Spit & Swish for Strong Smiles

The Difference Between Mouthwash for Kids and Adults, and Benefits of Both

Who knew “spit and swish” was a skill? It is when it comes to mouthwash for kids, and you might be surprised how often people ask about that, among other questions about mouthwash. We believe it can be a great supplement to your family’s overall dental care regimen, but there are some important things you need to know first. That includes who should use it, what to be careful of, and the difference between mouthwash made for adults and for kids.

Common Benefits of Mouthwash for Kids and Adults

Kids and grownups can both benefit in similar ways from using mouthwash in their regular oral hygiene routines. But first and foremost, we should be very clear: mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. Even so, it can be a good addition to those important daily dental care activities.

There are important differences in mouthwash for adults and kids, however the basic benefits are the same, including:

  • Used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, the fluoride helps protect teeth from cavities and plaque, and strengthens enamel. 
  • It helps clean your teeth after meals, removing particles that sometimes get stuck when you eat. 
  • Antiseptic mouthwash can help prevent or reduce bacteria and fight gum disease

Key Differences Between Mouthwash for Kids and Adults

There are a few important differences between mouthwash for kids and mouthwash for adults. The key differences are:

  • Different appeal to different taste preferences
  • More fluoride in mouthwash for adults
  • No alcohol in mouthwash for kids

What to Know About Mouthwash for Kids

The most important thing to know is that even though the formulas are different, it’s just as important that kids don’t drink it. Mouthwash contains fluoride, which can be toxic if ingested in any volume. The colorful liquid and tempting flavors can confuse kids into thinking it’s a beverage. That’s why mouthwash for kids contains less fluoride and no alcohol. Here are some other important considerations.

Kids Under Six Should Skip It; Kids Over Six Should Swish and Spit

Although it seems easy for most of us, kids younger than six have trouble safely swishing and spitting. They tend to swallow more than they spit. Because of that, they’re just not able to use mouthwash safely. 

For kids over six, just make sure to watch them to confirm they know how to swish and spit without swallowing. Even when they have demonstrated the “skill” we still recommend supervision to be sure they don’t start to swallow.

The Calcium in Milk Protects Kids in More Ways than One

If your child does ingest mouthwash, even mouthwash for kids, give them milk right away to help keep the fluoride from getting absorbed in their system. The secret behind that trick is that the calcium in the milk binds to the fluoride. The milk will help, but please also call poison control if this happens. We don’t want to scare you, but it’s important to know. 

By the way, it works in reverse too. That’s why fluoride is good for teeth, because the fluoride binds to the calcium in your teeth and helps fortify the enamel. Isn’t that interesting?

About Adult Mouthwash

There are some facts about adult mouthwash that seem to surprise people. It’s common knowledge that adult mouthwash often contains alcohol, but why? We mentioned above that adult mouthwash actually contains more fluoride, not less, than mouthwash for kids. Surprised? Let’s explore.

Alcohol in Mouthwash for Adults

Adult mouthwash does not always contain alcohol. Not only that, but the alcohol-free products work equally well. Originally, alcohol was used to make the mouthwash more refreshing, and also as a preservative, however the alcohol-free options do just as well. As an added bonus, they have less of a drying effect in the mouth. We’ll state the obvious: no one should drink mouthwash for any reason. Remember, fluoride can be toxic if consumed.

Different Mouthwash Formulas for Adults vs. Kids

Children’s mouthwash contains less fluoride than the mouthwash made for adults, so it is not as helpful in preventing adult tooth decay. We recommend that our adult patients use adult mouthwash with more fluoride rather than less. Additionally, grownups and kids don’t always like the same flavors, and often do not find their kids’ mouthwash refreshing or satisfying.

Mouthwash and Gum Disease

Some mouthwash products do help prevent gum disease, but some don’t. To be sure, you’ll need to look for antiseptic mouthwash, which can help kill the bacteria that cause it.

Ask if You’re Not Sure

There is more information about mouthwash on the American Dental Association (ADA) website. If you’re concerned or still aren’t sure what to use, give us a call, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions. Better yet, come on in for your regular cleaning and ask us in person.


To schedule your visit now, fill out this form, or call our office at (708) 448-­7588

Spit & Swish for Strong Smiles was last modified: December 10th, 2020 by Palos Heights Family Dental