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Mouthwash is a fluid hygiene product recommended to help you with your oral health regime.  It has been used throughout history, reports date from 2700BC of the Chinese using a fluid to help clean the mouth.  Modern mouthwashes gained in popularity since the 1960’s with the discovery of chlorhexidine.  Generally mouth washes help to dislodge and food debris and freshen breath although there are some that have been specifically formulated to help you with certain problems. These include specialisations in anti-cavity formulas containing fluoride, dental plaque reduction and gum disease prevention.  Mouthwashes are not a brushing or flossing substitute.  You need to utilise all three to maintain a healthy mouth.

Use of Mouthwashes

  • Plaque prevention.  Plaque is colourless and builds up gradually on the tops and outer surface of your teeth.  It is essentially a film of organisms and bacteria that breed continuously and spread over your teeth.  If left unattended plaque transforms into a very hard substance called tartar that requires dental intervention to remove.  In extreme cases tartar build up can lead to tooth extraction as it provides an ideal breeding environment for the bacteria and organisms that constitute plaque, so leading to an endless cycle. 
  • Gum disease treatment.  Some infections and mouth problems can be alleviated using specialist mouthwashes high in Chlorhexidine content.  These can only be used in small amounts and shouldn’t be used over a long period of time.  Prolonged use can cause discolouration to the teeth, although if this occurs a hygienist can usually treat it quickly and effectively.
  • Freshening breath.  This is the usual reason for using mouthwash, most contain a breath freshening flavour such as mint. 

Mouthwash Ingredients

In the past Hippocrates gave the ingredients of mouthwash as being salt, alum and vinegar, luckily since then the ingredients have been advanced somewhat.

  • Alcohol – Alcohol is a commonly used ingredient in mouthwash, although not all contain it.  The use of alcohol helps to increase the antibacterial effect, as well as making the flavour more noticeable.  Mouthwashes containing alcohol must be kept away from children. 
  • Chlorhexidine – This is an antiseptic that helps to reduce gum disease any other infections within the mouth.
  • Thymol – A popular antiseptic that originates from the thyme plant.  Alike to Chlorhexidine this helps combat any infections or gum disease and kill bacteria. 
  • Eucalyptol – This is an anti-inflammatory that helps to clear your airways and produces a pleasant smell/fresh sensation.  It originates from the eucalyptus plant and is also used in cough and cold medicines.
  • Fluoride – This helps to combat tooth decay, cavities and also serves to strengthen your teeth. 
  • Calcium – This is sometimes included for the same reasons as fluoride, to help strengthen the teeth and avoid any cracks in teeth or cavities.
  • Sodium Benzoate – This is a preservative and helps to keep the mouthwash usable for a longer period of time. 
  • Sweeteners such as sodium saccharine and xylitol are also sometimes added to mouthwashes to make them more palatable. 

Mouthwash Problems

Irritation can be caused to people who suffer from acid reflux, heartburn or any similar conditions by the high acidity often found in mouthwashes.  To avoid this it is important that you use a mouthwash with a neutral pH balance.  It is very important to keep mouthwash away from children as it can poison them in extreme circumstances.  There have been a few links to higher risk of cancer if a mouthwash is used regularly, although tests have yet to prove this.  Generally mouthwash provides no extra risk, and will instead benefit your overall health by contributing to the well-being of your mouth.  Commercial Mouthwash Alternatives Homemade mouthwashes are renowned for helping with oral discomfort throughout time.  These are literally one teaspoon of salt dissolved into a cup of warm water, and can help ease any discomfort in the mouth.  Sesame and sunflower oils have also been used to good effect as a mouthwash substitute. 

Persica.  This is a herbal alternative originating from throughout the Indian continent.  It helps saliva production and has been proven to help combat oral health issues such as infection. 

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