Mouthwash for your little one: YAY or NAY?

As you likely know, brushing and flossing are the two pillars of a child’s daily dental routine. But what about mouthwash? Should this also be added to their toothy toolkit? Parents regularly ask us this very question – along with other mouth-rinsey-related ones.

That’s why we’ve put together this FAQ on everything you need to know about mouthwash and kids.

Q: Are mouthwashes suitable for kids?

A: Typically, we only recommend children use mouthwash in a few special circumstances. Namely, those with braces or a history of decay.

For children with braces, a mouth rinse will wash away any food particles that get caught between the braces, while also allowing fluoride to reach those hard-to-reach spots.

As for a child with a history of decay, a fluoride rinse can be beneficial to strengthening their teeth. Scientists have found that on average, users see a 27% reduction in decayed, missing and filled tooth surfaces in permanent teeth when they use fluoride mouthwash.

Q: How old does my child need to be to use mouthwash?

Children don’t have the motor skills to ‘swish and spit’ until around age 6. Without this skill, a child may accidentally swallow the mouthwash – which is not good for little tummies!

So it’s best to give your kid a little test first to see if they’re ready.

Hand them a glass of water and ask them to take a mouthful, swish it around in their mouth, then spit it out. If they can do it, they’re good to go.

If you’re lucky enough to have a kid that loves to brush and doesn’t have any cavities, we don’t recommend introducing them to mouthwash just yet. Instead, focus on teaching them how to floss.

Q: How often should my child use mouthwash?

A: So, your child is ready and suitable for using mouthwash.

But how often should they use it? And what time of day is best?

We recommend using mouthwash at a different time to teeth brushing. Why? Because we don’t want high-strength fluoride toothpaste being washed away with a lower concentration mouth rinse.

Plus, this way, your child gets the benefit of fluoride three times a day!

We suggest incorporating the mouthwash into their routine just after afternoon tea. You can make it a fun activity that slots into their schedule at the same time every day.

Q: Can mouthwashes replace tooth brushing?

A: Absolutely not!

A mouthwash should never replace good-old-fashioned toothbrushing. A toothbrush physically removes food and plaque from the teeth, which a mouthwash simply can’t do.

Instead, the two should work together in unison.

Q: What type of mouthwash should my child use?

A: There are two main types of mouthwash on the market: cosmetic and therapeutic.

A cosmetic mouthwash is used to treat bad breath and typically has a pleasant taste. However, it doesn’t treat the cause of bad breath. So from a dentist’s point of view, there’s little value in using it.

On the other hand, therapeutic mouthwashes have active ingredients to treat bad breath, by killing bacteria and preventing tooth decay, gum disease and plaque build-up.

Therapeutic mouthwashes can be especially beneficial for those with cavities, as they are antibacterial. They also contain fluoride, which prevents tooth decay by repairing damage to teeth before it becomes serious.

Q: So, which mouthwashes do you recommend?

A: When it comes to choosing a mouthwash, make sure it’s alcohol-free. Here’s our top three picks:

  1. Colgate Minions (100ppm fluoride)
  2. Listerine Smart Rinse (100ppm fluoride)
  3. Colgate Neutraflor 220 (220ppm fluoride) – best for children 12+, with orthodontic appliances or when prescribed by a dentist

Any questions? Consult your local dentist

If you’re unsure about which mouthwash is best for your child – or need further clarity on anything discussed – we can help.

The team at Norwest Paediatric Dentistry is here to answer all your questions and concerns. We work with children in dentistry every single day, so we’re highly qualified to assist.

You can call us on (02) 8814 7945 or email us at reception@nwpd.com.au.

To make an appointment for a check-up or a specific concern, you can call or email us – or book online. We look forward to hearing from you and seeing your smiles soon!