If you are like most people then somewhere in your bathroom is a bottle of mouthwash. You might use it occasionally when you want to cover up the bad breath of some strongly flavored food you have just eaten or use it everyday as part of your oral care routine. No matter your reason for using mouthwash it is important to understand that it does not really stop bad breath because it does not kill the bacteria in your mouth that are the underlying cause. Used properly, however, it can be part of the solution.
Whatever your favorite brand of mouthwash may be it will likely contain a very high percentage of alcohol unless you have objections and have specifically sought out an alcohol free mouthwash. Many people are seeking out these new products in an attempt to avoid the alcohol and new products are entering the market making it easier to find an alternative. Even this high level of alcohol, however, does not kill off oral bacteria but is rather used to facilitate the action of the other main ingredients. Certain substances such as essential oils will not dissolve in water and thus alcohol must be used in order to keep them in solution and allow them to get to the areas of your mouth where they are needed to aid in the removal of plaque. The high levels of alcohol in mouthwash have been accused of drying out your mouth if used too frequently and encouraging the growth of bacteria that cause bad breath but studies have shown that this is not the case.
If you are like most people, your first concern is not what the ingredients are in your mouth wash but rather whether or not it really works to help you. Mouthwash can be a very effective part of a daily oral hygiene regimen and help to prevent other conditions such as gingivitis, but as a treatment for bad breath mouthwash simply acts as a cover up and a short term one at that. To get rid of the bacteria in your mouth that release sulfur containing compounds that are at the source of most bad breath problems requires a complete plan of attack that includes brushing several times a day, flossing at least daily, and the use of a mouthwash or rinse to aid in removing the food particles and bacteria from the mouth that brushing and flossing have loosened. The tongue is a chief growth area for bacteria so many people also add a tongue scraper to their routine to aid even further in getting rid of the bacteria.
Mouthwash should be treated as part of the solution if you are suffering from bad breath, but not the entire solution. It can give you that fresh mouth feeling for a short period of time but the problem will return if you do not eliminate the source. Make sure that you choose a mouthwash that has been approved by the ADA and has a pleasant, agreeable taste. Choosing a mouthwash that you enjoy will ensure its continued use as part of a well rounded oral care program that will encourage healthy teeth and a healthy mouth.