Older children and teenagers may express interest in mouthwash as a breath-freshening agent, and they can reap the benefits of a fluoride rinse as well. Older children who have braces are especially good candidates for fluoride mouth rinses because the rinse can help prevent teeth from acid-producing plaque bacteria which may buildup under the brackets.
But in general young children should not use mouthwash because they are less able to avoid swallowing the product. Children between ages six and 12 years should only use a mouth rinse under close adult supervision. And children under the age of six should avoid fluoride rinses-excess fluoride exposure for children whose teeth are not fully developed can result in fluorosis, a harmless but unsightly condition that leaves spots or streaks on the teeth.
Parents who are concerned about the alcohol content in mouth rinses can find a variety of alcohol-free products that are just as effective at freshening breath. And there are non-alcohol rinses with fluoride, too. Concerned about chemicals? No matter what type of mouthwash your child uses, be sure to remind him or her that mouthwash, even a fluoride rinse, does not replace a regular routine of twice-daily toothbrushing and daily flossing to preserve a healthy smile.