Anyone who’s ever set foot in a pharmacy or grocery store’s dental care aisle will immediately notice shelves full of mouthwashes, each bottle promising to prevent cavities, freshen breath, whiten teeth, or some combination of all three. The claims these products make about their efficacy, however, should be carefully scrutinized by both medical professionals and consumers alike.
To help our patients make good dental health care decisions, Infinite Dental Wellness looked at a number of popular mouthwashes to see if their benefits were as good as advertised. Here’s what we found:
Does Mouthwash Fight Cavities?
Originally developed in the 1800’s as oral antiseptic, Listerine (now one of the most popular brand names) employed the use of active ingredients like alcohol to kill infection-causing bacteria. This product was used primarily after oral surgeries, though, and Listerine’s commercial value – likely as a breath freshener – wasn’t discovered until some years later.
Many of today’s mouthwashes also contain active ingredients like Sodium Fluoride, Chlorhexidine Gluconate, Triclosan, Thymol, and Cetylpyridinium Chloride (CPC), but their ability to fight cavities remains rather low, especially without combining the practice with more effective measures like brushing and flossing. Mouthwash can be great for cleaning away food particles stuck in the cracks and crevices of teeth, but water can also do this job almost as effectively.
Does Mouthwash Whiten Teeth?
As a tooth-whitening, mouthwash is also largely ineffective. Though many mouthwashes claim to have whitening agents, these ingredients simply aren’t exposed to teeth for long enough to have any noticeable effect on the shade of one’s chompers.
For more effective teeth whitening, opt for whitening strips, which stay on teeth longer and therefore have more time to work, or schedule a professional teeth whitening session with your local dentist.
Does Mouthwash Freshen Breath?
Because the active ingredients in mouthwash kill bad breath bacteria, the ability to freshen one’s breath may be the product’s biggest boon. Bad breath can be a sign of a more serious condition, though, and masking it with minty mouthwash won’t likely fix serious cases of gingivitis or tooth decay. If you struggle with bad breath, it’s best to schedule a doctor’s appointment right away.
Mouthwash is a great way to freshen one’s breath, but claims about fighting gingivitis and tooth decay or whitening teeth should be taken with a grain of salt. For healthy teeth, there is no substitute for regular brushing and flossing.