7 Best Mouthwash Brands

7 Best Mouthwash Brands

Best Overall Mouthwash
#1
ACT Cool Splash Mint Mouthwash
  • Recommended by dentists
  • Expect stronger, more polished surface enamel (no more soft spots)
  • Fights gingivitis and bad breath
Best Mouthwash for Bad Breath and Halitosis
#2
TheraBreath Icy Mint Oral Rinse
  • Refreshingly clean taste
  • Lasts for hours
  • Effective without irritating your mouth
Best Mouthwash for Dry Mouth and Oral Irritations
#3
Biotène Dry Mouth Oral Rinse
  • Minimizes dry mouth and other such issues
  • Tastes remarkably good
  • Recommended by dentists (and who doesn’t like that?)
Best Mouthwash for Whitening Teeth
#4
Crest 3D White Luxe Arctic Fresh Multi-Care Mouthwash
  • Results in noticeably whiter teeth
  • Reduces and prevents stains
  • Good price for an amazing product

Who loves the smell of morning breath wafting into your nostrils as you rise to face the day? Um, no one. Well, maybe the cat laying on your chest as you wake or the dog at your feet begging to go outside. The four-legged members of our families don’t seem to notice, but everyone else does.

Bad breath is one reason people turn towards mouthwash. But, that’s not the only reason. Some use mouthwash as a teeth whitening supplement to their oral hygiene routine. Others need a little extra help battling gingivitis or softer teeth.

Then there are those who have been told by their dentist to start using an oral rinse.

Even if you’ve heard that dentists don’t recommend mouthwash, they most certainly do. It’s just that they won’t suggest using it as a replacement for other necessary oral hygiene habits. You can’t expect to have great looking teeth and healthy gums if you skip the brushing and flossing steps.

The American Dental Association (ADA) supports the use of oral rinses to help with specific conditions and gives a seal to the best mouthwash products out there. However, they do make note that cosmetic rinses don’t add any health benefits, though they may make your teeth whiter.

According to the ADA, mouthwash is most effective when used to prevent gingivitis and related gum diseases. But, they also put stock into those with fluoride that work to strengthen teeth and stave off decay.

But, I’ve Heard Fluoride Causes Cancer...

You probably already know that fluoride has been added to drinking water for years, and that may or may not cause you some concern. After all, there were some (albeit questionable) studies that suggest a link between fluoride and cancer.

What you need to know is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the amount of fluoride that can be added to the water where this occurs. The American Cancer Society is tracking the studies available and has not come to the conclusion that fluoride is carcinogenic. They’re not alone, as evidenced by the bulk of their research.

More interesting (by far) is the recent link to certain bacteria in your mouth that may contribute to migraine headaches. If continued research solidifies this link, you can bet that we’ll find probiotic mouthwashes available soon.

Consider Your Mouthwash Carefully!

No, really. You may think of it as a bottle that sits on your bathroom shelf, but there’s no point in grabbing any old bottle off the shelf. Consider the condition of your oral health and the issues you typically battle (or your dentist brings to your attention) before making a decision.

We’ve spent weeks researching and testing 30 different rinses to find the best possible mouthwash brands out there. We’ve included those with and without fluoride and alcohol, those that are safe for children, those beneficial for different mouth conditions, and, yes, one that does a fantastic job at whitening your teeth. Just take a look. 


Editorial staff

7 Best Mouthwash Brands

7 Best Mouthwash Brands

Read Video Infographic Tips

Who loves the smell of morning breath wafting into your nostrils as you rise to face the day? Um, no one. Well, maybe the cat laying on your chest as you wake or the dog at your feet begging to go outside. The four-legged members of our families don’t seem to notice, but everyone else does.

Bad breath is one reason people turn towards mouthwash. But, that’s not the only reason. Some use mouthwash as a teeth whitening supplement to their oral hygiene routine. Others need a little extra help battling gingivitis or softer teeth.

Then there are those who have been told by their dentist to start using an oral rinse.

Even if you’ve heard that dentists don’t recommend mouthwash, they most certainly do. It’s just that they won’t suggest using it as a replacement for other necessary oral hygiene habits. You can’t expect to have great looking teeth and healthy gums if you skip the brushing and flossing steps.

The American Dental Association (ADA) supports the use of oral rinses to help with specific conditions and gives a seal to the best mouthwash products out there. However, they do make note that cosmetic rinses don’t add any health benefits, though they may make your teeth whiter.

According to the ADA, mouthwash is most effective when used to prevent gingivitis and related gum diseases. But, they also put stock into those with fluoride that work to strengthen teeth and stave off decay.

But, I’ve Heard Fluoride Causes Cancer...

You probably already know that fluoride has been added to drinking water for years, and that may or may not cause you some concern. After all, there were some (albeit questionable) studies that suggest a link between fluoride and cancer.

What you need to know is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the amount of fluoride that can be added to the water where this occurs. The American Cancer Society is tracking the studies available and has not come to the conclusion that fluoride is carcinogenic. They’re not alone, as evidenced by the bulk of their research.

More interesting (by far) is the recent link to certain bacteria in your mouth that may contribute to migraine headaches. If continued research solidifies this link, you can bet that we’ll find probiotic mouthwashes available soon.

Consider Your Mouthwash Carefully!

No, really. You may think of it as a bottle that sits on your bathroom shelf, but there’s no point in grabbing any old bottle off the shelf. Consider the condition of your oral health and the issues you typically battle (or your dentist brings to your attention) before making a decision.

We’ve spent weeks researching and testing 30 different rinses to find the best possible mouthwash brands out there. We’ve included those with and without fluoride and alcohol, those that are safe for children, those beneficial for different mouth conditions, and, yes, one that does a fantastic job at whitening your teeth. Just take a look. 


Editorial staff

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Best Mouthwash for Fighting Gingivitis

76
Score 76

Why People Love it

  • Leaves mouth ultra clean
  • Great price
  • Results in refreshingly clean breath

Besides the price, which you will flip over, this mouthwash sets out to give you plaque and gingivitis-free mouth. And, the anti-tartar ingredient offers cleaner, brighter teeth.

When a reviewer says something “tastes like poison,” you really need to be wary of the flavor. Actually, it’s a much repeated concern with this mouthwash.

Details

This is the bottle that makes you think of mouthwash and the Listerine brand is well-respected. Add to that the fantastic price of this product and you’re starting to get the picture. This budget mouthwash really does a fantastic job with relieving plaque build-up and other such nasties. But it tastes terrible; likely as a result of the incredibly high alcohol content. Still, you will get fresher breath that lasts until your next meal.

What does it claim to do? The marketing team at Listerine really does take a leap when it says this mouthwash provides a dentist-level clean. However, the bottle itself does claim to control tartar build-up and kill plaque and gingivitis germs. It also is said to freshen breath and keep it that way.

Does it do it? We’re not convinced on the dentist-fresh clean, but the rest of the claims hold up under scrutiny.

Is it good at anything else? What more do you want? Just kidding, we know that a miracle product at this price would make anyone happy, but there’s no promise about it.

Who’s it for? If you need a little extra hand dealing with gingivitis or bad breath, this is for you. Just don’t let your kids get into it.

What’s inside the bottle? There’s a fair amount of alcohol in this mix (over 21 percent), but you’ll also find eucalyptol and menthol to get the job done.

Recommended usage? You can rinse with this two to three times a day. It’s best to do it after brushing, but if you need a little help after lunch, we get it.

What’s it taste like? It’s a strong mint flavor; in fact a little on the too strong side of things. Don’t try it if you can’t handle strong flavors.

Will it break the bank? We love the price of this mouthwash. You’ll get it for about 15 cents an ounce. Come on, who doesn’t love that?

Available on Subscribe and Save or Prime Pantry? You can add this to your Prime Panty box; it takes up eight percent of your space, just in case you’re wondering.

Best Mouthwash for Cavity Protection

80
Score 80

Why People Love it

  • Tastes surprisingly great
  • Dispensed in measured sips
  • Helps to reduce tooth sensitivity

This is one of the few alcohol-free formulas that’s clinically proven to prevent tooth decay while strengthening teeth. And, it carries the maximum amount of fluoride available without a prescription, which really makes a difference.

This isn’t exactly cheap and a some users (very few) have had a negative reaction to the formula.

Details

There are some seriously good reasons to consider this mouthwash. We’re fans of the fact that you can squeeze the perfect amount into the top of this bottle. And the high level of fluoride without the alcohol is a true plus. What’s more is that it truly does strengthen tooth enamel by depositing minerals back into soft spots.

But, we are left a little wanting on some of the finer points of the sale, such as the price and the omission of this product on any of the Amazon lists that make it easy to keep your home stocked (such as the Subscribe and Save or Prime Pantry). Still, if you’re prone to cavities and worried about alcohol in your oral hygiene routine, this is absolutely the mouthwash for you.

What does it claim to do? This anti-cavity formula claims to kill bad breath, strengthen enamel, and restore needed minerals to soft spots.

Does it do it? Just about everyone agrees that this does what it claims and does it well.

Is it good at anything else? You’d be surprised at how well this works for those with sensitive mouths; especially for being alcohol-free.

Who’s it for? As you would expect, you should really keep this out of reach of children. But, the bottle design and the fact that it’s alcohol-free means you shouldn’t stress too much.

What’s inside the bottle? The key ingredient here is sodium fluoride – and plenty of it. You get an exact dose as you squeeze the contents of the bottle into the top.

Recommended usage? Considering that you can measure this out specifically, it’s not a bad idea to just read the packaging when you get it. But, it’s not as if you swirl and swish any differently.

What’s it taste like? Most people prefer the mint flavor, but there is a cinnamon one available too.

Will it break the bank? You’re going to pay over 50 cents per ounce on this. That’s an absolute shame. We really think it could fall under that, even a little. But, it is what it is.

Available on Subscribe and Save or Prime Pantry? Sadly, no. Well, at least not at the time of writing.

Best All Natural Mouthwash

83
Score 83

Why People Love it

  • Tastes fantastic
  • Leaves mouth feeling fresh and clean
  • Does not burn; great for kids

This is a fantastic mouthwash if you’re worried about too many chemicals going into your mouth; it’s all natural and even safe for kids to use. And, you can add this alcohol-free, burn-free product to your Subscribe and Save list.

This is on the pricey side, but that’s what you get when you call a product “artisanal” – even if it’s a mouthwash. Also, it’s sugar free, but it does have Xylitol, soo…

Details

We appreciate that this natural mouthwash has a strong following and gets the job done. Having said that, you can’t do a whole lot without adding in a few things like fluoride, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide – so, this doesn’t promise to whiten teeth, correct soft spots, or anything like that.

This burn-free formula doesn’t taste minty as you may expect, but it is a safe mouthwash for children. And, despite the price, we’re happy to see it on the Subscribe and Save list. You also get a satisfaction guarantee, so you know the manufacturer stands behind this product.

What does it claim to do? This natural mouthwash claims to freshen bad breath without any harsh chemicals, dyes, or preservatives. And, it promises to do so for several hours.

Does it do it? According to real users, it actually manages to stave off bad breath for the whole day. That, of course, depends on whether you add onions and garlic to your lunch. But, you get the picture.

Is it good at anything else? This is one of the few options that makes a suitable mouthwash for kids. That has everything to do with the ingredient list. But, you really should exercise caution when offering an oral rinse to your youngins. If they have terrible breath, but decent oral hygiene habits, you should probably chat it through with the dentist or pediatrician before offering any mouthwash.

Who’s it for? This is for anyone that likes to keep it au naturel, and not a bad option for families.

What’s inside the bottle? There are plenty of organic oils in this formula, along with aloe vera juice and Dead Sea salt. But, the ingredients that are missing are likely to be more important – namely the lack of hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and preservatives.

Recommended usage? You can use this two or three times a day, swishing and spitting as you would any other mouthwash. It’s designed to freshen breath, so we would recommend using it after meals (or as part of your normal brushing routine.

What’s it taste like? The composition of this formula offers more of a natural, herbal taste than the strong mint you’ve become accustomed to; you’ll probably need to spend some time adjusting to it.

Will it break the bank? This is not the cheapest mouthwash out there. Indeed, you’ll pay about 75 cents per ounce. We wish it was cheaper, but it’s not.

Available on Subscribe and Save or Prime Pantry? Yep, you can add this to Subscribe and Save which does help to alleviate the price of this puppy a little.

Best Mouthwash for Whitening Teeth

87
Score 87

Why People Love it

  • Results in noticeably whiter teeth
  • Reduces and prevents stains
  • Good price for an amazing product

This is a triple action mouthwash; it suppresses nasty breath, whitens teeth, and protects against future germs. It’s available for your Prime Pantry box, and it’s a super price at that.

Some people complain about the taste of this mouthwash. And, even though it helps whiten teeth, it doesn’t necessarily give you that awesome clean feeling (though you should combine it with a brush).

Details

Life takes its toll on every part of your body. And, if you’re the sort that enjoys coffee, red wine, or even the occasional cigarette (we’re not here to judge), then you probably also feel the need for an extra hand when it comes to whitening your teeth. This is the best mouthwash to help you do just that.

We’re big fans of the fact that this Hydrogen Peroxide mouthwash prevents future stains while whitening your teeth and that it can be added to your Prime Pantry list. We’re not so impressed with the taste of this mouthwash. But, we’re doing our best to get over it; this mouthwash is worth it (and it doesn’t cost much either).             

What does it claim to do? You may be tempted to dismiss this product, believing that it promises too much. (Don’t make that mistake.) The claim is that this Hydrogen Peroxide mouthwash helps to whiten teeth and prevent future stains. It’s also supposed to kill the bacteria that cause bad breath.

Does it do it? This awesome mouthwash does all of that remarkably well. Indeed, some people report almost instant results on the whitening front (just three days to one week). It also does its job on the breath freshening front too.

Is it good at anything else? Well, you would have a difficult time finding another benefit to the advertized list here. And, we’re happy to forgive that.

Who’s it for? This is perhaps the best mouthwash on the market for smokers, not to mention red wine and coffee drinkers. Of course, anyone that desires whiter teeth should find a reason to work this into their dental care routine. It’s definitely not for children under the age of 12.

What’s inside the bottle? This mouthwash doesn’t have the longest ingredient list, but the one that that you’re most concerned with is the hydrogen peroxide. It’s fantastic for whitening teeth and killing germs. (But, you already knew that, didn’t you?)

Recommended usage? You’re supposed to rinse with a tablespoon of this mouthwash for a minute after brushing your teeth every morning and night.

What’s it taste like? Yep, it’s minty, just as you would expect. You will find Hydrogen Peroxide in the mix, which gives it a slightly nasty taste (and aftertaste). Still, it does the job, so you may need to get over it.

Will it break the bank? No! This is one of the best-priced mouthwashes on the market. Chalk it up to the market share that Crest has, if you will. But, this still costs less than 20 cents per ounce. You gotta love that.

Available on Subscribe and Save or Prime Pantry? You can add this to your next Prime Pantry box. It fills a mere 5.4 percent, so you can always save it for the moment when you just need that last little bit.

Best Mouthwash for Dry Mouth and Oral Irritations

90
Score 90

Why People Love it

  • Minimizes dry mouth and other such issues
  • Tastes remarkably good
  • Recommended by dentists (and who doesn’t like that?)

This super antibacterial mouthwash offers serious benefits to those that suffer from dry mouth (whatever the reason). It’s also fantastic at fighting irritating mouth sores.

Some users report that the benefits don’t last as long as the four hours claimed on the packaging.

Details

Have dry mouth? Get a bottle of Biotène. You’ll be happy you did. This mouthwash really helps – so much so that it’s recommended for people undergoing chemotherapy. The formula makes use of a number of compounds that boost your natural defense systems.

You can expect the formula to last for about four hours – and to offer a fresh breath at the same time. The price isn’t terrible, nor are the buying options. But, we would have appreciated the ability to subscribe and save; if you’re suffering from dry mouth… you clearly have other things to worry about.

What does it claim to do? If you need a mouthwash that helps you cope with dry mouth, this is the one you want. It provides immediate relief – as long as you have a bottle of it handy. More, it lasts up to four hours; that’s a big help on presentation day.

Does it do it? Most people find this to be a very effective formula.

Is it good at anything else? It’s not so bad at relieving bad breath either. We like that.

Who’s it for? This isn’t exclusively for adults, though most children aren’t likely to need such a formula. If they do, we recommend consulting your dentist before use. If you regularly suffer from dry mouth, get yourself a bottle; users undergoing chemotherapy recommend it as part of their regular dental care.

What’s inside the bottle? There are four antibacterial enzymes at play here. Lysozyme, Lactoferrin, Glucose Oxidase, and Lactoperoxidase work to boost the natural defense system found in your saliva. That’s a long way of saying this is a fantastic formula.

Recommended usage? If you’re using this as a mouthwash, you should swirl a tablespoon around for 30 seconds just as you would with any antibacterial formula. But… there’s something a little unusual at play here. You can also “slowly” sip this mouthwash for an extremely dry throat. You should, however, clear this with a medical professional first.

What’s it taste like? It’s lightly minty – not overpowering.

Will it break the bank? For a two-pack, you’ll pay a little less than $15. It works out to less than 50 cents an ounce. There are other options available (all the way up to a 12 pack), but you’ll pay roughly the same, no matter how many you order.

Available on Subscribe and Save or Prime Pantry? If only. We would have loved that.

Best Mouthwash for Bad Breath and Halitosis

94
Score 94

Why People Love it

  • Refreshingly clean taste
  • Lasts for hours
  • Effective without irritating your mouth

This is far and away the best mouthwash for bad breath – well, for destroying it anyhow. It neutralizes the sulfur-producing bacteria that causes morning breath and nasty food smells. It works fast and is doctor recommended.  

This may be the best mouthwash for bad breath, but it tastes rather awful. That, and it can alter the taste of food and drink after using it.

Details

You’ll battle to find something you don’t like about this mouthwash, especially if you struggle with bad breath. It’s an Amazon Best Seller for a reason. It’s also alcohol-free and doesn’t have any artificial flavors or colors. In case you’re wondering, this mouthwash is certified vegan and kosher, not to mention gluten-free. More importantly, it works brilliantly. Keep reading to find out exactly how it does just that.

What does it claim to do? The label on this bottle says it destroys bad breath and food odors. It’s also said to alleviate symptoms of dry mouth.

Does it do it? As far as the bad breath goes, you won’t want for anything – at least not as far as most users are concerned. The dry mouth is a little more touch and go, but not bad.

Is it good at anything else? You can expect anything with this much bad-breath-fighting strength to kill off other types of nasty bacteria that have nothing to do with bad breath.

Who’s it for? Most children don’t have bad breath, and you’ll have no reason to give this to them. And, let’s be honest, if you don’t battle bad breath regularly, you probably have no reason to invest in this either.

What’s inside the bottle? The active ingredient in TheraBreath products is OXYD-8TM. That won’t make any sense to most users. All you need to know is that it prevents anaerobic bacteria from creating odorous sulfide in your mouth.

Recommended usage? You’ll find instructions on the packaging. But, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll tell you that you’re meant to rinse with this twice a day after brushing your teeth. The formula works for about 12 hours in your mouth.

What’s it taste like? It’s minty, and there are those that can’t stand the actual flavor. But, it’s not designed to be overpowering.

Will it break the bank? For $15, you’ll get two bottles each with 16 ounces of antibacterial mouthwash. That’s less than 50 cents per ounce. And, if you have halitosis, you will understand that it’s worth it.

Available on Subscribe and Save or Prime Pantry? You can put this on your Subscribe and Save list for Amazon discounts. We support that!

Best Overall Mouthwash

97
Score 97
$25
1,144 Bought | Save: $7 (22% OFF)

Why People Love it

  • Recommended by dentists
  • Expect stronger, more polished surface enamel (no more soft spots)
  • Fights gingivitis and bad breath

This minty mouthwash does a lot more than simply fight bad breath. It actively works to restore minerals to soft spots. Plus, the added strength prevents tooth decay.

Sadly this mouthwash isn’t approved by the ADA. It also contains alcohol.

Details

This is clearly the best mouthwash to have when you’re serious about dental care – even if it doesn't carry a little sticker with ADA endorsement. The formula is meant to strengthen tooth enamel, and it does that well, by most accounts.

If you’re expecting miracles from this Sodium Fluoride formula, you should probably consider adjusting your expectations. But, if you expect positive results after continued usage, you’ve come to the right place. And, although the big push isn’t on breath, you should expect minty freshness.

The only thing we would change if we could has nothing to do with the mouthwash itself. We’d love to see it on the Subscribe and Save or Prime Pantry lists. But, maybe one day soon...

What does it claim to do? This mouthwash claims to strengthen tooth enamel. It also says it can reduce cavities up to 70 percent more than simply brushing with a fluoride toothpaste.

Does it do it? Most users report a reduction in noticeable soft spots. That’s a good thing. But, let’s be real; it’s not going to ever deposit enough minerals to fill real holes. If you have those, you will need to get to the dentist.

Is it good at anything else? It doesn’t do a bad job of fighting bad breath. That’s a bonus most people seriously appreciate.

Who’s it for? Adults looking to fight cavities will enjoy having this in their bathroom. It’s far too strong for kids, though.

What’s inside the bottle? Fluoride is the work horse in this bottle; there is some variation between bottle sizes, so you'll want to make sure you know what you're getting. The smaller bottle is the one with the greater fluoride composition. 

Recommended usage? Use it once a day after brushing your teeth. Some dentists recommend using it just before bed for a little extra push. (However, if you opt for the larger bottle, you can use it twice as the fluoride content is reduced.) Want to know more about what's inside particular mouthwash before buying? You can see what the people over at Livestrong have to say, though you'll find a more comprehensive breakdown of ingredients at Just4Teeth.com

What’s it taste like? This is the sort of standard, minty flavor you’ve come to expect from a mouthwash.

Will it break the bank? You’ll pay about $25 for a pack of four bottles. Each bottle holds 18 ounces, so the cost per ounce is less than 40 cents. That’s not bad at all – especially if, like most users, you gain all the benefits you expect.

Available on Subscribe and Save or Prime Pantry? Sadly, no. And that’s one of the biggest downfalls. You’ll need to pay close attention to when you’re close to the end of your last bottle.

Mouthwash Myths

Think you know everything there is to know about mouthwash? Here are a few of the more common mouthwash myths that need dispelling:

Mouthwash cures bad breath. Some mouthwashes do, but not all. Some can actually encourage bad breath (due to the fact that they dry out your mouth). And remember, mouthwash is a temporary fix, not a long-term solution, for the underlying cause of your bad breath.

Mouthwashes are all the same. Not at all, as you'll see in the next section, there are different mouthwashes for different purposes (teeth whitening, anti-cavities, desensitizing, etc.).

Mouthwash is good for you. Many mouthwashes will improve your oral health, but some can do more harm than good. For example, alcohol-based mouthwashes can dry out your mouth, increasing bad breath or causing sensitivity in the roots of your teeth.

Mouthwash can replace a toothbrush. Heck no! Mouthwash will rinse your mouth, but you need a toothbrush for proper scrubbing and deep cleaning. Only a toothbrush and dental floss will effectively get rid of the food particles trapped between your teeth.

As you can see, there's a lot about mouthwash that is misunderstood. Below, we're going to teach you everything you need to know about the pros and cons of mouthwash, how to use it, and what to watch out for.   

Types of Mouthwash

Mouthwash isn't a "one size fits all" product. There are a number of different types of mouthwash you can buy:

  • Anti-Plaque – This mouthwash contains ingredients like Thymol, Triclosan, Cetylpyridinium Chloride, and Chlorhexidine, all of which help to reduce the accumulation of plaque on your teeth. By reducing plaque, you reduce your risk of gingivitis.
  • Cosmetic – This mouthwash is used to mask bad smells, leaving your mouth smelling fresh and clean. However, it's really only a short-term solution if you need fresh breath immediately. It doesn't deal with the bacteria or food particles causing the bad breath.
  • Whitening – This mouthwash is used to whiten your teeth. It contains a bleaching agent, such as hydrogen peroxide, that will eliminate stains and whiten your teeth with regular use.
  • Fluoride Rinse – This mouthwash is used to reduce your risk of tooth decay. It contains roughly .05% sodium fluoride, which can help to fight off cavities and oral bacteria.
  • Desensitizing – This mouthwash is intended to reduce tooth sensitivity. It contains arginine, which can help to reduce dentinal tubules on the more sensitive parts of your teeth.

Before you use any mouthwash, consult your dentist to find out if they recommend or advise against it. As you'll see below, mouthwash may do more harm than good…

Reasons to Use Mouthwash

Obviously we're going to start with the "pros" of using mouthwash. Here are all the things that make it a good idea to add mouthwash to your daily grooming habits:

Fresh Breath – The minty freshness of the mouthwash is definitely a good thing. If you eat strong smelling foods (spices, garlic, etc.) or drink a lot of coffee, tea, or alcohol, rinsing your mouth out with mouthwash can mask the bad odors and leave your breath smelling pleasant.

Fight Gum Disease – Most mouthwashes are made with ingredients (like fluoride) that will kill off bacteria and/or prevent the build-up of plaque. This will reduce the risk of gingivitis, periodontitis, and other gum diseases.

Reduce Cavity Risk – Fluoride is added to your mouthwashes in order to strengthen the enamel covering your teeth. Stronger enamel is resistant to bacteria, reducing your cavity risk.

Treat Sores, Ulcers, and Canker Sores – Mouthwashes can help to detoxify the flesh around mouth sores and ulcers, reducing the irritating bacteria that are causing or worsening the sore.

Better Oral Health During Pregnancy – Pregnant women are at a higher risk of gingivitis due to hormonal changes. Mouthwash can help to reduce the bacterial build-up that leads to gum infections and gum disease, improving oral health during pregnancy.

Dangers of Mouthwash

Despite the above-listed "pros" of using mouthwash, it turns out there are a few more "cons" than you might expect.

Oral Irritation – Alcohol-based mouthwashes can be very irritating, especially to canker sores and ulcers in your mouth. The irritation can actually make the sores and ulcers worse!

Chemical Interactions – The chemicals in the mouthwash may interact negatively with the chemicals in your toothpaste. This could lead to oral irritation, or the chemicals may simply cancel each other out.

Ineffective – The truth is that mouthwash just "masks" the bad breath, but it doesn't deal with the bacteria, food particles, and infections that cause it. If you have chronic bad breath, covering the smell with mouthwash will do nothing to help you deal with the root cause. People who use mouthwash instead of brushing their teeth are opting for an ineffective teeth-cleaning method that will not get rid of bacteria and food particles.

Potential Link to Oral Cancer – Since the 1970s, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not mouthwash—both fluoride- and alcohol-based mouthwashes—can lead to an increased risk of oral cancer. A 2012 meta-analysis of 18 epidemiological studies found "no statistically significant associations between mouthwash use and risk of oral cancer, nor any significant trend in risk with increasing daily use; and no association between use of mouthwash containing alcohol and oral cancer risk." However, a 2014 study found that people with poor oral health had the highest risk of oral cancers. Considering the ineffectiveness of mouthwash, using it instead of brushing your teeth could raise your cancer risk.

Sensitive Teeth – Alcohol-based mouthwashes can dissolve the mucus layer protecting your teeth, leaving them vulnerable and causing increased sensitivity.

Bacterial Disruption – The beneficial bacteria living in your mouth may be disrupted by the chemicals in antibacterial mouthwash. This disruption can cause harmful bacteria to flourish and alter your oral pH balance. Worse, it may lead to oral thrush, bad breath, and cavities.

Dries Out Your Mouth – The alcohol in many mouthwashes (including Listerine) will dry out your mouth, eliminating the saliva that is protecting your mouth from bacteria. You will very likely end up with worse breath thanks to your mouthwash.

Chemicals in Mouthwash

The main threat to your oral health comes from two sources: the alcohol and chemicals in your mouthwash.

Alcohol – When you drink alcohol, have you ever noticed that it dries out your mouth? Alcohol is a desiccant, a drying agent. It dries up the protective coating of saliva, leaving your teeth, gums, tongue, and the inside of your mouth unprotected.

What happens when the bacteria in your mouth (mostly unaffected by the alcohol) starts to feed on the food particles trapped between your teeth (not effectively removed by mouthwash)? The bacteria multiply and begin to eat away at your teeth and gums. This can lead to bad breath and a higher risk of infection.

The drying effect of alcohol-based mouthwashes makes them a bad choice for good oral health. Unless your dentist specifically prescribes an alcohol-based mouthwash, try to find one made WITHOUT alcohol.

Chemicals – Do you have any idea just how many chemicals there are in your mouthwash? What's more, do you have any idea what those chemicals do?

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is one of the most commonly used chemicals, and it can have the same drying effect as alcohol. It can also cause microscopic damage to oral tissue, leading to an increased risk of sores and ulcers.
  • Clorhexidine kills off the good bacteria in your mouth, and it may increase your risk of high blood pressure.
  • Benzalkonium Chloride can irritate the mucus membranes inside your mouth, potentially leading to swelling of the tongue, lips, and mouth. It may also cause allergic reactions, including breathing difficulties.
  • Hexetidine (also known as oraldene) can have some pretty nasty side effects as well, such as: unstable heartbeat, allergic reactions, failure of certain parts of the brain, and a higher risk of cancer.
  • Methyl Salicylate, if consumed in excess, can lead to low blood pressure, vomiting, convulsions, and kidney failure. It's one reason you should NEVER swallow mouthwash!
  • Methylparaben has the potential to increase the risk of breast cancer, as it can accelerate the growth of tumor cells.

These chemicals are all found in your mouthwash!

Let's be clear: most mouthwashes are FDA-approved, which means they are manufactured according to the safety standards passed by the U.S. Government. Most of the chemicals in your mouthwash are used in very small doses, so there isn't a massive health risk.

However, it's important that you understand that risk does exist. Your exposure to these chemicals can lead to negative effects. If you're trying to reduce chemical exposure, you'd do well to find alternatives to the commercially sold mouthwashes.

Alternatives to Mouthwash

Want to rinse your mouth and teeth WITHOUT exposing yourself to chemicals and alcohol? Try these natural alternatives:

  • Salt – Drop a teaspoon of salt in ¼ glass of warm water, and swish it around in your mouth. The sodium will be an effective bacteria-killer!
  • Cinnamon and Honey – Add half a tablespoon of cinnamon and 1½ teaspoons of organic honey to a cup of warm water, along with the juice of two lemons. Use this as a mouthwash, and the antibacterial properties of the lemon, honey, and cinnamon will protect your mouth and teeth.
  • Baking Soda – Sodium bicarbonate is an excellent odor-killer and anti-bacterial agent. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with ¼ cup of water and use it as a mouthwash.
  • Coconut Oil – Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic technique intended to kill off bacteria, reduce odors, and improve oral health. The Vitamin E in the oil works as an antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal agent.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – The astringent properties of apple cider vinegar will do wonders to kill off odor-causing bacteria. Mix ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar with ¾ cups of warm water, and use it as a mouthwash.
  • Peppermint Oil – Peppermint oil contains strong antibacterial properties, and it can help to freshen up your breath. Add a few drops of peppermint oil to half a cup of warm water. Mix well, swish around in your mouth, and spit. You'll find your mouth is much healthier and your breath much more pleasant.
  • Lemon Juice – Lemon juice contains potent antibacterial and astringent properties. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into ½ cup of warm water and use it as a natural, chemical-free mouthwash.

Mouthwash for Kids

According to the National Institutes for Health, up to 73% of children under the age of 11 suffer from gum disease, while 42% of these same children have already experienced tooth decay and cavities.

Oral hygiene is SO important for your children, which is why it's vital that you teach them to brush their teeth at a young age.

But what about mouthwash? Should they be using it or not?

For the sake of safety, make sure your children are using alcohol-free mouthwash. This will reduce the risk of oral health problems.

For children under the age of six, it's safer to avoid any mouthwashes that contain fluoride. Small quantities of fluoride (in the water and mouthwash) can help to protect their teeth, but too much can cause discoloration of teeth enamel (fluorosis).

Always supervise your children when they are rinsing using mouthwash. Teach them to spit it out and swallow as little as possible. Plus, supervising them will help them learn to brush, floss, and rinse their teeth regularly, building the oral health habits they need at a young age.

And always store the mouthwash OUT OF REACH of your children so they don't get into it and/or drink it when you aren't watching.

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Editor: Fashion & Grooming, Home & Office, Food & Drink

Katie’s Cleveland proud; but she’s also lived in Australia, Switzerland and now stays in South Africa. That’s a roundabout way of saying she can’t sit still; she’s always moving, always busy.

She has a BA in International Relations from Kent State University and work towards a Masters in Human Rights. She speaks French, is learning German and used to dream in Spanish. For years, Katie worked as a producer on fashion and advertising shoots before she realized her passion was the written word.

Katie’s far more interested in guy’s gear than women’s, except she has a wardrobe brimming with little black dresses. She drinks her beer out of the bottle and is raising her two boys to be better men.

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