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It’s springtime, and you know what that means? The germs in your mouth get much more aggressive about growing, just like the leaves, your lawn, and your kids.

And in case you didn’t notice today’s date, just kidding. Bacteria don’t know that it’s Easter (unless you’re giving them a lot of jelly beans!).

Which brings us to this week’s question from Lilia:

Is there a mouth rinse that will take care of the plaque?

Answer: Plaque is essentially a gooey matrix of living bacteria and their byproducts. Since it grows in place, it’s well-stuck to the surface where it forms and it has to be mechanically removed with friction. Unfortunately, swishing with mouth rinse does nothing to create friction and so the bacterial plaque is unfazed. Maybe you’ll kill a few surface germs with a good swig of a high-alcohol-content rinse, or inhibit the growth of new germs with prescription-only rinses containing chlorhexidine gluconate, but otherwise, mouth rinses available over the counter simply aren’t strong enough to make a significant difference in a person’s health, and we guess this is what you mean by “taking care of the plaque.” Plaque must be removed with friction-causing tools like brushes, flosses, toothpicks, and other things that are harder than liquid (!).

That’s not to say that mouth rinse isn’t good for improving the odor or clean feeling of your mouth, or for preventing stains from forming, or for delivering an extra boost of fluoride. We just wouldn’t generally recommend it for plaque control. However, some rinses can improve the effectiveness of your brushing and between-tooth cleaning but they should be considered a supplement instead of a replacement for good home care. Our favorite is made by Dental Herb Company, and it’s one that we’ve been recommending to patients for many years.

For further reading about mouth rinses click here to see what the American Dental Association has to say.