Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Is mouth rinse the answer?

“Kills germs that cause bad breath” (Listerine)
“For longer lasting fresh breath” (Colgate)
“Kids love it, cavities don’t” (ACT Kids)
“Healthy, beautiful smiles for life” (Crest)

Those are a few famous slogans from the most popular mouth rinse brands on the market today. Mouth rinses have always been a go-to supplementation to tooth brushing and flossing for fresher breath, a whiter smile and a cavity free dentition for decades. Per the American Dental Association, “Children under the age of 6 years should not use mouthwash, unless directed by a dentist, because they may swallow large amounts of the liquid inadvertently.”

Important components of mouth rinses are fluoride and pH. The fluoride ion incorporates into the biofilm of the teeth and helps to remineralize the tooth structure. pH is equally, if not more important, to the decay process.

Tooth structure will start to break down around a pH of 5.5, or what we consider the “danger zone”. When a person eats or drinks, the bacteria in the mouth secrete acid and bring the oral pH into the “danger zone”.  It typically takes 30 minutes for a person’s saliva to buffer against the acid attack, bringing the pH of the oral environment back to health. 

Similar to eating, when a person swishes with an acidic mouth rinse, the potential for an instant pH drop is present. The acidic liquid is being washed over all surfaces of the teeth, potentially keeping the oral environment in the “danger zone” longer than ideal. Our office has tested the pH of several over-the-counter mouth rinses: ACT, Listerine, Dr. Bite and Toms of Maine.  All resulted in a pH of 3-4, the “danger zone”. 

(pH table listed from “Balance, a guide for managing dental caries for patients and                    practitioners” V.Kim Kutsch, DMD, Robert J. Bowers)
We furthered our research to find a basic mouth rinse called CXT3 Carifree Rinse, which we carry in our office and can also be found on Amazon.com. The pH of the Carifree rinse is neutral (8-9).  It also contains fluoride and xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sweetener, which has a 5-carbon sugar ring versus a 6-carbon sugar ring (like table sugar) therefore bacteria can not break it down and secrete acid.

Along with pH, there are many different risk factors that can contribute to and ultimately lead to decay. Diet (frequent drinks and snacking), medications that cause dry mouth, oral appliances (braces), medical history, family history, bacterial transmission, or the wrong home care routine are examples of how complex this disease process is. 

No patient is alike. We encourage you to have an in-depth conversation with your dentist and dental hygienist regarding any decay concerns. Our goal is to always work with our patients and their families to come up with a plan that works best for you, your family and ultimately keep the oral environment healthy and happy!

Sarah – Registered Dental Hygienist

(pH table listed from “Balance, a guide for managing dental caries for patients and practitioners” V.Kim Kutsch, DMD, Robert J. Bowers)