Mouthwash: what you should know before using it

Most of us think mouthwash helps eliminate bad breath and improve oral hygiene. But according to many experts, mouthwash does not eliminate bad breath. The mouthwash may work at first by killing lots of germs but after a while, the alcohol content present in many mouthwashes can dry your mouth out. When your salivary glands are dry, they are unable to help wash away bacteria and the bad breath you wanted to get rid of in the first place may end up getting worse.

Furthermore, a 2008 study published in the Dental Journal of Australia  stated that “alcohol-containing mouthwashes contribute to the increased risk of development of oral cancer”. The Australian Dental Journal concluded that there was sufficient evidence that developing oral cancer is increased or contributed to by the use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes, so “it would be wise to restrict their use to short-term therapeutic situations if needed”.

Further research is warranted, but in the meantime, what are the alternatives to ensuring a bad-breath-free, healthy set of pearly whites?

  • Brush your teeth and floss well.
  • Salt water gargles are a natural, effective alternative to mouthwash.
  • If you must use mouthwash, use an alcohol-free one. Or try natural versions of mouthwash containing fennel extract, clove oil, grapefruit seed extract, tea tree oil or baking soda.
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day to keep your mouth moist. Squeeze some fresh lemon into the water for an extra breath-freshener boost.
  • Keep in mind that bad breath is often a reflection of poor digestion or an underlying digestive ailment (i.e. the problem extends beyond your mouth!), so talk to your naturopathic doctor if your bad breath persists. 

SOURCE: “The role of alcohol in oral carcinogenesis with particular reference to alcohol-containing mouthwashes”. Australian Dental Journal 53 (4): 302–305.

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