Dental Care

Mouth Rinse and Its Use

A little history about mouth rinse and other oral hygiene products

Which oral hygiene products do you have in your medicine cabinet?  More to the point, let's talk about the ones you actually use as well as the products you are considering for future purchases.

Mouth rinses date all the way back to 2700 BC, when the Chinese used them to treat problems with their gums.  Along the way to today's huge variety of rinses, early man tried everything from donkey's milk to urine to brandy and vinegar. 

By the 1800s chemists learned how to extract ammonia from urine, and ammonia sweetened with eucalyptus or peppermint oils sold as a popular mouthwash.  The first commercially marketed brand of mouthwash was Odol, the invention of a Swiss scientist named Joseph Lingner in 1893. 

Just a couple years later, two doctors marketed an antiseptic alcohol solution as a mouthwash.  They took their idea from the English surgeon who had pioneered the idea of sterilizing surgical instruments.  Although the surgeon was long gone, these doctors named their product after Dr. Joseph Lister, and their new product for washing floors, curing gonorrhea, and rinsing the mouth was a runaway hit. 

The company that sold Listerine actually invented the term halitosis.  They convinced the buying public that if they didn't use mouthwash, they would be hated for their halitosis. 

Halitosis or Bad Breath

Halitosis is most often caused by infection-whether it's the sinuses, lungs, throat or abscessed gums.  It can also result from bacteria grown from leftover food particles in the mouth, or from dry mouth that results from using tobacco or certain medications.  Some doctors also believe that bacteria associated with stomach ulcers are another cause of bad breath. 

Until the 1970s, Listerine was marketed for its ability to cure sore throats and colds as well as bad breath.  But in 1976 the Federal Trade Commission ordered its manufacturer to discontinue such advertising and to disclaim any ability to prevent sore throats and colds.  Some people still swear by it today, however, and its uses reach far beyond oral hygiene -all the way to toenail fungus.

Lavoris was the next successful commercial brand; its active ingredients combined zinc oxide and sodium hydroxide, which neutralized the odor of bacteria but did not kill them.  Its success resulted largely because it tasted much better than Listerine, and it led to the development of today's alternative palatable mouthwashes. 

Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic used in mouth rinses today, but it's available only by prescription.  If you've used Peridex or a similar product, you've tried chlorhexidine.  Cetyl pyridinium chloride is the active ingredient in many popular over-the-counter products.  Some dentists believe that chlorhexidine and cetyl pyridinium both eliminate the germs that cause bad breath, but they are also associated with tooth discoloration.  Careful brushing and flossing after use of any mouth rinse eliminates that problem.

Other Reasons to Use Mouth Rinse

Besides controlling bad breath, people use mouth rinse for a variety of other reasons. 

Rinses with fluoride are known to prevent tooth decay.  They benefit children, especially during their growing years, plus anyone whose drinking water is not fluoridated-people who use well water, for instance.  Fluoride rinses are also recommended for patients who experience dry mouth caused by certain medical conditions or medications, and they are also helpful for those undergoing chemo or radiation therapy. 

There are many brands of oral hygiene rinse today that advertise their ability to curtail buildup of plaque.  By extension, antimicrobial rinse also supposedly prevent gingivitis

The problem with them, however, is that they cannot be retained in the mouth long enough to be effective, unless you use special procedures. 

Anti-plaque mouthwashes are best used, then, whenever regular brushing cannot take place.  This could be someone who is recovering from illness and is not maintaining full hygiene, someone who has had a deep cleaning and wants to give their gums a day or two to heal, or someone who has just had jaw surgery. 

The message we take away from this is how important it is to learn proper brushing and flossing

Salt water mouthwash is useful for those with oral infections or sore throats.  Enough salt must be used to create what is called a hypertonic state -which dries out bacterial cells and then allows the body to fight off germs. 

And further on in the treatment of various types of mouth infections, we can find peroxide mouth water, which is widely used and effective when applied correctly.

Restorative Mouth Rinse

Restorative mouth rinses have risen in popularity and are believed to be very effective.  Dental experts recommend their use for replenishing the calcium needed to remineralize teeth and also to keep the mouth at the healthiest pH level for best oral health. 

Some people choose a mouthwash that helps reduce tooth sensitivity.  When your tooth enamel is thin or porous and you eat hot, cold, or very sweet foods, you are likely to experience discomfort.  Mouth rinses containing potassium nitrate disrupt the tooth's nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.

Many people use whitening rinses, and we'll talk about them in a separate section that deals specifically with whiteners.


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