According to the American Dental Association (ADA), mouthwashes are used for a variety of reasons: to freshen breath; help prevent or control tooth decay; reduce plaque (a thin film of bacteria that forms on teeth); prevent or reduce gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease); reduce the speed that tartar (hardened plaque) forms on the teeth or to produce a combination of these effects. Most mouthwashes are available without a prescription.
Two types of over-the-counter mouthwashes are available: Therapeutic and cosmetic. Therapeutic mouthwashes that can help reduce plaque, gingivitis, cavities, and bad breath. Mouthwashes that contain fluoride help prevent or reduce tooth decay. Cosmetic mouthwashes may temporarily control or reduce bad breath and leave the mouth with a pleasant taste; however, they do not deal with the causes of bad breath or kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. In addition, they do not help reduce plaque, gingivitis, or cavities. If you have difficulty brushing and flossing, a mouthwash may provide additional protection against cavities and gum disease.
I recently had an opportunity to sample the new Colgate Total for Gum Health Mouthwash, which is a therapeutic mouthwash. I have used it twice a day for the past week and it has a refreshing taste. I see a dental hygienist twice a year and I will definitely ask her whether she notices any difference at my next visit. According to Colgate, the mouthwash only freshens breath, but provides the following health benefits: kills 99% of germs on contact; • has advanced gum protection for 45% stronger, healthier gums; fights plaque between teeth and along the gum line; and provides 12-hour protection against bacteria that can cause gingivitis , which is the number two health condition after colds.
According to the ADA, gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, the affected individual may be unaware that he or she has it. The disease is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on our teeth.
The following are some warning signs of gum disease:
- gums that bleed easily
- red, swollen, tender gums
- gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- persistent bad breath or bad taste
- permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- any change in the fit of partial dentures
Some factors that increase the risk of developing gum disease are:
- poor oral hygiene
- smoking or chewing tobacco
- crooked teeth that are hard to keep clean
- medications, including steroids, certain types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives
Visit a dentist if you suspect you have periodontal disease because the sooner you treat it the better. The early stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by a professional cleaning at your dental office, followed by daily brushing and flossing.
Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis can lead to the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth and it may become more severe over time. If it does, your teeth will feel loose and start moving around in your mouth. This is the most common form of periodontitis in adults but can occur at any age. It usually gets worse slowly, but there can be periods of rapid progression. Aggressive periodontitis is a highly destructive form of periodontal disease that occurs in patients who are otherwise healthy. Common features include rapid loss of tissue and bone and may occur in some areas of the mouth, or in the entire mouth.
Research between systemic diseases and periodontal diseases is ongoing. While a link is not conclusive, some studies indicate that severe gum disease may be associated with several other health conditions such as diabetes or stroke. It is possible to have gum disease and have no warning signs. That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important. Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Good dental care at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring.