Does Mouthwash Help With Periodontal Disease?

If you suffer from periodontal disease or gum disease, you are not alone. About 50% of adults in the United States have gingivitis, and approximately 80% have suffered from periodontal disease at some point in their lives.1 In this article, we’ll discuss the types of gum disease and whether mouthwash can help.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease involves inflammation of the gums (gingiva), periodontium (supporting structures around each tooth), or both. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease resulting from plaque, a sticky film of oral bacteria and food particles. Gingivitis only affects the gums, not the supporting structures of the tooth. Plaque contains bacteria that create acids, causing the surrounding gums to become swollen, red, and prone to bleeding.4 Plaque can also lead to cavities.

When plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar, a hard substance covering teeth and requiring removal by a dental professional. Over time, tartar and plaque can damage the periodontium, which consists of the bones and connective tissue surrounding each tooth. This leads to periodontitis, a chronic disease resulting in tooth loss, and is one of the most severe forms of gum disease. Many factors contribute to gingivitis becoming periodontitis, but smoking and diabetes are the most significant.1 Periodontitis can also occur around dental implants and is referred to as peri-implantitis.

Signs and symptoms of gum disease include:5

  • Gums pulling away from teeth or teeth appearing longer
  • Swollen, puffy, and red gums (healthy gums are pink)
  • Painful gums
  • Bleeding when you brush your teeth
  • Adult tooth loss or loose teeth
  • Continual bad breath

Your hygienist and dentist will evaluate your gums and determine the stage of gum disease present. If gingivitis is present, regular cleanings every six months should suffice as long as oral hygiene is maintained. If periodontitis is present, your dentist may recommend a professional treatment called scaling and root planing, which involves removing plaque and tartar below the gumline. The process of scaling and root planning may require more than one appointment and more frequent hygiene appointments. However, you may be wondering does mouthwash help with gingivitis or periodontitis.

Can Mouthwashes Prevent or Treat Gum Disease?

Man with MouthwashOne of the primary ways to prevent or improve gum disease is to create a better oral hygiene routine, including using mouthwash. Oral hygiene begins with proper tooth brushing using fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily. You should brush twice daily for at least 2 minutes and always floss after brushing to remove any remaining plaque between the teeth. Colgate TotalSF is one of the best toothpastes for reducing plaque buildup, plaque-induced gingivitis, sensitivity, and stains. According to multiple studies, electric toothbrushes are more effective at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes.2

Mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing. Using mouthwash in conjunction with toothbrushing can improve the health of your mouth overall. While mouthwash can help prevent and treat gum disease, it is only effective if you brush and floss twice a day. Choosing the right mouthwash depends on your individual needs and preferences. So, the answer to whether mouthwash is good for gums is yes!

Which Is the Best Mouthwash for Gum Disease?

Cosmetic and therapeutic mouthwashes are the two main types of mouthwash, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Cosmetic mouthwashes may assist with whitening teeth or masking bad breath (oral malodor). On the other hand, therapeutic mouthwashes are formulated to remove and prevent plaque buildup and are also called antibacterial mouthwash. If you have gum disease, you need an antibacterial mouthwash. In addition to over-the-counter antibacterial mouthwashes, prescription mouthwashes are also available.

Active mouthwash ingredients for periodontitis prevent plaque accumulation and can include fluoride, cetylpyridinium chloride, and chlorhexidine. Some mouthwashes also use hydrogen peroxide for whitening, and others use potassium nitrate to help sensitive teeth. However, the most effective mouthwash to combat plaque is chlorhexidine mouthwash, which is available only by prescription.6 Some clinical studies have shown that essential oils such as eucalyptus oil are just as effective at removing plaque as prescription mouthwashes.

Your local grocery store or pharmacy may have an overwhelming selection of oral care products and mouthwashes. It is best to avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol, as they can cause your mouth to become dry. Talk to your dentist about the best mouthwash for you.

Can I Prevent Gum Disease?

While certain health conditions may predispose someone to develop gum disease, most people can prevent gum disease by following these tips:

  • Create a daily oral care routine
  • Visit your dentist twice a year for regular cleanings and exams
  • Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Consume sugar in moderation

To learn more about how Sarasota Dentistry can help you maintain excellent oral health, visit our site.


  1. Gasner, N. S., & Schure, R. S. (2022). Periodontal Disease. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
  2. Jain Y. A comparison of the efficacy of powered and manual toothbrushes in controlling plaque and gingivitis: a clinical study. Clin Cosmet Investig Dent. 2013;5:3-9. Published 2013 Feb 27. doi:10.2147/CCIDE.S40656
  3. Rajendiran M, Trivedi HM, Chen D, Gajendrareddy P, Chen L. Recent Development of Active Ingredients in Mouthwashes and Toothpastes for Periodontal Diseases. Molecules. 2021;26(7):2001. Published 2021 Apr 1. doi:10.3390/molecules26072001
  4. Rathee, M., & Jain, P. (2022). Gingivitis. StatPearls.
  5. Torpy, J. M., Burke, A. E., & Glass, R. M. (2008). JAMA patient page. Periodontal disease. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 299(5), 598.
  6. Van der Weijden, F. A., Van der Sluijs, E., Ciancio, S. G., & Slot, D. E. (2015). Can chemical mouthwash agents achieve plaque/gingivitis control? Dental Clinics of North America, 59(4), 799–829.
Dr. Hank Michael DMD
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