From Our 2008 Archives

Mouthwashes Really Do Fight Bad Breath

Study Shows Type of Mouthwash Can Make a Difference in Beating Halitosis

By Kelley Colihan
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 7, 2008 -- A new review of studies delves into how to beat bad breath (halitosis) -- and gives high marks to mouthwashes.

Researchers led by Zbys Fedorowicz from the Bahrain Ministry of Health reviewed results from five studies with participants who were randomly given mouthwashes or placebo; 293 people in Thailand, the U.S, the Netherlands, Spain, and Israel took part.

According to background information provided by the researchers, halitosis is widespread around the world: Up to half of people in the U.S. say they have bad breath, 50-60% of people in France complain of it, and 24% of Japanese say it's a problem.

The participants in the data review were adults over 18 years old who did not have any serious chronic gum or mouth diseases or other conditions such as diabetes, which can bring on bad breath.

The studies were two, four, or six weeks long.

What researchers found when they compared data is that the type of mouthwash can make a difference in either masking or eliminating bad breath.

"We found that antibacterial mouth rinses, as well as those containing chemicals that neutralize odors, are actually very good at controlling bad breath," Fedorowicz says in a news release.

But researchers also found that mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine can temporarily stain the teeth and tongue and reduce taste in one trial.

Researchers also found:

  • Mouthwash containing antibacterial ingredients such as chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium did the job of getting rid of bad breath better than a placebo. This is likely due to decreasing the amount of bacteria in the mouth responsible for bad breath.
  • Mouthwash with chlorine dioxide and zinc helped to wipe out bad smells by neutralizing them.

Bad breath is caused by bacteria and traces of food that collect in the back of and creases of the tongue.

Researchers write that these particles and bacteria then "break down into volatile sulphur compounds," which are responsible for the smell.

SOURCES: The Cochrane Library, Oct. 8, 2008, issue 4. News release, EurekAlert.

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