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What Is Antimicrobial Mouthwash?

Antimicrobial mouthwash kills bacteria to control or reduce bad breath, gingivitis, plaque and tooth decay. It requires a prescription.

five colorful bottles of mouthwash

According to the American Dental Association, there are two types of mouth rinse, also called mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic.

Cosmetic mouth rinse helps control bad breath for a little while and leaves a pleasant taste behind. Anyone can buy these products in drug stores or grocery, big-box or convenience stores. Cosmetic mouthwash does not help serious oral health issues. 

Therapeutic mouth rinse controls or reduces bad breath, gingivitis, plaque and tooth decay by killing bacteria. That is why it is called antimicrobial. You need a prescription for a therapeutic mouthwash, and it can only be bought at a pharmacy. The generic name is chlorhexidine and it reduces redness, swelling and bleeding in the gums, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

Chlorhexidine lowers certain bacteria in your mouth to levels that are almost undetectable. Brand names for chlorhexidine include Peridex, Paroex and Periogard. 

If you have a deep cleaning during a dental appointment and your dentists says you have moderate to severe periodontal disease, ask if using an antimicrobial mouth rinse at home would help. And be sure to follow directions closely if your dentist gives you a prescription for chlorhexidine antimicrobial mouthwash. 

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