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Mouthwash With Or Without Alcohol: Which One Works Better?

March 06, 2020 3 min read

Mouthwash is no doubt one of the most popular oral hygiene products out there. This isn’t really a shock to anyone as bad breath is considered one of the most embarrassing problems anyone can have. A few stains on your teeth can go away with just a few wipes of tissue, but bad breath can last for almost the entire day. In fact, you might not even realize just how bad your breath smells until someone kindly (or unkindly) points it out.

A lot of people try their best to avoid bad breath by rinsing with a few cups of mouthwash every morning and night. Most mouthwashes on the market can and do in fact lessen your risks of developing halitosis and other dental hygiene problems, such as cavities and gingivitis.

Antiseptic mouthwashes, i.e. mouthwashes with alcohol, are what we’re most likely to pick off the shelf. They’re usually designed to kill and stave off bacteria that can cause bad breath and other nasty oral health problems. However, more and more people have begun to promote the use of alcohol-free mouthwashes as they’re said to be safer for your oral and overall health. Here are a few factoids to consider when deciding what mouthwash to use every day.

Is It Really Dangerous?

Most mouthwashes use trace amounts of ethanol to kill off odor-causing germs and bacteria. This is what usually causes that slight sting and dehydrated sensation you feel in your mouth after you gargle.

You might have stumbled upon a few fear mongers on the web spinning stories about mouthwashes that can cause cancer, intoxication, and so on. There’s no need to panic and throw out your bottle of mouth wash, however. Studies claiming that mouthwash leads to oral cancer have been found to be inconclusive and severely lacking in evidence. In other words, there’s simply not enough proof to back up the bold claim that mouthwash can lead to deadly oral cancer.

Mouthwash intoxication is another scary problem that you might have heard about on and off the internet. It’s not uncommon to hear of stories about people using bottles upon bottles of mouthwash as a substitute for beer and Tequila. Although most mouthwashes combine ethanol with other ingredients to lessen any risk of intoxication, they can still become prone to abuse.

You don’t have to worry about getting drunk or poisoned after gurgling a few cups of mouthwash. Mouthwash intoxication isn’t likely to occur unless you’ve swallowed several bottles containing more than 25% alcohol content. Mouthwashes with a higher percentage of alcohol content are considered generally safe for public use, however, you might be better off avoiding them altogether if you’re concerned about any risk of relapse or intoxication.

Does It Really Work Better?

Mouthwashes with alcohol are often designed to eliminate bacteria without discrimination. Trying to get rid of all the bacteria in your mouth can actually increase your chances of bad breath since you’re effectively removing the “checks-and-balances” system from your teeth and gums. Without any good bacteria to keep them at bay, bad bacteria can easily take over and become even more harmful than before.

A lot of people think of bacteria as harmful and just gross, but this isn’t always the case. Certain kinds of bacteria can actually be quite beneficial for your oral health. Streptococcus salivarius K12, for instance, can eliminate harmful bacteria in your mouth and stave off bad breath.

Non-alcoholic mouthwashes aren’t designed to be as quick and abrasive as mouthwashes with alcohol, but they do a better job of keeping good bacteria alive. Since these mouthwashes aren’t too rough on the teeth, they don’t risk eroding your teeth structure and gums, either.

Another advantage of non-alcoholic mouthwash is that it doesn’t inhibit healthy saliva production. Our mouths need to produce saliva not only to help with food consumption but also to keep our teeth and gums in healthy shape. Most mouthwashes with alcohol content often cause dry mouth—an oral health problem that can lead to bacteria growth, as well as problems with bad breath.

Overall, mouthwashes with alcohol aren’t any less effective than non-alcoholic mouthwashes. They just have a few more risks since they tend to be more abrasive on the teeth, gums, and mouth. Non-alcoholic mouthwashes are generally safer to use since they don’t dry out your mouth or kill bad bacteria, but they can also take much longer to work. The choice of which one to use really depends on your own personal preferences.


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