When it comes to modern hygiene, mouthwash is essential for oral health. However, it can be challenging to decide which products are the best for your mouth and wallet. To make matters worse, health experts are in a constant debate on whether or not commercially bought mouthwash is even good for our gums and teeth or effective enough to ward off gingivitis.
Let’s take a look at what products cause more harm than good, whether or not mouthwash works as it should, and if it’s wise to give up commercial brands for natural alternatives.
The Origins of Mouthwash
Humans have been using mouthwash for thousands of years. Evidence shows that saltwater rinses were used extensively in 2700 BC China to treat various gum diseases. Ancient Chinese dentists were correct because saltwater can kill bacteria in your mouth that could develop into gingivitis, a gum disease that affects the heart, and halitosis, or persistent bad breath.
The upper classes in Greek and Roman society also used a salt mixture but added vinegar and alum. Jewish practitioners, Europeans, Native North Americans, and Mesoamerican cultures all used some form of natural mouthwash that proved to be useful and effective.
In fact, Columbia University spent 100 hours testing the best natural mouthwash to show just how effective natural mouthwash is when compared to commercial brands.
Modern Alcoholic-Based Mouthwashes
Anton Van Leeuwenhoek, a famous 17th-century microscopist, invented what is considered “modern mouthwash.” He found that a mixture of vinegar and brandy could kill organisms sustained in water but not within the mouth. Although this solution was less effective, another chemist, Richard Seifert, patented a similar alcoholic-based recipe in 1892.
Although alcohol-based mouthwashes were sold, they didn’t receive high sales figures compared to natural mouthwashes until Listerine created their best-selling ad campaign.
Listerine and Commercial Usages
The most well-known commercial mouthwash, Listerine, wasn’t always sold as a mouthwash. Listerine, created in the 1870s, was used as an antiseptic and eventually as a floor cleaner. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that they promoted Listerine as a cure for bad breath.
Before that ad, most were unconcerned with the smell of their breath and were unaware of what halitosis even was. After the ad campaign, Listerine’s revenues rose from $115,000 to over $8 million, which established the brand as a mainstay in the oral hygiene sphere.
Natural Mouthwash is Still the Superior Choice
Natural mouthwash contains all the benefits that commercial brands have without the side effects and harmful agents. In fact, we would argue that commercial mouthwashes are ineffective, dangerous, and should be removed from your medicine cabinet immediately.
Here are ten reasons why natural mouthwash is perfect for your hygiene routine:
- Natural mouthwash uses time-tested ingredients that are safe and known for their medical benefits, like botanicals such as mint and cinnamon.
- Natural mouthwash is gentler and best used for people with sensitive gums and teeth. Alcohol-free mouthwashes can prevent further discomfort.
- Natural mouthwash feels good in the mouth because it kills bacteria without the burning sensation. Alcohol-free alternatives eradicate germs without irritation.
- Natural mouthwash won’t contain hard additives, like sodium lauryl sulfate or triclosan, which can compromise immune function in healthy adults.
- Natural mouthwash uses natural antibacterial ingredients that rinse the mouth without the fear of creating bacteria that can become resistant to antibiotics.
- Natural mouthwash won’t dry out your mouth, which can decrease your saliva production. Salvia is essential for sustaining oral health and reducing bad breath.
- Natural mouthwash is just as effective, if not more so than commercial brands. Don’t let the “natural” part fool you, as it just implies there are no synthetic ingredients within.
- Natural mouthwash keeps the body healthy. Untreated gingivitis will find its way into your heart and increases the likelihood of cardiac arrest and further discomfort.
- Natural mouthwash is safe for children to consume. High doses of commercial, alcohol-based mouthwash are dangerous to small children and the elderly.
- Natural mouthwash doesn’t contain mystery ingredients that are hard to read. Reading labels on commercial mouthwashes is often confusing and makes no sense.
Natural mouthwashes are even more effective than they were thousands of years ago due to modern science, but if you’re still thinking of using commercial mouthwashes, read on.
The Problem with Commercial Mouthwashes
Commercial mouthwashes contain harmful ingredients for our health or don’t reduce the chance of developing gum disease. For example, chlorhexidine gluconate, hydrogen peroxide (bleaching agent), alcohol, and methyl salicylate (pain reliever) could be toxic in large doses.
Why is Alcohol Dangerous in Mouthwash?
Alcohol is often added to commercial mouthwashes because it’s used as a carrier agent for active ingredients like eucalyptol, thymol, and menthol, which help penetrate plaque. Alcohol is also used to create that “bite” sensation that people associate with mouthwash as it makes the user feel their bacteria is dying on their gums.
Some studies suggest alcohol can cause oral cancer, but an epidemiological study (studies that compare finished studies) shows that the results are inconclusive. It’s unlikely swishing with alcohol causes cancer, but it can worsen halitosis as bacteria multiplies faster in dry mouths.
Are Alcoholic-Free Commercial Mouthwashes Safe?
However, if you still want to use mouthwash in your oral cleaning regimen, you can switch your alcoholic version for a non-alcoholic variety. However, Listerine’s non-alcoholic version is still made up of 26.8% alcohol. Therefore, you must read the ingredient list before purchasing.
Although there are alcohol-free mouthwashes available, you should still pass up most commercial brands for natural alternatives. Listerine and Scope contain ingredients that make them shelf-stable, like acidic stabilizing agents that are terrible for your teeth. Acids can rot away at the tooth enamel and weaken your teeth, making them susceptible to decay.
Artificial food dyes, common in commercial mouthwashes, can produce horrible health outcomes. For example, Green 3 dye found in Cool Mint Listerine is linked with bladder cancer, while Yellow 5 is derived from coal tar. Blue 1 has produced active cancer cells in animals.
Are Natural Alternatives Safer? Not Necessarily
DIY mouthwash isn’t always safe, so beware of recipes that contain the highly reactive substance hydrogen peroxide (if you want to swish your mouth daily) or essential oils. It’s better to leave chemical composition up to the professionals, or you could put your health at risk.
Misusing mouthwash could create dental issues, so be aware of the following.
- Mouthwash Can’t Substitute Daily Brushing: Mouthwash is meant to be used in tandem with regular brushing and flossing. Even if your mouth “feels clean,” mouthwash only removes dirt and grime on the surface, but brushing and flossing remove the rest.
- Mouthwash Doesn’t Discriminate: Mouthwash may kill bacteria that protect your mouth from gum disease. Natural and gentle is always best, so stay away from artificial ingredients that could actually make your oral health much worse.
The right natural mouthwash will benefit your brushing regiment without killing good bacteria.