If you’ve ever swished alcoholic mouthwash before, you know the fiery sensation in your mouth. Alcohol’s effective, but it can also be very harsh and drying, which can actually worsen bad breath. That’s why dentists often suggest alcohol-free mouthwash options, especially if you’re experiencing any peeling, dry-mouth symptoms, or burning when you gargle. Thankfully, there are a lot of options to work with if you want to go alcohol-free.
Many alternatives will contain a compound called CPC, or cetylpyridium chloride, says dentist Jennifer Bell, a national spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, which works by reducing bacteria counts in the mouth. Others contain things like essential oils and aloe vera. We asked four dentists to weigh in on the alcohol-free mouthwashes they find are the most effective for keeping your mouth clean.
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Texas-based dentist Alan MacDavid of Stonebridge Dental says he really only recommends options that contain CPC, since they’re the standard for efficacy across alcohol-free mouthwash options. He named Crest Pro-Health as a good place to start, though he notes that there are other comparable generic options out there, too.
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Best mouthwash for sensitive teeth
For people with sensitive gums, dentist Simone Ellis — the owner of Texas’ Smile Design Studios — recommends the Closys Alcohol Free Mouthwash. “It’s more expensive than most products, but it’s awesome for people with sensitive teeth,” she says. It relies on Clorodtan, she explains, which is “a patent ingredient in Closys that kills 99 percent of the bad bacteria in ten seconds and it doesn’t burn.”
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“A lot of mouthwashes, including mainstays like Listerine, have alcohol-free versions which are effective,” says Beverly Hills cosmetic and biomimetic dentist Matt Nejad, who has used Listerine for years. The active ingredient in this Nightly Reset option is fluoride — which Bell notes specifically helps reduce the risk for cavities — but also contains bacteria-reducing xylitol. It’s one Listerine option that we’ve tried and loved for freshening breath, while whitening over time.
Best mouthwash with essential oils
Beyond your typical drugstore mouthwashes, there’s this Aesop option that contains a blend of clove, mint, and tea tree oils. “Many essential oils — including peppermint, clove and even tea tree — are effective at killing bacteria,” says Nejad, since “they include a wide variety of organic compounds that can slow or stop the growth of bacteria.” Ellis adds that essential oils can also be helpful for remineralization and soothing of gums.
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