Mouthwash is known by many names – mouth rinse, oral rinse, or mouth bath.
It is a liquid, usually an antiseptic solution, which is gargled as an added cleansing agent and a proposed solution to dental concerns.
Mouthwash traces its history to about 2,700 B.C. in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine where the first known references to the practice for the treatment of gingivitis were found.
During the Greek and Roman periods, mouth rinsing has become a common practice among upper classes, with the Father of Medicine Hippocrates recommending the use of salt, alum, and vinegar mixture.
Rabbinic Judaism text Talmud, which dates back about 1,800 years, contained suggestion on curing gum diseases by dough water and olive oil. Native North American and Mesoamerican cultures were also found to have used mouthwashes made from plants before the arrival of Europeans.
The year 1892 saw the invention of Odol, a mouthwash product by Richard Seifert. Odol was produced by Karl August Lingner, a company founder from Dresden. In the late 1960s, then-professor at the Royal Dental College in Denmark Harald Loe demonstrated the potential of chlorhexidine compound to prevent plaque buildup.
The following years saw the increase in commercial interest on mouthwashes which continually progressed. Mouthwash variants in the United States alone have jumped from 15 in the 70s to 113 in 2012.
Types and Uses of Mouthwash
There are two main types of mouthwash namely the cosmetic and the therapeutic types.
- Therapeutic mouthwashes have active ingredients intended to control and reduce bad breath, gum disease, plaque buildup, and dental caries. These mouthwashes have active ingredients such as cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorhexidine, essential oils, fluoride, and peroxide. Therapeutic mouthwashes are available over-the-counter or by prescription.
- Cosmetic mouthwashes have no chemical or biological application beyond temporary benefit. These mouthwashes can temporarily control bad breath.
Mouthwashes are designed to address dental issues like bad breath, plaque and gingivitis, tooth decay, a whitening agent, and as a topical pain relief.
- Bad breath. Therapeutic mouthwashes like antimicrobials can be a long-term solution to halitosis or bad breath because of their chlorhexidine, chlorine dioxide, cetylpyridinium chloride, and essential oil formulations. Other agents contained in these mouthwashes such as zinc salts, ketone, terpene, and ionone can also inhibit odor-causing compounds. On the one hand, cosmetic mouthwashes only temporarily mask of bad breath by providing a pleasing flavor but do not fight off volatile Sulphur compounds (VSCs) which are contributing factor to bad breath.
- Plaque and Gingivitis. The antimicrobial ingredients of mouthwashes reduce plaque and the incidence of gingivitis as chlorhexidine allows better plaque control.
- Tooth decay. Fluoride ions in mouthwashes can help in the remineralization of teeth and reduce tooth decay.
- Topical pain relief. Anesthetics like lidocaine, benzocaine hydrochloride, phenol, etc. which are present in mouthwashes can offer pain relief.
- Whitening. Active ingredients like carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide can contribute to staining reduction on teeth.
The uses and benefits of mouthwashes are most effective with the combined effects of brushing, flossing and a routine check-up with your dentist. Rinsing with mouthwash is not recommended for children below six years old because swallowing reflexes have yet to be developed at this age.