The mouth rinse industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and it is thriving quite well these days. There are all types of mouth rinses of which some cater to resolving bad breath conditions, while others are for preventing tooth decay, and some are geared towards preventing gum disease. Some mouth rinses even claim to prevent or treat all of the above. It is a very loosely regulated area and as a consequence many of the claims made by these companies about their products are often quite exaggerated. For simplicity let’s separate these products into three categories.

Products that prevent tooth decay are generally of good benefit to the average consumer.  These contain a mild concentration of fluoride that is a known compound for preventing tooth decay. Fluoride rinses are typically recommended to people who have a history of getting frequent cavities or for some reason are very prone to tooth decay. Fluoride mouth rinses are also recommended frequently for people who suffer from dry mouth conditions. The concentration of the over-the-counter fluoride rinses is less than that of the prescription grade fluoride products a dentist might normally prescribe. The difference really comes down to the fluoride concentration levels, with the prescription grade products having much higher fluoride concentrations. Fluoride is also know to have some benefit in preventing gum disease because it prevents the growth of the oral bacteria (bacteristatic), but doesn’t kill bacteria (bactericidal).  Over the years we have found a lot of patients using fluoride rinses in their attempts to resolve a halitosis condition. These have clearly proven to be ineffective and a waste of money.

Mouth rinses for treating or preventing gum disease are often very similar to the ones being used to treat halitosis. In fact many mouth rinses that claim to treat halitosis also claim to be able to treat gum disease or gingivitis. The effects of these products on even the mildest forms of gum disease are very limited at best because of their fairly weak bactericidal properties. If a dentist wishes for a patient to use a mouth rinse to treat or prevent gingivitis they will usually prescribe a stronger prescription grade mouth rinse, not an over-the-counter mouth rinse. These same over-the-counter mouth rinses offer virtually no benefit when trying to resolve a halitosis condition.

The last category of mouth rinses are the products that claim to treat bad breath. Within this category there are two subcategories: Those that contain alcohol and those that don’t contain alcohol. You can always tell the alcohol rinses apart from the non-alcohol rinses because they cause a burning sensation in the mouth, and the non-alcohol rinses do not do this. Both are just as affective as each other but the problem with the alcohol based mouth rinses will actually dry the mouth. As a result most people’s bad breath conditions will worsen very significantly shortly after using an alcohol mouth rinse. Unfortunately the burning sensation that the alcohol based mouth rinses only provides the impression to the user that the product is really strong and therefore more effective. In reality the alcohol provides no additional benefit. The only benefit the non-alcohol based mouth rinses have is they won’t dry the mouth. In the arena of mouth rinses for the treatment of halitosis we have found that there are a lot of very bold marketing claims consistently being made about these products but there is little real scientific evidence to support the claims being made. We always recommend our patients steer clear of these types of products.

About the author: Dr. Anthony Dailley is a practicing dentist that specializes in halitosis treatment. He has been practicing since 1981 and graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Cell & Molecular Biology, and obtained his dental degree from the Pacific School of Dentistry. Dr. Dailley founded the Center for Breath Treatment in the San Francisco Bay Area and conducts research on curing halitosis. Dr. Dailley has also been a founder in a biotech company called NovaBay Pharmaceuticals and on their board of directors from 1997 -2014.