The American Dental Association recommends children start to use mouthwash at age six. The ADA cautions against children younger than six to use mouthwash as they have not yet mastered the motor skills needed to swish the liquid in their mouth without accidentally swallowing it. Young children also are not capable of voluntarily spitting the mouthwash out. Children ages 6-12 can use children’s mouthwash under close supervision. After age 12, children can use mouthwash themselves and can begin using adult mouthwash.
Children’s mouthwash is different from adult mouthwash as it often doesn’t contain alcohol. Some varieties may also not have fluoride. It is the higher risk of accidental swallowing of the alcohol by children that this safeguard is in place. In addition to the lack of alcohol and its unpleasant stinging, children’s mouthwashes also come in flavors that kids would enjoy, such as bubble gum and watermelon.
Most adult mouthwashes contain alcohol, though there are alcohol-free varieties available as well as mouthwashes that have no fluoride.
Mouthwash isn’t meant to take the place of flossing and teeth brushing. Some adults and children think mouthwash will give them the clean, fresh mouth necessary for healthy teeth and gums. Mouthwash is to complement flossing and teeth brushing, not be a substitute, by adding an additional layer of clean and freshness.
Teeth brushing and flossing scrape off and dislodge stuck food particles from the surface of teeth and in between teeth. This helps prevent them from decaying and turning into cavity-causing and gum disease-causing plaque. Mouthwash is to be used after flossing and brushing to rinse out the remaining germs and food particles.
For older children and adults, mouthwash can be used throughout the day when flossing or teeth brushing aren’t an option, to help rinse away debris after eating.
Good oral hygiene involves daily teeth brushing and flossing with the option of using mouthwash. It is a good idea to start kids early with the daily ritual of flossing and teeth brushing. The earlier a child starts taking care of his or her teeth and gums, the lower the risk they will have of future oral health problems as adults.