When it comes to mouthwash, sometimes the results can really stink.
That’s because eliminating the bacteria that causes bad breath, and other dental issues, isn’t as simple as spitting it down the drain.
“Using an oral rinse for 30 seconds isn’t doing much more than making your mouth taste good,” says Alireza Panahpour, D.D.S, a holistic dentist in Bellevue, WA and author of The Good Dentist. “Bad breath is caused by plaque—and the bacteria that leads to plaque—which typically needs to be physically removed from your teeth, gums, and back of your tongue.”
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Why? Plaque is sticky, so it can be tough to find a swish solution powerful enough to pry it off your teeth, Panahpour says. The most effective way to get rid of it—and the bad breath it brings along—is by flossing, brushing, and getting a professional to thoroughly clean in between your teeth.
But before you dump your mouthwash: There is research underway that hopes to prove the effectiveness of natural- and plant-based mouthwashes, and practitioners are already reporting great results, Panahpour adds. The takeaway: There’s no harm in a minty mouth—and there may even be some benefit to using mouthwash as part of your oral hygiene routine.
Stay germ-free the natural way with this DIY hand sanitizer:
“Just make sure the one you choose doesn’t contain alcohol, as it lowers the pH of your mouth” Panahpour says. (It may be listed as ethanol on the label.) “When your pH drops below 5.5, the minerals come out of your teeth and the tooth decay process starts. It’s the same thing that happens when you drink soda, juice, or wine.”
And according to Chris Kammer, D.D.S, a dentist in Middleton, WI, alcohol has other negative effects: “It dries out your mouth, and drier conditions are a breeding ground for bacteria,” he says. While you’re scanning the label, also skip anything with chlorine dioxide, parabens, or formaldehyde.
Here are some expert-approved options that don’t tout lip-service-worthy promises—they’ll actually leave you all smiles. The healthy kind.