Modern TV advertisements and product placement tell us to use mouthwash to prevent plaque (the yellowish film that attaches to your teeth and causes to cavities) and gingivitis (inflammation of gums). But the reality is that mouthwash actually plays a fairly minor role in the prevention of plaque and gum disease. Brushing and flossing are much more important.
Cavities, gingivitis, and bad breath are all caused by certain bacteria that live in the mouth of every individual. There is no way to eliminate these issues, but you can reduce their number and prevent the damage they can cause.
Mouthwash has a heritage that dates back thousands of years. Individuals have used rinses made with everything from betel leaves to dill and myrrh, dissolved in white wine. Today, most of the mouthwashes you find at your local drug stores are artificial and contain sweeteners for taste and colorings for that refreshing feeling. Many are often used with alcohol.
It’s true that mouthwash will make your breath smell better for a while. The real question is whether that’s achieved by killing off odor-producing bacteria or simply masking the problem. If that’s the case, mouthwash is no different than chewing on a breath mint.
On the flip side, research has found that two antibacterial ingredients most commonly used in mouthwashes reduce the levels of bacteria that produce bad breath. Also, other mouthwash ingredients, such as zinc and chlorine dioxide, neutralize other smelly compounds.