I had a small canker sore the other day. So I went for the mouthwash. It’s funny how certain events can trigger some old memories. This is what went through my mind.
First, I remind myself that I am a physician and NOT a dentist. My formal training in oral hygiene is based only upon good sound medical principals. So here I go.
Before I went to medical school, I dated a young lady who was a dental hygienist. She used to tell me repeatedly to quit wasting my money on mouthwash and to just take good care of my teeth and to stick with old fashioned water to keep the month from smelling bad. She would tell me that the best ways to get rid of bacteria are flossing, brushing and cleaning the tongue twice a day. It’s like showering to get rid of body odor. You’re not really killing bacteria when you’re taking a shower. You’re physically removing them. After they bathe, people put on deodorant—just as they use mouthwash after they brush their teeth. The mouthwash is not as important as physically removing the bacteria. You don’t need a mouthwash, she said. Yea, right, I thought. But I figured she knew more about it than I did. So I went mouthwash free! Water it was…
I suppose bad breath (halitosis) is like death and taxes. And it’s one of those personal hygiene embarrassments. We’ve all been there. The source of the odor is often particles of food stuck in between the teeth and an accumulation of bacteria in the back of the throat. When you get a high level of bacterial-producing malodorous chemicals coming from the lack of oral hygiene. It has the equivalent odor of feces – that much I did learn in med school.
Mouthwash does not eliminate bad breath. The mouthwash works at first—killing lots of germs. But the bad breath gets even worse. The alcohol content present in many mouthwashes can dry your mouth out. When the saliva glands are dry, they are unable to help wash away bacteria so the stinky stuff flourishes. Did you ever notice that babies have sweet breath because they manufacture lots of saliva; they are drooling all the time. This constant draining of saliva, among other things, helps to keep baby’s breath clean.
After all these years, I’ve resorted to just the basics: Floss all of your teeth well. Use non-alcoholic mouthwashes Keep your mouth moist by drinking lots of water And just like Mom always told me—brush for at least two minutes, including brushing your tongue.
Do I ever use mouthwash now? Yep, I sure do. But I AVOID any mouthwash or rinse that contains alcohol since I don’t want it drying out my mouth and causing gum damage. Sometimes I still just use plain water too.
If one of the rinses has the following ingredients, then I don’t worry. I just use them.
- Cetylpyridinium chloride
- Zinc chloride
- Chlorine dioxide
- Zinc gluconate
- Eucalyptus oil
- No alcohol
However, if I had to take just one mouthwash with me to a desert island, I would want it to at least contain eucalyptus oil, mint and thymol!
Have you guessed yet which mouthwash I use?