Are Mouthwashes Really Effective for Stopping Germs and Bad Breath? by Peggy Klein
An effective means to assist oral hygiene and support healthy teeth and gum tissue is the consistent use of mouthwash. Although most enjoy the clean, zesty feeling remaining from the refreshing taste, there is much more at stake than breath-freshening. The mouth cavity, warm and moist, is a breeding ground for germs, especially bacteria that can ultimately attack the gums and spread havoc to the entire bodily system. Therefore, using mouthwash should be considered an important and relatively simple way to enhance overall health. What are the reasons mouthwash works, the agents that make it effective, and the types which do the job best?
Though simply concocted mouthwashes date from earliest civilizations, they were not commercially produced until the late 1800's and, then, almost always contained alcohol. Many still do, as alcohol stabilizes mouthwash formulas to support germ killing capabilities. However, with current emphasis on more natural products, some formulas omit alcohol by using agents like cetylpyridinium chloride that do not require alcohol stabilization for germ killing properties. Known as CPC, its germ fighting effectiveness is formula dependent, and some CPC products have been known to fight bacteria responsible for both plaque and the gum disease gingivitis.
Minimally, most mouthwashes do make breath fresher, and many prevent or decrease plaque buildup and cavities. What are some more specific findings about mouthwash types, and what choices are on the market? Aside from medical prescriptions, available mouthwash products include cosmetic, therapeutic, and a combination of the two. Cosmetic mouthwashes may be purchased over the counter and help remove debris before or after brushing, suppress mouth odor or bad breath temporarily and reduce bacteria. Evidence from consumer testing has shown these rinses effective for at least ten minutes following use, though generally losing effectiveness after two hours. Nonetheless, a pleasant taste that also delivers some protection and fresher breath is enough for many.
Therapeutic mouthwashes have the same overall benefits. However, there is an active ingredient added for oral disease prevention. Such products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and also approved by the American Dental Association. Moreover, there are two basic therapeutic mouthwashes available. One, often with CPC, or alcohol and other effective agents, is both plaque and gingivitis fighting. The alternative includes fluoride and is geared to fighting cavities.
Evidence supporting therapeutic mouthwashes has shown that those produced primarily to reduce plaque producing germs and subsequent gingivitis, or inflammation of gum tissue leading to periodontal disease, are at least 25% effective in doing so. Even better, those categorized as anti-cavity rinses with fluoride have been shown in clinical studies to fight up to 50% more cavity producing bacteria than those without fluoride.
Using mouthwash along with twice-a-day brushing and flossing is one of the cheapest forms of insurance available for preventive health. It will almost always keep breath fresh for awhile, and some benefit will be gained in fighting tooth decay, gingivitis, and full blown periodontal disease depending upon product and individual response. There is no reason not to incorporate mouthwash into one's daily routine, as it is a much more pleasant undertaking than paying the price in dollars and diminished health that poor dental and oral hygiene promote. Moreover, who doesn't want to enjoy the feeling of fresh breath to tackle the day ahead or head into a relaxing evening when it’s all through?
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