Mouthwashes, when used in conjunction with a regimen of effective tongue cleaning, tooth brushing, and flossing, can play a role in the treatment of bad breath (halitosis). You cannot, however, expect that a mouthwash will be an effective cure for your condition on its own.
If a mouthwash has the ability to kill bacteria, it can play a part in helping to minimize the total number of anaerobic bacteria that are present in a person's mouth. Since these bacteria are the source of the volatile sulfur compounds that cause of bad breath, the fewer of them that are present in a person's mouth the better.
The ingredients that are found in some mouthwashes have the capability to neutralize volatile sulfur compounds (VSC's) and/or the compounds from which they are formed. Since volatile sulfur compounds are the malodorous substances that actually cause bad breath, if a mouthwash can help to decrease the concentration of these compounds in a person's breath, then the more pleasant that person's breath will be.
Some of the different types of over-the-counter mouthwashes that have been created for the treatment of bad breath are listed below. In an attempt to increase a particular product's effectiveness, some mouthwash formulations contain a combination of these agents.
Mouthwash properties: Antibacterial / Neutralizes Volatile Sulfur Compounds
Mouthwashes that contain chlorine dioxide, or its parent compound sodium chlorite, have been used in the treatment of bad breath. Research has suggested that chlorine dioxide's mechanism of action is twofold:
Research has suggested that mouthwash products that contain zinc ions can reduce the concentration of volatile sulfur compounds found in a person's breath. This action is presumed to be related to the fact that the zinc ions bind to the precursor compounds that anaerobic bacteria require to produce volatile sulfur compounds.
Mouthwash properties: Antibacterial
"Antiseptic" mouthwash (i.e., Listerine and its generic equivalents) has been suggested as suitable product for the treatment of bad breath. The effectiveness of this type of rinse is related to its ability to kill the anaerobic oral bacteria that produce volatile sulfur compounds. Antiseptic mouthwash has not been shown to have a neutralizing effect directly on the volatile sulfur compounds themselves.
Some dentists feel that antiseptic type mouthwashes are not the best choice for treating bad breath. This criticism stems from the fact that these products often contain significant amounts of alcohol (on the order of 25%). Alcohol is a desiccant (a drying agent) and therefore can have the effect of drying out the tissues of the mouth. Our discussion aboutexplains how mouth dryness can aggravate a person's breath problems.
Mouthwash properties: Antibacterial
The compound cetylpyridinium chloride is often included in the formulation of mouthwashes. It has antibacterial properties and therefore can help to control the number of anaerobic bacteria that are found in a person's mouth.
The bacteria that cause bad breath live both on the surface and also deep within the dental plaque that accumulates on and around a person's teeth, gums and tongue. An antibacterial mouthwash will not have the ability to significantly penetrate into and through the plaque on its own. This means that the most effective use of a mouthwash will be after your brushing, flossing and tongue cleaning efforts have removed, or at least disrupted, the dental plaque. Rinsing after your cleaning routine allows the mouthwash to get at any of the free floating bacteria you have dislodged. It also allows the mouthwash to have an effect on those bacteria that, while not dislodged, have become exposed due to the disruption of their dental plaque colony.
When you rinse with a mouthwash it is best that you gargle it. As you gargle, make an "aaahhh" sound. This will extend your tongue outward and allow the mouthwash to contact a greater portion of the posterior portion of your tongue. This area is the precise region where the largest accumulation of bad breath producing bacteria typically reside.
All mouth rinses should be spit out after gargling. Children should not be given mouthwash because of the possibility that they may swallow it.
Just like with, breath mints, lozenges, drops, sprays and chewing gum, on their own, are usually not an effective means by which to cure bad breath. However, when these products are used in conjunction with diligent tongue cleaning and and flossing they can be valuable adjuncts. Especially if they contain agents that have the ability to (such as chlorine dioxide, sodium chlorite, and zinc).
As an added benefit, the use of mints, lozenges, and chewing gum stimulates the flow of saliva. As discussed previously, has a cleansing and diluting effect on the bacteria and bacterial waste products that are found in a person's mouth, thus helping to minimize breath odor problems.
Your dentist should provide you with specific instructions regarding suitable methods for cleaning the they have made for you. Since dental plaque will form on your dentures just like it does on natural teeth and gums, a dentist's recommendations will usually include instructions that involve thoroughly scrubbing your dentures with a toothbrush or specialized denture brush, both inside and out. After scrubbing your dentures you might place them in whichever antiseptic denture soak your dentist suggests.