Different types of mouthwash make various claims. Some claim to keep your breath fresh, some claim to fight bacteria and others claim to stop plaque from building up. How do you choose the product that is right for you?
The use of mouthwashes is not without controversy, let’s take a closer look
Should you use a mouthwash?
As with most things relating to oral health matters there always seems to be two sides to any argument. The benefits of using a mouthwash on a regular basis are often questioned by various sources.
The short video below provides an experts view on the benefits of using a mouthwash.
Types of mouthwash
From the consumers point of view there are five types of mouthwash.
- herbal or natural
Cosmetic mouthwashes do not offer the same protection as other rinses and are used more as a means of masking bad breath. They are popular because they make your teeth feel clean and freshens your whole mouth; but they have little effect on reducing bacteria or plaque.
Antiseptic rinses contain chlorhexidine gluconate; a chemical that stops the growth of bacteria and is suitable for people with a mouth infection. They are also useful for people with bad breath.
They’re effective in that they can prevent the build up of plaque to a certain degree but they should never be used as a replacement for twice and day brushing and flossing.
Avoid overuse, especially if they contain high levels of the bacteria fighting substance chlorhexidine; chlorhexidine can cause teeth discolouration if used over an extended period of time.
Fluoride mouthwashes don’t remove plaque build up on teeth; but they do protect your teeth from acids produced by the bacterial plaque. Most of us get all the fluoride we need from drinking water and fluoride toothpastes; although your dental professional may recommend using this type of rinse if you are you are particularly susceptible to tooth decay.
Mouthwashes that claim to stop tooth sensitivity attempt to go about it in two very distinct ways. One method works by blocking the channels that lead to the sensitive tooth nerves.
With regular use; a long lasting protective barrier is build up. This acts like a seal against sensitivity and can provide an effective and long lasting solution.
The second method adds the active ingredient potassium nitrate to the mouthwash formula; it works by soothing and calming the nerves that cause the sensitivity.
Natural or Herbal rinses
On the internet there are hundreds of pages detailing how you can make your own natural mouthwashes. If you prefer over the counter products I used this guide to less toxic products to find a list the best natural mouthwashes.
Not all the products in the list are readily available in the UK, but Auromere Ayurvedic Mouthwashes and Jason Natural Mouthwashes are easily attainable. You should be able to find a flavour you like from either of these brands.
Common mouthwash ingredients
Mouthwashes are composed of one or more active ingredients, and several inactive ingredients. The active ingredients may include:
- fluoride: helps strengthen teeth
- chlorhexidine: fights bacteria
- essential oils: anti-bacteria oils
- zinc: is extremely effective at freshening breath, but it’s not usual for things to start tasting metallic after a time
Inactive ingredients are added to there to preserve shelf life and solvate the active ingredients and include:
- alcohol: used as a solvent, know to dry out the mouth soon used less often these days
- polysorbate 20: surfactant (detergent) that acts as a solvent
- various acids: used to preserve shelf life
Why does mouthwash burn?
Actually, not all mouthwashes do burn but the often quotes Listerine burns because of the essential oils, which are the active bacteria fighting ingredients in the mouth rinse. Different formulations that are less intense are available.
The alcohol that is found in certain mouthwashes is mainly present as a solvent to keep everything as a liquid. The addition of alcohol can dry out your mouth that can amplify the burning sensation.
A controversial issue about alcohol in mouthwash is that some research has suggested that it can be a contributing cause to mouth cancer.
It’s this kind of research that stops most dentists from banging on about you about using mouthwash if you don’t want to do. Brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist twice a year should be adequate protection.
Increasing, there are more and more alcohol-free mouthwashes on the market. But it is still important to remember that you need to think carefully about why you want to use mouthwash.
If you are using a mouthwash to combat halitosis or mouth ulcers, for example, the mouthwash could simply be masking a more serious, underlying problem. Therefore, it is essential that you also consult your dentist to ensure that there are no other health issues affecting to your oral hygiene.