Should Children Use Mouthwash? What You Need to Know

As an adult, you likely follow a strict oral hygiene routine every morning and night. You carefully brush every surface of each tooth. You painstakingly floss those hard-to-reach spaces and you rinse thoroughly with mouthwash to ensure a clean, fresh-smelling mouth.

But as a parent, you may wonder if your child should follow your same pattern. Your son may just be learning to hold a toothbrush on his own. Or your daughter may still need a little help holding the floss between her teeth. And teaching your children to rinse with mouthwash seems like an impossible feat altogether.

Should you even bother with the mouthwash? Or should you wait until your children have grown a little more before you even try?

To learn whether mouthwash is right for your kids, take a look at the guide below.

The Benefits of Mouthwash

You are right to assume that mouthwash should be an integral part in your oral routine. When used correctly, mouthwash kills odour-causing bacteria and dramatically reduces your chances of developing cavities. Some mouthwash brands also contain a healthy dose of fluoride, which provides further protection for your teeth.

If any of your family members wear braces, mouthwash removes plaque build-up around the brackets and wires where an ordinary toothbrush and floss can’t reach. Additionally, mouthwash combats inflammation and acts as a topical analgesic (painkiller), giving your loved ones some relief from gum pain and toothaches.

The Downside of Mouthwash

Though mouthwash offers a lot of benefits when used correctly, it’s not appropriate for everyone. Children ages 6 to 12 should only use mouthwash under your direct supervision. And children younger than 6 should only use mouthwash when recommended by a dentist.

Why the extra precautions?

Mouthwash contains ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulphate, benzalkonium chloride, polysorbate and cetylpyridinium chloride, which are toxic to ingest. If your child were to accidentally swallow mouthwash rather than spitting it out after use, he or she may soon experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, shortness of breath and vomiting. In extreme cases, your child may require immediate hospitalisation and treatment after ingesting mouthwash.

Furthermore, the same fluoride that protects aging teeth damages new, developing teeth. Excessive consumption of fluoride contributes to fluorosis, a condition that results in white, lacy markings on the tooth’s enamel. In moderate to severe cases of fluorosis, the teeth may become brown and pitted.

Make Mouthwash Fun

Fortunately, you can avoid many of the dangers of mouthwash when you choose kid-safe brands and wait until your child is old enough to use the rinse properly. If you feel that your children are ready to use mouthwash safely at home, try the following tips to make the new addition to their routine a little more exciting:

Let your kids pick the flavour   . While you may prefer your usual spearmint or peppermint mouthwash, your kids may like rinse that caters a little to their sweet tooth. Let your children choose a kid-friendly rinse in fun flavours such as berry, strawberry or bubblegum.

Hold a nightly contest   . To enjoy the most benefits, your children should learn to swish the rinse for at least 30 seconds before they spit. However, 30 seconds can seem like an eternity for your little ones, so make the wait more exciting by turning it into a contest. See which of your children can swish the longest.

Listen to fun music   . Does your child have a favourite song? Play the song for 30 seconds to a minute while he or she uses mouthwash.

With a little creativity, you can find even more ways to encourage rinsing with mouthwash.

Don’t Forget to Schedule a Dental Appointment

If you supervise your children and help them use mouthwash safely, your kids will soon establish a healthy habit that will protect their teeth for years to come.

However, keep in mind that mouthwash should never be a replacement for brushing and flossing. And you should remember that the home care can never replace professional in-office care from your dentist. If you or your children haven’t visited the dentist recently, don’t wait to schedule an appointment.