The Difference Between Mouthwash for Adults and Kids, and Benefits of Both
The holidays in Chicagoland bring mischievous and cozy traditions like mistletoe and snuggling by the fire. Social distancing might put a damper on those up-close-and-personal traditions this year, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon an important component of supplementary oral hygiene: mouthwash. We often get questions about who should use it, and the difference between mouthwash for adults and for kids. We thought we’d spit out the answers for you.
Common Purpose Between Mouthwash for Adults and Kids
There are several common reasons that both adults and children might want to include mouthwash in their regular dental hygiene habits. But before we cover those, we want to be clear: no one should consider mouthwash as a substitute for brushing and flossing. But it can be a valuable supplement to those important daily dental care activities.
Even though there are differences in mouthwash for adults and kids, the core benefits are the same, including:
- It helps freshen breath and rinse out particles that can get stuck between teeth and gums after meals. (Brushing and flossing are better, but we know there are times you need something quick and easy.)
- The fluoride helps strengthen enamel and protect teeth from plaque and cavities.
- Certain kinds of antiseptic mouthwash can help prevent or reduce bacteria and fight gum disease.
Key Differences Between Mouthwash for Adults and Kids
There are just a few differences between mouthwash for adults and mouthwash for kids, but they are important differences. The key differences are:
- Mouthwash for kids does not have alcohol
- Mouthwash for adults has more fluoride
- The flavors tend to be different to appeal to adult and kid taste preferences
What to Know About Mouthwash for Adults
Mouthwash for adults is pretty straightforward, but there are some interesting twists. Most people know it usually contains alcohol, but do you know why? We already mentioned that mouthwash for adults has more – not less – fluoride than mouthwash for kids. Does that surprise you? Let’s explore.
Can Adults Use Kids Mouthwash?
Because adults are far less likely to swallow mouthwash than children are, the fluoride level is more “full-strength”. That’s why we actually do not recommend that adults use mouthwash meant for kids. The amount of fluoride in kids mouthwash makes it less effective in preventing adult tooth decay. We recommend the “real deal” to our adult patients.
Why Does Mouthwash for Adults Contain Alcohol?
First, not all adult mouthwash contains alcohol, and the alcohol-free versions work just as well. Alcohol (sometimes up to 26%!) originally served as a preservative and to enhance the fresh sensation, but innovation has brought the alcohol-free options to a similar standard. And though it might go without saying it, we will: no one should feel tempted to drink mouthwash for any reason, especially not for the alcohol. Remember, fluoride can be toxic if consumed.
Mouthwash Prevents Gum Disease, Right?
Not all mouthwash! There are certain kinds of antiseptic mouthwash for adults that do (some are even prescription-strength) help prevent gum disease by killing the bacteria that cause it. If that is your concern, please give us a call, and we’ll make sure you’re using the correct kind.
What to Know About in Childrens’ Mouthwash
The main thing to know is that it’s still very important to be sure that kids don’t drink it. That’s because it still contains fluoride, and ingested in high volumes, fluoride can be toxic. Children can easily mistake the colorful flavored liquid for a beverage. That’s why products made specifically for kids contain less fluoride and no alcohol.
Supervised Swish & Spit for Kids Over Six
Although it seems second nature to most adults, kids under the age of six have not yet developed the ability to safely swish and spit. That’s why it is not recommended to allow kids under six to use mouthwash – they tend to swallow more than they discard.
For kids over six, the first thing to do is make sure they know how to properly swish and spit. Even when they have demonstrated the “skill” we still recommend close supervision to ensure it doesn’t start to go in more than out.
Calcium in Milk Can Protect Your Kids
If your child does ingest a quantity of mouthwash, it’s a good idea to feed them milk right away. That’s because the calcium attaches to the fluoride and helps to keep it from absorbing into the system. If this happens, we also recommend calling poison control. We don’t want to scare you, but it’s important to know.
Interestingly, the reverse is the reason that fluoride is good for teeth. The fluoride binds to the calcium in your teeth and helps fortify the enamel. Science is cool!
We Said a Mouthful
There is more information about mouthwash on the American Dental Association (ADA) website, but we hope you know you can contact us anytime with your questions and concerns. We’d be happy to discuss it with you on the phone or at your next appointment.