Do you remember those commercials that told you to suffer through your mouthwash routine? Well, a lot of us still follow that regimen. After all, mouthwash kills harmful bacteria in the mouth and leaves your breath smelling minty fresh… right?
Not exactly. While mouthwash does kill bacteria, it doesn’t distinguish between harmful bacteria and the helpful flora that live in your mouth. Since antibacterial mouthwashes can wipe out all of the good bacteria, the bad bacteria come back at a different rate, making the problem of bad breath even worse.
Antibacterial mouthwashes can have even more adverse effects for some people due to their destruction of the oral microbiome. The oral microbiome is an essential part of a healthy gut microbiome, so blasting bacteria in the mouth can have repercussions on your digestion and even cardiovascular health (through disruption of nitric oxide production).
If we think of the gastrointestinal tract as a river, then the mouth is the source of that river. What you do in the mouth sets the stage for everything that comes after in the gastrointestinal tract and in the whole body.
The alcohol in most mouthwashes also dries out your mouth, which can make bad breath even worse, since saliva is what maintains a healthy pH in the mouth. Without saliva, bad bacteria run rampant and encourage halitosis (that’s the technical term for bad breath). The drying effects of mouthwash can even increase your risk of oral cancer, according to some studies.
But maybe you’re one of those people who loves their mouthwash routine and the fresh feeling it gives you. Especially if you’ve already transitioned to a better toothpaste that doesn’t have that super-minty flavor, you might not be entirely ready to give up mouthwash, and that’s okay.
There are a few products that aren’t as harmful as some of the bigger conventional brands (though in all honesty, you’re really spitting the money you invested in the product down the drain no matter what, as far as oral health is concerned).
When you’re picking a better mouthwash, go for something made with natural ingredients and avoid the following ingredients:
- Chlorine dioxide
- Cocamidopropyl betaine
- Poloxamer 407
Here are a few products we like for their all-natural approach to making your mouth taste and smell a little bit sweeter:
This alcohol-free mouthwash from Australian skincare line Aesop boasts a pleasant flavor combo of clove bud, aniseed, and spearmint. No alcohol is used in this mouthwash, though it does use essential oils, which tend to kill bacteria as well, so be wary of using this product too often.
Oral Essentials is a dentist-formulated mouthwash made with Dead Sea salt, well known for its rich mineral content. This ingredient can actually help remineralize your teeth (remineralization is the process of restoring minerals to your teeth). This mouthwash also contains holy basil oil, a known adaptogen (a substance considered helpful in helping the body adapt to stress), and aloe vera juice, which is renowned for its soothing and healing properties.
Georganics Coconut Pulling Mouthwash
This mouthwash was formulated in accordance with an ancient Ayurvedic remedy for bad breath known as oil pulling. The mouthwash has a light coconut aroma thanks to organic coconut oil.
Georganics Organic Coconut Oil Pulling Natural Mouthwash, 30 day supply
TheraBreath Oral Rinse
This dentist-designed mouthwash uses OXYD-8, a patented form of ClO2, as an oxygenating agent. Along with peppermint essential oil, this substance kills germs to freshen breath, so be wary of overuse.
Auromere Ayurvedic Mouthwash
This mouthwash is made with neem, also known as the Indian toothbrush tree. Studies have shown that neem is as powerful for mouth health as chlorhexidine (a common disinfectant and antiseptic) without being nearly as dangerous.
The Natural Dentist Antigingivitis Mouthwash
This mouthwash is specially designed for sensitive gums that have a tendency to bleed. Containing 20% aloe vera, along with Echinacea, calendula, and a touch of cinnamon, this mouthwash will quickly soothe any painful gums.
You can also make your own homemade mouthwash very simply with distilled water and baking soda. No need to add essential oils as they kill bacteria and could be harmful. Add sea salt to the combo for more mineralizing properties, though this mixture may be a bit less palatable. Then again, if you’ve been spending years swishing strong alcohol solutions, then a natural mix of baking soda, water, and salt should be a breeze! Of all the mouthwashes, this one is my favorite for its safety and efficacy in the mouth—and you won’t feel bad when you spit it down the drain!
Dr. Mark Burhenne
Still have questions about switching to an all-natural mouthwash? Let me know in the comments below!