factors:

  • How old is your child?  Younger children should only use child-approved, alcohol free rinses.
  • Do you need extra fluoride?  Fluoride based rinses can be especially helpful in fighting cavities, especially for children who live in areas that do not fluoridate the water supply.
  • Are you fighting bacteria?  If your child or teen is battling bad breath, it may be a sign that he or she has too much bacteria in his or her mouth. Using an antimicrobial rinse can help kill bacteria stuck between teeth, offering fresher breath and a healthier mouth.

Allowing children to use mouthwash rinses can be a big decision for parents.  Follow these simple suggestions to ensure that when you do make this important decision, it is the right one for your child.