When it comes to mouthwashes for sensitive teeth, there aren’t many options around.
But in this article I include my advice as a dentist to help you figure out if you could benefit from a mouthwash, based on the ingredients.
I also give some product recommendations.
If you don’t specifically need a sensitive mouthwash, you may find our more general post on the best mouthwashes helpful.
Key recommendations when using a mouthwash for sensitive teeth
- Get fluoride in there if you can – more fluoride is always a good thing for protection against cavities.
- Use mouthwash for sensitive teeth and gums in addition to your normal cleaning routine – you still need to brush your teeth!
- Use at a separate time of day to brushing, otherwise you are diluting the effect of your toothpaste.
- Use in addition to a sensitivity toothpaste for maximum protection against dentin sensitivity.
Therapeutic Sensitivity Mouthwashes
These are mouthwashes that contain active ingredients to help treat and manage tooth sensitivity. Ingredients you may find in a therapeutic mouthwash include:
- Dipotassium Oxalate Monohydrate
- Potassium Nitrate
- Stannous Fluoride.
These ingredients work either by blocking the exposed dentin tubules or by dulling the nerves which carry the pain message.
Given that there are few sensitivity options available, you may be interested in using a mouthwash, but wanting to know what you can use which won’t cause further irritation and sensitivity. My advice would be:
- Avoid alcohol containing mouthwashes. Alcohol can cause a burning sensation.
- Avoid SLS, which again has been linked to irritation in the mouth.
- Choose a non-mint or unflavoured mouthwash, as mint can sometimes enhance the sensitivity feeling.
Other mouthwashes may help to reverse or prevent sensitivity by targeting the cause of your sensitivity. For example, if tooth wear caused by acid erosion is causing your sensitivity, pick something that will help remineralise and strengthen the enamel. Ingredients for remineralisation include fluoride (any type) and calcium phosphates.
Whilst not specifically treating sensitivity, these can prevent further problems developing.
The Best Mouthwash For Sensitive Teeth
Below are some good options to consider if you’re looking for a sensitivity mouthwash.
I also include my own comments on each product, what to use it for, and what the active ingredient is.
Listerine Sensitivity Alcohol-Free Mouthwash
Best therapeutic moutwash
Active Ingredient: Dipotassium Oxalate Monohydrate
Use it for: treating sensitivity by blocking the tubules
I’ve picked Listerine Sensitivity Alcohol-Free Mouthwash as the best mouthwash for sensitive teeth, as it is the only one available on the US market that actually contains an active ingredient!
Dipotassium Oxalate Monohydrate works by blocking the tubules (no matter how the dentin tubules were exposed).
The only downside to this mouthwash is the lack of fluoride. So make sure you use it at a separate time of day to brushing so that you don’t rinse off the fluoride in your toothpaste (and lose the anti-cavity effect of it!). You will need to rinse with about 10ml for 60 seconds twice daily to get full effect. And it could take some time (up to a couple of weeks) to notice the full effect too.
Other Mouthwashes That Are Useful If You Have Sensitive Teeth
Tom’s of Maine Whole Care Mouthwash
Best fluoride rinse for sensitive teeth
Active Ingredient: Sodium fluoride
Use it for: gentle mouthwash protection against cavities (not sensitivity specific)
- Contains fluoride for anticavity effect
- ADA Seal of acceptance for protection against cavities
- Alcohol free
- SLS free
- Non-mint available in children’s version
- Easily available online and in store
- Natural mouthwash with no artificial ingredients
- No anti-sensitivity therapeutic ingredients
Although fluoride itself isn’t going to treat sensitivity, this mouthwash is alcohol free and SLS free so will not cause any additional irritation to the mouth and gums.
Helpfully, with this mouthwash, if you don’t want mint, you could even opt for the fluoride containing children’s mouthwash.
Use this at a separate time to brushing to keep your breath fresh and get additional fluoride onto your teeth to protect them from cavities. Helping keep the teeth strong with remineralisation could also reduce the potential of sensitivity by avoiding cavities and tooth wear.
CloSYS Ultra Sensitive Mouthwash
Best fluoride free mouthwash
Active Ingredient: nil
Use it for: avoiding irritation of the mouth
- Comes with “Flavor Control Dropper” so you can control amount of flavouring in your mouthwash
- ADA Seal of Acceptance for eliminating bad breath
- Alcohol Free
- SLS free
- “Non-burning” formulation
- Antimicrobial ingredients helps cleaning
- No fluoride for anti-cavity protection
This fluoride free mouthwash is also unflavoured, so that you can add however much flavour you want. This is useful if you find normal mouthwashes too strong or get a burning sensation with mint.
Although I have recommended this as a mouthwash, there is no real benefit to using it, as there is no fluoride or other remineralizing agent for protection against cavities, and no active ingredient to help prevent and treat sensitivity. What this mouthwash will do, though, is help with cleaning by removing food debris in hard to reach places.
Cloralstan (chlorine dioxide) is a natural antimicrobial, so it can help kill bacteria to keep breath fresh and gums healthy, when used in addition to a thorough cleaning regime.
As with any mouthwash, use it at a separate time to brushing so that you don’t rinse off your toothpaste.
The Natural Dentist Healthy Gums Mouthwash
Best natural mouthwash
Active Ingredient: 20% purified Aloe vera
Use it for: keeping gums healthy and preventing gum recession
This mouthwash focuses on the inclusion of aloe vera, which some reports have shown can actually help with gum disease and soreness in the mouth, although there is a lack of high quality evidence to support this.
This mouthwash won’t treat sensitivity directly, but it is designed to help keep gums healthy. In fact, if you do have gum disease, you could develop gum recession in the future if it is left unchecked. So get on top of it now to prevent future problems.
Make sure you use this in addition to a fluoride containing mouthwash, and definitely use at least half an hour after brushing, so that you aren’t brushing off that all-important toothpaste.
What causes tooth sensitivity and how can I avoid it?
Tooth sensitivity is a short, sharp pain from the tooth in response to a change in temperature, sweet/spicy foods, or even sometimes touch.
Ultimately, tooth sensitivity is caused by exposed dentin tubules (as the nerves that sense pain lie within these parts of the tooth). A change in hot/cold/pH etc causes movement of the nerve within the tubule which causes a pain signal to be sent to your brain.
The underlying cause of sensitivity is whatever caused the dentin tubules to become exposed, and includes:
- Gum recession due to gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease).
- Over-brushing causing gum recession and which also wears away the enamel.
- Grinding habits which wear away the enamel layer.
- Dental treatment including tooth whitening, professional cleaning and fillings.
In real life, most people experience some sort of sensitivity at some point, but if this is new and it carries on for over a week, or suddenly gets a lot worse, make sure you get it checked by a dental professional.
Just be aware that because sensitivity can be caused by several different reasons, only treating tooth sensitivity (without knowing what is causing it) can lead to further damage down the line (e.g. untreated decay which could develop into a painful abscess).
Key tips for avoiding sensitivity
- Gum health is key. Avoid gum disease to avoid gum recession. Brush twice daily and use some form of interdental cleaning every day.
- Avoid over brushing by using an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor.
- Minimise tooth wear by avoiding acidic foods and drinks.
- Use a specialised sensitivity toothpaste to manage any symptoms you may have.
When to start using a specialist sensitive mouthwash
Sensitive mouthwashes should be used in addition to good oral hygiene habits.
If sensitivity is affecting your everyday life, and leading to you avoiding things you enjoy, you should start changing your oral care regime to include products that will help with sensitivity.
Sensitive mouthwashes can be used in addition to a good sensitive toothpaste, one that works for you. There are more options for toothpaste so it may be worth starting by finding a sensitive toothpaste that works for you. This can be a bit of trial and error, but you can use our recommendations to get you started.
Types of sensitive mouthwashes available include:
- Therapeutic mouthwashes – those which include a specific anti-sensitivity ingredient.
- Gentle mouthwashes – to avoid further irritation of teeth or gums (but which don’t actually treat sensitivity themselves).
How to use a mouthwash for sensitive teeth
Generally, you should use mouthwash at a different time to brushing. This way you will get the greatest effect of the fluoride and the therapeutic ingredient.
If you use mouthwash too soon after brushing, you simply wash off the toothpaste you have used. As toothpaste normally contains a higher dose of fluoride, it is better to keep using your toothpaste for protection of cavities.
Use a mouthwash at least half an hour before or after brushing. Key times might be after your lunch (when you may not otherwise brush) or directly before bed (if this is later than brushing your teeth).
You may also get more benefit from your sensitive mouthwash if you use it before having acidic food or drink.
- Rinse the recommended dose of mouthwash (usually about 20ml is all that is needed) around your mouth for about a minute.
- Spit into the sink.
- Do not rinse with water afterwards.
About ingredients used in sensitive mouthwashes
Arginine is used to treat sensitivity by blocking the exposed dentin tubules (where the nerves are exposed). Despite evidence showing that arginine is effective in mouthwash form, there are yet to be any mouthwashes containing the ingredient on the US market (although you may be able to import from abroad).
Calcium and potassium ions
Help with the remineralisation of the tooth surface. Demineralised enamel is more prone to tooth wear, and can increase the number of exposed dentine tubules, making symptoms of sensiitvity worse.
Dipotassium Oxalate Monohydrate
Potassium oxalates are believed to block the tubules, preventing sensitivity. Patients report improvement in symptoms, however there is conflicting evidence about how good the ingredient actually is.
Desensitises the nerves which are irritated on exposure to hot, cold, eating, or brushing. Works in a similar way to potassium nitrate.
Potassium nitrate prevents sensitivity by preventing the nerve from passing on the pain message from the tooth to the brain. It is a nerve calming agent.
Evidence has shown it to be equally effective in mouthwashes as in toothpastes, although at present there are few mouthwashes available with this ingredient.
Is mouthwash bad for sensitive teeth?
No, mouthwash is not bad for sensitive teeth. However if you use a mouthwash too soon after using a toothpaste you will rinse the toothpaste off before it takes effect. This may mean you don’t feel the benefit of a sensitive toothpaste if using a mouthwash straight after.
Does mouthwash for sensitive teeth work?
Yes, toothpastes formulated for sensitive teeth do work if they contain one of the active ingredients. Unfortunately there are few mouthwashes on the US market that contain ingredients that are therapeutic for sensitivity.
Are there any other products that could help with sensitivity?
You could consider a sensitive toothpaste (many of which contain active ingredients to fight sensitivity) or a prescription product from your dentist to help fight sensitivity.