Mouthwash is an oral hygiene enhancer that when used in conjunction with proper brushing, flossing, and dental visits can combat bad breath and promote oral health.
What is mouthwash?
Mouthwash is a supplementary oral hygiene tool. It is not to ever replace proper brushing and flossing, but it can enhance these processes by killing more germs and bacteria left behind. Mouth rinsing has been a part of human hygiene care for centuries, from the 2700 BC ancient Chinese solution to treat gingivitis (an inflammation of the gums) to the ancient Greek solution of salt, vinegar and alum used prior to brushing. Though ineffective in those time periods due to strength of the solutions and limits to the amount of time the chemicals came into contact with the bacteria in the mouth, mouth rinsing has long been viewed as a way to promote oral hygiene.
In the late 1960s, a new compound was created that could be added to mouth rinses that would remain in the mouth, stuck to the teeth to fight plaque and reduce the incidence of gingivitis. Since that time, many companies have fiercely competed to sell mouthwashes citing increased oral health, lower incidences of cavities and gingivitis, and long lasting fresh breath due to the lower amount of odor-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Modern mouthwashes may contain many active ingredients — ingredients in products that will affect any cell tissue in the human body — aimed at immobilizing bacteria that can cause bad breath, tooth decay, and other oral hygiene problems. Many, such as thymol and eucalyptol, are derived from naturally occurring substances and have antiseptic properties. Other active ingredients, such as chlorhexidine gluconate and domiphen bromide, are manufactured and could serve more than one purpose. Inactive ingredients vary greatly dependent upon the manufacturer and may be added for multiple reasons ranging from providing palatable flavor to preserving the solution.
The Best Mouthwash
What is the best mouthwash? The best mouthwash will take care of the individual's specific problems while promoting general oral health. If the main concern is halitosis, or consistently odorous breath, an individual should seek out a mouthwash that will combat the cause of the bad breath, namely odor-causing bacteria. Be aware that halitosis may be a symptom of other underlying health issues. Simply treating the halitosis and ignoring the causes may result in the health issue worsening. It is best to visit a dental hygienist or dentist to make certain the treatment of halitosis is complete and the only treatment needed for overall physical health.
Mouthwash that is specifically for halitosis should not contain alcohol, a common ingredient in many commercial mouthwashes. Alcohol is a drying agent that may worsen bad breath by creating an environment suitable for bacterial growth. Another ingredient to skip in a good mouthwash is sodium lauryl sulfate. This is a common cleanser used in many items from dishwashing liquid to shampoo. In higher concentrations, this chemical can be used to remove engine oil from concrete. In a mouthwash, it is at best ineffective at holding odor-causing bacteria at bay. It does not remain in the mouth long enough to have an effect. Also, good mouthwash should not contain saccharin. It seems this would be absent in all mouthwashes due to the corrosive effect of sugar in any form, but many manufacturers use this to add flavor to the solution.
The best mouthwashes contain tried and trusted ingredients that have a clear use and have been tested extensively. The main ingredient, or the ingredient in highest concentration listed first on the bottle, will be water, not alcohol. Another indicator that your mouthwash is the best is the length of the ingredient list. A long list full of unpronounceable words indicates a high concentration of manufactured chemicals that may or may not have been tested on humans. Also, even though the individual ingredients may have been tested, it is unlikely they have been tested in conjunction with the other ingredients for overall safety as the other ingredients may have an adverse reaction.
How to Use Mouthwash
Mouthwash is most commonly used following the brushing process. After the teeth have been flossed and brushed, the mouthwash is measured into the cap and poured into the mouth. It is then swished around for approximately one minute. The next step is to gargle the liquid at the back of the mouth to allow the bacteria fighting agents to coat the throat, where much of the odor-causing bacteria can manifest. After this, the liquid is spit into the sink or toilet for proper disposal. If the mouthwash contains fluoride, eating and drinking should be avoided for a minimum of one hour. Do not rinse the mouth with clear water after rinsing with mouthwash. This will remove the bacteria fighting residue left behind by the mouthwash and defeat the purpose of using a good mouthwash to enhance oral hygiene.
Mouthwash may be used prior to brushing to loosen dental plaque and make removal by brushing easier. In this case, mouthwash is measured into the cap, poured into the mouth and swished around using air in the mouth to move the liquid from side to side. The swishing should continue for approximately one minute. Once the minute has elapsed, the liquid should be spit into the sink or toilet for proper disposal. Following this, the teeth should be brushed using a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Remember, mouthwash is a good product to add to an oral hygiene regimen. Regular flossing, brushing and a good mouthwash will protect teeth from disease, decay and keep them looking healthy well into old age. Teeth not properly and consistently cared for will not be healthy and will most likely require intensive corrective action by a dentist in the future, even up to extraction. Simple daily rituals like brushing at least twice daily or after each meal, flossing once per day (usually at night before bed), properly using a good mouthwash that enhances these actions, and regularly visiting the dentist at least once every six months will save money in dental bills in the long run.