Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is caused by a breakdown of bacteria in the mouth, which produces foul-smelling sulphur compounds. This is the same type of compound that gives rotten eggs their characteristic nauseating stench. Although many of us often use mouthwashes to help control bad breath, are they really genuinely effective? To answer this question, a group of scientists reviewed five randomized studies which included a total of nearly 300 adults with halitosis. These studies compared the efficacy of various over-the-counter mouthwashes against that of placebos. The researchers concluded that these mouthwashes are in fact truly effective against bad breath, even though some of them can actually temporarily stain our teeth.
Two groups of mouthwashes were reviewed. The first group contained two antibacterial agents called chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium, and the second contained chlorine dioxide and zinc. The researchers concluded that antibacterial mouthwashes from the first group considerably reduced the levels of odour-causing bacteria on the tongue. Moreover, they found that the second group of mouthwashes effectively neutralized stinky sulphur compounds.
On the other hand, the scientists also revealed that mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine cause a temporary but noticeable discoloration of the tongue and teeth, and can also temporarily distort taste perception.
In the end, the ultimate weapon in the fight against bad breath remains good oral hygiene. Here is how you can rid yourself of foul-smelling breath: use dental floss daily; brush your teeth and gums thoroughly, at least twice a day or after every meal; brush your tongue to eliminate the whitish biofilm of bacteria responsible for bad breath; drink plenty of water to ensure adequate salivation; and when needed, use an antibacterial mouthwash. Because our mouths are inactive during the night, and salivation is at its lowest, we have to contend with the dreaded nasty morning breath. Consequently, antibacterial mouthwashes are likely more effective when we use them right before bedtime.