Monday, August 31, 2009


Mouthwash or mouth rinse is a product used to enhance oral hygiene. Antisepticand anti-plaque mouth rinse claim to kill the bacterial plaque causing caries, gingivitis, and bad breath. Anti-cavity mouth rinse uses fluoride to protect against tooth decay. But, it is generally agreed that the use of mouthwash does not eliminate the need for both brushing and flossing. As per the American Dental Association, regular brushing and proper flossing are enough in most cases (In addition to regular dental check-ups).Mouth washes may also be used to help remove mucus and food particles deeper down in the throat. Alcoholic and strong flavored mouth washes may cause coughing when used for this purpose.

Listerine, an American brand of mouthwash


The first known reference to mouth rinsing is in the Chinese medicine, about 2700 BC, for treatment of gingivitis. Later, in theGreek and Roman periods, mouthrinsing following mechanical cleansing became common among the upper classes, and Hippocratesrecommended a mixture of salt, alum, and vinegar. The Jewish Talmud, dating back about 1800 years, suggests a cure for gum ailments containing "dough water" and olive oil.Anton van Leeuwenhoek, the famous 17th century microscopist, discovered living organisms (living, because they were motile) in deposits on the teeth (what we now call dental plaque). He also found organisms in water from the canal next to his home in Delft. He experimented with samples by adding vinegar or brandy and found that this resulted in the immediate immobilization or killing of the organisms suspended in water. Next he tried rinsing the mouth of himself and somebody else with a rather foul mouthwash containing vinegar or brandy and found that living organisms remained in the dental plaque. He concluded—correctly—that the mouthwash either did not reach, or was not present long enough, to kill the plaque organisms.That remained the state of affairs until the late 1960s when Harald Loe (at the time a professor at the Royal Dental College in Aarhus, Denmark) demonstrated that a chlorhexidine compound could prevent the build-up of dental plaque. The reason for chlorhexidine effectiveness is that it strongly adheres to surfaces in the mouth and thus remains present in effective concentrations for many hours.Since then commercial interest in mouthwashes has been intense and several newer products claim effectiveness in reducing the build-up in dental plaque and the associated severity of gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), in addition to fighting bad breath. Many of these solutions aim to control the Volatile Sulfur Compound (VSC)-creating anaerobic bacteria that live in the mouth and excrete substances that lead to bad breath and unpleasant mouth taste.


Common use involves rinsing the mouth with about 20ml (2/3 fl oz) of mouthwash two times a day after brushing. The wash is typically swished or gargled for about half a minute and then spat out. In some brands, the expectorate is stained, so that one can see the bacteria and debris. It is probably advisable to use mouthwash at least an hour after brushing with toothpaste when the toothpaste contains sodium lauryl sulfate, since the anionic compounds in the SLS toothpaste can deactivate cationic agents present in the mouthrinse. When using mouthwash just remember the 4 S's "swig", "swish", "spit" and "smile".

Active ingredients

OTC mouthwash containing chlorhexidine fromMexico.Active ingredients in commercial brands of mouthwash can include thymol, eucalyptol, hexetidine, methyl salicylate,menthol, chlorhexidine gluconate, benzalkonium chloride, cetylpyridinium chloride, methylparaben, hydrogen peroxide, domiphen bromide and sometimes fluoride, enzymes and calcium. Ingredients also include water, sweeteners such as sorbitol, sucralose, sodium saccharine, and xylitol (which doubles as a bacterial inhibitor).Sometimes a significant amount of alcohol (up to 27% vol) is added, as a carrier for the flavor, to provide "bite", and to contribute an antibacterial effect. Because of the alcohol content, it is possible to fail a breathalyzer test after rinsing; in addition, alcohol is a drying agent and may worsen chronic bad breath. Furthermore, it is possible for alcoholics to abuse mouthwash Recently, some assumptions were made of a possible carcinogenic character of alcohol used in mouthrinses, but no clear evidence was found. Commercial mouthwashes usually contain a preservative such as sodium benzoate to preserve freshness once the container has been opened. Many newer brands are alcohol-free and contain odor-elimination agents such as oxidizers, as well as odor-preventing agents such aszinc ion to keep future bad breath from developing.

OTC mouthwash containing chlorhexidine fromMexico.

Alternative Mouthwash Ingredients

A salt mouthwash is a home treatment for mouth infections and/or injuries, or post extraction, and is made by dissolving a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. However, such mouthwashes have no effect in killing germs.Recently, the use of herbal mouthwashes such as persica is increasing, due to the perceived discoloration effects and unpleasant taste of Chlorhexidine. Research has also indicated that sesame and sunflower oils as cheap alternatives compared to chlorhexidine.Other products like hydrogen peroxide have been tried out as stand-alone and in combination with chlorhexidine, due to some inconsistent results regarding its usefulness.Another study has demonstrated that daily use of an alum-containing mouthrinse was safe and produced a significant effect on plaque that supplemented the benefits of daily toothbrushing.However, many studies acknowledge that Chlorhexidine remains the most effective mouthwash when used on an already clean tooth surface or immeadiately after surgery. As chlorhexidine has difficulty in penetrating plaque biofilm, other mouthwashes may be more effective where pre-existing plaque is present.

Health Risks

In January 2009 a report published in the Dental Journal of Australia concluded there is "sufficient evidence" that "alcohol-containing mouthwashes contribute to the increased risk of development of oral cancer". However, this claim has been disputed by Yinka Ebo ofCancer Research UK, concluding that "there is still not enough evidence to suggest that using mouthwash that contains alcohol will increase the risk of mouth cancer"

List of mouthwash brands
  • Astring-O-Sol
  • Scope (mouthwash)
  • Dentyl pH
  • Sarakan
  • Oral-B
  • Colgate
  • Corsodyl
  • Listerine

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