What’s in mouthwash and do you really need it? – Which? News

Mouthwash is another weapon in the fight against poor oral health, but does it matter, and what do you actually put in your mouth when you rinse and spit?

The UK mouthwash industry is valued at £ 158 million a year * so many of you will love this mint-fresh feeling.

But mouthwash has been exposed to health problems in the past and there is debate as to whether or not it is actually necessary for optimal oral health.

We delved into the science behind the bottle with the help of Professor Damien Walmsley, Scientific Advisor to the British Dental Association, demystifies some of the key ingredients, FAQs and what to look for when making a purchase.

Main points: mouthwash can be one Useful extra step in your oral care routine when used properlyHowever, watch out for exaggerated claims, and there are some ingredients that can stain your teeth.

Choosing the best toothpaste – We reveal the truth behind toothpaste claims related to whitening, enamel repair and sensitivity

What’s in your mouthwash?

We’ve broken down the typical ingredients you can find, what they do and everything you need to consider using the example of Listerine Total Care Mouthwash.

Active ingredients

Active ingredients address the core issue that the product is intended to target.

In the case of mouthwash, the active ingredients help fight gingivitis (gum disease), plaque, bad breath and tooth decay.

Sodium fluoride

The tooth-friendly benefits of fluoride are well documented. It is the main ingredient in remineralizing teeth and protecting them from tooth decay.

Mouthwashes like Listerines Total Care are usually in a relatively small amount compared to toothpaste – in this case 220 parts per million (ppm). Fluoride toothpaste typically contains 1,350-1,500 ppm fluoride.

While mouthwash has its uses, toothpaste is essential for a good dose of fluoride.

Professor Walmsley warns that while it may seem natural, it is important not to use the mouthwash immediately after brushing. This is because you end up washing the (higher-strength) fluoride off your toothpaste. Instead, leave at least an hour between the two or use mouthwash at a different time of the day.

Essential oils

Essential oils like eucalyptol, thymol, menthol and methyl salicylate (found in Listerine Total Care) serve two purposes: they add a fresh taste and they fight bacteria.

When combined, these essential oils have been shown in scientific studies to have properties that prevent bacteria and fungi from growing in the mouth.

“There is evidence that this blend of essential oils can destroy the bacterial shell and prevent tooth decay and gum disease,” says Professor Walmsley.

Zinc chloride

“Zinc chloride helps reduce bad breath (bad breath), which is one of the main reasons people use mouthwash,” says Professor Walmsley.

Research has shown that zinc ions bind to hydrogen sulfide, a cause of bad breath, and suppress the growth of oral bacteria.

Other mouthwash ingredients and what they do

Alcohol (ethanol) – helps distribute ingredients

Alcohol acts as a carrier for ingredients like essential oils in the mouthwash, allowing them to disperse bacterial communities (biofilms) that build up in plaque and lead to tooth decay.

Professor Walmsley says, “Some time ago there was a fear of the link between alcohol and oral cancer, but there is insufficient evidence that the use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes can affect this.”

However, people who get dry mouth may find that mouthwashes with alcohol make the condition worse.

If you prefer to stay away from alcohol for reasons such as health, culture, or lifestyle, alcohol-free mouthwashes are available.

Sweeteners – for the taste

Sweeteners like sodium saccharin, sucralose, and sorbitol help “make mouthwash tastier,” says Professor Walmsley.

Sodium saccharin is a calorie-free artificial sweetener, while sOrbitol and sucralose are sweet-tasting sugar alcohols (polyols).

Unlike traditional glucose-based sugars, they don’t cause breakdown because they’re not broken down by oral bacteria in the mouth – a process that releases acids that can cause cavities and erosion of tooth enamel.


Preservatives such as benzoic acid and sodium benzoate extend the shelf life of a mouthwash.

Surfactants – help mix the ingredients

Surfactants help to dissolve oily ingredients (like essential oils) in water. Listerine Total Care uses Poloxymer 407 for this function.

Professor Walmsley says, “It helps break the water tension so the product can be wetted better and can reach all areas of the mouth.”

Other common surfactants include sodium lauryl sulfate, although some studies have shown that it can cause irritation.

Colorings – so that it looks appealing

These do not serve any real purpose, but should make the product look appealing and stand out on the shelf.

While many mouthwashes opt for bright blue or green to characterize the mint freshness, Listerines Total Care has a characteristic purple tone, which is created by the synthetic colorants CI 16305 (Allura Red) and CI 42090 (Blue 1).

While Professor Walmsley warns mostly benign, he warns, “Some people are hyperactive to dyes, so if you are, it’s worth checking the ingredient list.” Some mouthwashes are color-free.

Mouthwash for whitening and sensitive teeth

Some mouthwashes claim to go the extra mile with ingredients that help whiten teeth or reduce sensitivity.

While we recommend that you take the whitening claims with a pinch of salt, mouthwashes with ingredients to reduce sensitivity can be a helpful perk for those with an uncomfortable tingling sensation.

EU regulations mean that UK whitening products can only contain a maximum from 0.1% of the typical lightening ingredient hydrogen peroxide.

However, this is too low to have any real effect. Some products may have a blue tinge to create a visual lightening effect, but this is temporary at most.

What about charcoal mouthwash?

The demand for natural dental products is increasing, and charcoal is an increasingly fashionable mouthwash ingredient that exhibits whitening and stain removing properties.

However, research shows that there is no evidence that charcoal mouthwash is beneficial for oral health.

In fact, due to the abrasiveness of charcoal particles, they can even cause enamel damage.

Professor Walmsley says it plainly, “There’s nothing to say that charcoal mouthwash is useful.”

Active ingredients for sensitive teeth

Ingredients such as calcium oxalate and hydroxyapatite work to remineralize teeth and block dentinal tubules. These are channels in the underlying dentin area of ​​the tooth that lead to the internal pulp and can cause sensitivity when exposed.

Potassium nitrate soothes the nerves in the teeth. Studies have shown that both help with sensitivity.

In fact, a 2019 study showed that using a mouthwash containing potassium salt twice a day significantly improved tooth hypersensitivity compared to fluoride toothpaste alone.

If you don’t want to use mouthwash, look for these ingredients in a toothpaste instead.

5 surprising facts revealed about toothpaste – – Find out the truth behind popular toothpaste marketing tricks

Expert judgment

Mouthwash “nice to have” but not essential

Professor Walmsley says, “Some people want their mouthwash to do everything, but it should always be viewed as a supplement, not an essential.”

He stresses that it’s more important to brush regularly with a fluoride toothpaste (spit it out, don’t rinse it, to make sure the fluoride covers your teeth) and floss.

This should be enough to get rid of the bacteria that are causing bad breath. If you have a persistent problem, you should consult your dentist.

Look out for this one mouthwash ingredient that can stain teeth

Some mouthwashes can actually cause your teeth to stain.

Professor Walmsley says, “Chlorhexidine is a relatively common ingredient in mouthwash. It’s extremely effective at killing bacteria, but it also tends to stain teeth, and that stain is difficult to remove. ‘

This ingredient is usually found in high strength mouthwashes for those with more problematic oral health such as the Corsodyl Gum Treatment and should not be used long term.

Other frequently asked questions about mouthwash:

Can children use mouthwash?

Mouthwash should not be used by young children, and under no circumstances should they be given mouthwash containing alcohol.

Some products say they are good for more than 6 years, although Public Health England (PHE) recommends that children eight years and older and young adults can use a mouthwash if they have active tooth decay (decay that develops over time Time has worsened).

But it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth. It’s harder to keep them from swallowing the mouthwash, and most importantly, building the habit of brushing regularly, visiting the dentist at least once a year, and eating a healthy diet.

Some ingredients in mouthwash can affect young children if swallowed. Sodium benzoate can increase hyperactive behavior, and sorbitol can have a laxative effect.

Therefore, it is important that mouthwash use is monitored when using it to prevent ingestion and that a child-friendly formulation is found.

Is “oil pulling” a substitute for mouthwash?

Oil pulling is a Process the oil around the mouth like mouthwash to remove bacteria and improve oral health.

It is an alternative medical practice that has its roots in Ayurvedic medicine.

However, the American Dental Association states that there is not enough research to support oral hygiene.

In fact, one study has linked oil pulling to recurrent lipoid pneumonia – a chemical lung disease caused by inhaling small amounts of oil.

* Oral Care: Top Products 2019, The Grocer and Nielsen.

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