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What is the best mouthwash for bad breath? I asked myself this question for years and, in the process, I concluded that I should try to answer these questions first:
Is it possible to cure chronic bad breath with the aid of a good mouthrinse?
Are there any brands that are better than others?
Should I stick to alcohol free mouthwash brands?
Is it worth spending any money at all on mouthwashes?…
In this article I will hopefully give you the answers to all of the above questions. I will talk about the most important types of mouthrinse to consider when it comes to minimising halitosis and I will discuss whether there is a best brand of alcohol free mouthwash, as well as what to expect from each type.
There will be no sales pitches here: only the truth. What works, what doesn’t…. And if it partly works, for how long. If you have been suffering from bad breath for a while, by now you must be sick of misleading marketing campaigns and promises that fail to materialise (trust me, I have been there). Looking for the best mouthwash for bad breath can become a very frustrating task…. Let’s see why.
I will be direct and straight to the point: if you are looking for a permanent bad breath cure this page is NOT for you. Read "How to Cure Bad Breath – Step by Step Guide" instead, if you are serious about tackling your bad breath problem from the root. Chronic halitosis can indeed be cured by following a rigorous step by step approach.
Right, bad news first: mouthwashes will only ever be a short-term solution and should mainly be used as an aid, never as a stand-alone bad breath treatment. If you suffer from chronic halitosis, I am afraid that gargling a bit of mouthwash simply won’t do the trick. Treating chronic bad breath from the root is not possible by just using a mouthwash.
Now the good news: there are indeed a handful of mouthwashes that are much more effective than others, having higher success rates, with its effects lasting for longer periods of time. However, if you suffer from chronic halitosis, these products should be used as a bonus, and should never be thought of as stand-alone "bad breath remedies" or "halitosis cures". Identifying the actual underlying causes and subsequently treating these causes is the only way to achieve a permanent halitosis cure.
Right, let’s start with the main mouthwash types and what they do. There are many kinds of mouthwash and many different types of active components; in this post I will only mention those that I think are most relevant.
First generation mouthwashes usually claim to be able to kill all bacteria in the mouth. A rather dubious claim in my opinion. Even if this was true, you don’t want ALL of your mouth germs to be killed; there is plenty of goodies in there! In fact, halitosis is usually a consequence of an overgrowth of otherwise healthy (needed) bacteria, so killing them all can’t be a good thing.
Examples for first generation mouthrinses: Listerine or Crest Pro Health, to name a couple of well known brands.
If you are a chronic halitosis sufferer, do not expect any positive effect whatsoever from this type of mouthwash. In fact, the ones that contain alcohol will make your bad breath problem much worse; alcohol will dry your mouth, and this will in turn exacerbate your halitosis (saliva flow reduction will help all those bugs reproduce even quicker!).
Another thing worth mentioning is that there are a couple of recent research studies that have found a link between alcohol-based mouthrinses and oral cancer. Well, most Listerine bottles contain over 25% alcohol… Need I say more?
The funny thing is that alcohol is not there to kill bacteria; it is purely used as a solvent, so that other active ingredients, mainly oils, dissolve properly and so the mixture looks nicer… Totally unnecessary – it is just not worth putting your health at risk. Plenty of leading independent scientists have issued warnings so that mouthwashes with high percentages of alcohol are pulled from supermarket shelves. Hopefully one day this will happen…
Feeling like your mouth is on fire after just a couple of seconds gargling does not mean your bad breath is being “eliminated” in the process, although probably that is what the Listerine man wants you to think….
On the other hand, if your mouth is healthy and are NOT a chronic halitosis sufferer, but suffering from the occasional bad breath, like morning breath (all of us suffer from it!), using a first generation mouthwash will give you a maximum of about 1 hour fresher breath, at best. What is the point of that? Chew a sugarless xylitol gum instead and you will achieve a better result because at least you will encourage saliva flow, rather than reduce it, as well as protect your teeth (xylitol has been shown to be beneficial to teeth and it is now recommended by most dentists and oral hygiene professionals).
The only other component worth mentioning that some first generation mouthwashes contain is fluoride. This has indeed been proven to help prevent tooth decay. Fluoride is another controversial component which has sparked a lot of debate: is it needed, is it safe? Some consider fluoride to be too much of a health risk (if accidentally ingested, because of levels of toxicity).
In any case, again, fluoride won’t help much with chronic bad breath (can help prevent tooth decay, which causes halitosis, but it won’t help reduce any existing bacteria overgrowth or the nasty smells they produce).
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The second generation of mouthwashes – some brands even call themselves third generation – are Oxygenating Mouthwashes or Oxidisers. They are a much better option than first generation mouthwashes because, apart from the antibacterial properties, they also have the ability to neutralise the bad smells.
Bad breath is mainly caused by Volatile Sulphur Compounds (VSC), which are the smelly gases produced by anaerobic bacteria. Anaerobic bacteria can only survive in oxygen-deprived conditions; hence the principle of using oxygenating mouthrinses is to change the mouth environment, to expose anaerobic bacteria to oxygen so that they can no longer thrive and so their numbers are kept to a minimum.
If you must use a mouthwash, stick to alcohol free mouthwash brands, or brands with maximum volume percentages of 5 to 6%. Always gargle so that the active components reach the back of your tongue and the upper bit of your throat, where there are usually high concentrations of anaerobic bacteria.
Buy from Amazon.com:
|ProFresh Breathcare Kit|
|Breath Rx Mouthwash|
|Thera Breath Oral Rinse|
Buy from Amazon.co.uk:
|Retardex Oral Rinse|
|Thera Breath Kit|
Look for one (or a combination of) the following components:
1) Sodium Chlorite, Stabilised Chlorine Dioxide or Active Chlorine Dioxide: the chlorine dioxide molecule – or its parent, sodium chlorite – is oxidising (releases oxygen), neutralises VSC and also degrades the precursor components that are used by anaerobic bacteria. Therefore, both VSC concentrations in the mouth and the number of anaerobic bacteria are reduced so that bad breath can be minimised.
Brands that contain Sodium Chlorite, Stabilised or Active Chlorine Dioxide: SmartMouth, ProFresh, Dioxirinse, CloSYS, Retardex, Oxyfresh, Thera Breath, Thera Breath Plus.
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|SmartMouth Mouthwash, Cinnamon||CloSYS Oral Rinse, Flavor Control||Thera Breath Oral Rinse, Mild Flavor||Breath Rx Mouth Rinse, Mint|
2) Cetylpyridinium Chloride: this molecule has antibacterial properties and, if used in combination with Zinc, for instance (see below), both the actual anaerobic bacteria and the VSC gases are being targeted.
Mouthwash brands that contain Cetylpyridinium Chloride: BreathRx, Beverly Hills Formula Breath Care (UK).
3) Zinc Chloride or Zinc Gluconate: zinc ions bind to the precursor compounds that anaerobic bacteria need in order to produce VSC. Instead of bacteria binding to surface proteins and releasing sulphur compound gases, zinc ions bind to protein receptors, hence blocking the process that creates VSC. Zinc is therefore good at neutralising VSC.
Brands that contain Zinc Chloride or Zinc Gluconate: Smartmouth, BreathRx, Thera Breath Plus, Beverly Hills Formula Breath Care (UK).
4) Hydrogen Peroxide (maximum 3% w/v): again, another molecule with strong oxygenating properties, which will help reduce excess anaerobic bacteria in the mouth.
Despite all the internet hype about this component, I would advise you to be extremely cautious with it. If you make your own mix at home (cause it’s cheaper), there is a risk of using the wrong concentration and causing irreversible damage to some of your mouth tissues.
In addition, Hydrogen Peroxide needs to be used very sparingly. I would recommend a maximum frequency of once a day (in the recommended concentration) and only gargling a small amount. Alternatively, instead of gargling, use a tiny amount to brush your tongue with.
I would recommend you use a commercial mouthrinse (rather than home-made) which contains no more than 1.5%. Some of the undesired side effects of hydrogen peroxide overuse are damage to delicate mouth tissues, such as the tongue filliform papillae and dry mouth. Both of these will exacerbate bad breath, so it is important to use only very small amounts of hydrogen peroxide solution, from a very low concentration mix and only about once a day, maximum.
Brands of mouthwash that contain Hydrogen Peroxide: Peroxyl, Sage Perox-a-Mint, Rembrandt.
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Having suffered from chronic halitosis for over 12 years, I have inevitably become a bit of an expert when it comes to knowing what works and what does not. As I mentioned above, mouthwashes, even the best ones in the second and third generation category, will not cure chronic halitosis. So if the effect can only be temporary, for how long can one expect to see bad breath reduced or minimised?
The answer, of course, depends on how severe the bad breath is (yes, there are degrees of it), where it comes from (it could come from the nasal passages for instance, in which case, using a mouthwash will be totally useless, unless you want to pour the stuff inside your nose…!), and finally, it also depends on what the underlying causes are.
What to expect if you have a reasonably Healthy Mouth – no chronic halitosis present:
Now that I have cured my bad breath permanently, I still use a mouthrinse every now and then, to help prevent flare-ups or as an aid when I brush my tongue. I tend to switch between a couple or three alcohol free (second, third generation) mouthwashes.
However, having tested them all over the years, I honestly think all of the above mentioned second and third generation mouthwashes do a pretty good job as long as your mouth is healthy (free from infections or disease). But I honestly think that they are in no way essential because the steps I took to get rid of my bad breath had nothing to do with using mouthwashes.
In terms of timescales, I think they are a good aid to help keep reasonably fresh breath for a few hours, about 3 or 4 I would say – even longer for some people. THAT IS, AS LONG AS YOU HAVE DEALT WITH THE UNDERLYING CAUSES OF YOUR HALITOSIS FIRST. If used at night, some brands are pretty good at minimising morning breath as well.
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Note: some of the brands claim they will work for an X amount of hours (some claim 12 hours, others even 24). Well, always take any such claims with a pinch of salt – as it all depends on each person and how healthy their mouth is.
My favourite mouthwash brands are: SmartMouth cinammon flavour, ProFresh, Retardex (very similar to CloSYS and Therabreath, but sold in UK) and Breath Rx.
What to expect if you suffer from chronic halitosis:
As mentioned above, if your halitosis comes mainly from elsewhere other than the mouth (nose or throat for instance), don’t expect much from using a mouthrinse. However, if your bad breath comes from the mouth, depending on underlying causes and severity, I would expect any of the above second and third generation mouthwashes to help a bit, but honestly, don’t expect any miracles.
I regularly used many of the above mentioned mouthwashes until I finally found how to really tackle the underlying causes of my chronic halitosis. Until then, my halitosis had been quite severe, and I found that switching between different brands was helpful, but I only ever achieved about 1 hour of "less stinky" breath before it started to become really unpleasant again. I never was able to completely eliminate my bad breath with any of them, although I did manage to minimise it for short periods of time.
Science has come a long way when it comes to finding ways to tackle bad breath. Many products are pretty good at changing the environment in the mouth so that anaerobic bacteria find it difficult to thrive, and also pretty good at neutralising volatile sulphur compounds so that nasty odours are minimised. Still, even the most effective mouthwashes will only ever achieve a temporary effect.
The truth is that there is no universal cure for halitosis; each case is very different from the next, depending on the underlying causes.
Hence, when it comes to mouthwashes and their effectiveness, the only way to find out if a particular brand works for you is to try it. Mouthwash effectiveness totally depends on individual circumstances, with higher success rates whenever mouth infections or gum disease have been successfully treated.
When it comes to dealing with chronic bad breath, there is still a long way to go and a lot more research is needed. I suffered in silence for a long time before I finally learned how to cure halitosis permanently, and I can honestly say that a good mouthwash will only help minimise the symptoms temporarily.
Yes, I admit it can be a good aid, but it will never be a treatment on its own. The underlying causes need to be tackled first; this is the only way to achieve a truly durable outcome.
Note – if you suffer from dry mouth, you may be interested in this post instead: Dry Mouth Mouthwash Review
So… What is the best mouthwash for bad breath? The answer is that mouthwashes are not able to treat halitosis from the root and that even second or third generation mouthwashes have very limited effectiveness (despite their claims) and therefore should not be used to treat halitosis. Tackling the underlying causes of halitosis is the only approach that has the potential to lead to a permanent cure.
I hope this alcohol free mouthwash brands review has been helpful!
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