Over the counter mouthwash only temporarily masks your bad breath, but the alcohol contained in the mouthwash will dry your mouth out and eventually make your breath worse. Recent studies however have mentioned mouthwash and its potential link to cancer – scary!
Most mouthwash brands contain alcohol in their mouthwash formula. Rinsing your oral environment with any alcoholic substances make it easier for cancer-causing chemicals (like nicotine) to penetrate the oral tissue which lines the mouth, an extreme hazard for smokers. Some mouthwashes even contain alcohol amounts higher than drinks you can purchase in a bar, up to 26% (or 52 proof)! Particularly, ethanol contained in some mouthwash rinses dramatically increase the ability of cancer-causing substances to penetrate the lining of your mouth, and other harmful chemicals such as Acetaldehyde – which forms in a person’s mouth after using alcoholic mouthwash – are suspected to be carcinogenic. Some studies show an increased risk of oral cancer, particularly in the larynx, pharynx or oral cavity, of up to 5 times that of a non-alcoholic-mouthwash user, with alcohol and tobacco user risks even higher of up to 9 times, if alcoholic mouthwashes were used twice daily. Alcohol has long been established as a cancer risk; using alcoholic mouthwash, you have a much higher level of alcohol in your mouth, and combined with swishing it around in your mouth, it carries a very harmful effect on your mouth. More detailed research is necessary to substantiate these claims, but all alcoholic-mouthwash users should take caution.
Keep up your best oral hygiene with good habits: brush and floss twice a day and after every meal (2 minute count-down!), and clean your tongue once a day. Watch what you eat (no more Kimchi), and if you have postnasal drip or airway allergies (or a dry mouth), seek professional help. But what about mouthwash? Although it can benefit your oral cavity for a short period of time, not everyone should be rinsing with mouthwash that contains alcohol, particularly if you’re a smoker.
How do you choose a safe mouthwash? If you enjoy the refreshing sensation from swishing with mouthwash, read the label! There are non-alcoholic mouthwash products that work by neutralizing mouth odors (caused by volatile sulfur compounds) like Oxyfresh, Tom’s Maine Natural Cleaning Mouthwash, BreathRx and Tooth and Gum Tonic (my personal favorite), which is most effective at controlling bad breath. Tooth and Gum Tonic also carries an anti-inflammatory effect from the herbs and essential oil ingredients, which provide therapeutic sensations to gingivitis sufferers. And remember, if you can, quit unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking!