This is a question pediatric dentists often get asked, especially as many adults use mouthwash. One of the problems with mouthwash is that many still contain alcohol, and the American Dental Association recommends children under the age of six should not use mouthwash. This is because it can be difficult to prevent them from swallowing it, and it could be hazardous. In fact if you do use mouthwash and have very young children then it’s best to keep it well out of reach just in case they are tempted to try drinking it, especially as mouthwash is generally formulated to taste quite nice.
In addition there is always the risk that very young children who use fluoride mouthwash may be overexposed to fluoride. At this stage their teeth are not fully developed, and exposure to excess fluoride can result in a condition called fluorosis. This can lead to the development of white lacy flecks on the teeth, or even brown or black looking stains. The condition is completely harmless but it can be unsightly, and fluorosis stains are often tricky to remove from teeth as they tend not to respond particularly well to conventional tooth whitening treatments.
After the age of six it is okay to let them use mouthwash under adult supervision, but they should only use a brand especially designed for children and which doesn’t contain alcohol. Children’s mouthwash tends to contain fluoride which can help strengthen their teeth, and is often in a flavor favored by children, for example bubblegum. If you do want your child to use mouthwash then make sure they only use the recommended amount, and that they swish it around in their mouth for the correct length of time. Afterwards make sure they spit it all out, and it’s the best if they don’t eat or drink anything for at least half an hour afterwards as this helps to maximize the benefits of mouthwash, particularly if it contains fluoride.
What Are the Benefits of Kids Using Mouthwash?
Often older children and teenagers will like to use mouthwash to help freshen up their breath, but providing them with fluoride mouthwash will help them reap the benefits in other ways as well. Fluoride helps to harden their teeth making them more resistant against cavities. It can be especially beneficial for children who have fixed braces to use a good quality fluoride mouth rinse as this can help loosen any particles of food that may remain trapped around the braces and can help reduce the risk of cavities forming while they undergo orthodontic treatment.
Using Good Quality Mouthwash Is Only Part of the Solution
While good quality mouthwash can do a lot to help prevent the buildup of cavities or gum disease causing bacteria, it’s only part of the solution and definitely isn’t a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. Your child still needs to brush at least twice a day and should floss once a day. If they wear braces then ideally they need to brush and floss after every meal as its easy for food to become trapped around the brackets and wires. This is where your pediatric dentist and hygienist can help through offering practical demonstrations to you and your child, including lots of tips on how to keep tooth brushing and flossing fun, yet still very effective.