Ah, the “dentist recommended” routine that hardly anyone ever follows – floss, brush and rinse with mouthwash. While most people don’t do all three, you probably have a bottle of mouthwash laying around for those quick situations where you want your breath at its best but don’t have the time to brush your teeth. Mouthwash was made popular by marketing geniuses who made it seem like an essential part of your oral health. However, sorry to break it to you but it isn’t. Those 30 seconds, although effective in killing most bacteria is not only as beneficial as it’s made out to be but may also be detrimental in the long run. Here’s why.
Harmful Ingredients in Typical Mouthwash
It has been a hot topic of debates in the last few years, but essentially fluoride is proven to be quite useless in terms of its benefits and potentially harmful in the long run. 57 studies took place to find if there’s a relationship between overexposure to fluoride and human intelligence. 50 of those studies found that elevated levels of exposure can lead to lower IQ. 37 of 39 studies revealed that fluoride may affect learning and memory capacity in animals. Fluoride is not a nutrient and a matter of fact, 97% of Western Europe has rejected fluoridation in water.
Linked to: impaired intelligence, osteoarthritis, skeletal fluorosis, cancer, impaired glucose tolerance & more.
2. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sulfates are very common in beauty products and oral care. They are used to produce the most important function of those products – bubbles. However, sulfates can irritate your skin, hair, and eyes. Often even produce severe chemical allergic reactions. Also, they have the ability to strip your hair of essential oils that it needs to be healthy.
Linked to: skin irritation, allergic reactions.
3. Cetylpyridinium Chloride (CPC)
CPC is added to mouthwash because it is said to reduce calculus, plaque and kill bacteria. Now here’s something interesting. The listed side effects of this compound include staining of the teeth, altered taste, and an increase in calculus formation. So while “helping” your mouth, you are simultaneously doing the opposite.
Linked to: increase in calculus formation, altered taste buds, staining of teeth
Triclosan is used for its antimicrobial properties. Triclosan is shown to interfere with muscle function and alter hormone regulation. Interestingly enough, in 1969, Triclosan was registered as a pesticide with the EPA.
Linked to: disrupted muscle function, altered hormone regulation
5. Chlorhexidine Gluconate
Used to reduce bacteria in the mouth and sometimes to treat gingivitis.
Linked to: tooth & tongue staining, increased tartar, altered taste buds, dry mouth, and mouth irritation
Used as an antiseptic that kills some germs that promote bad breath, gingivitis, and cavities. Famous brands such as Listerine use this as part of their “inactive” ingredients.
Linked to: increased risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancers, oral pain, corroded fillings and drying out of the mucosal tissue in the gums and inner cheeks.
7. Artificial Dyes
Used to make mouthwash look more appealing. Famously utilized by Listerine.
Linked to: depends on which dyes are used, but for example, red #40 used by Listerine has been shown to reduce reproduction and decrease brain weight in rats and increase hypersensitivity in children. Many other artificial dyes used in mouthwashes have also been linked to serious health hazards.
Killing 99.9% of Bacteria is Not a Benefit
How many times have you seen it on the label of your mouthwash – “kills 99.9% of bacteria”? Bacteria has been advertised to us as the nemesis of good health. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Without bacteria, you wouldn’t be alive. There’s good bacteria and bad bacteria. While bad bacteria may be associated with decay and infections, good bacteria plays a vital role in your body and mouth. To put simply, just like nature depends on every single animal and organism to do their part, your body depends on each of the tiny functions performed by each part of your body. Bacteria, although extremely tiny, play an essential role in your body’s ecosystem.
We shouldn’t be promoting a sterile mouth, instead of maintaining or improving the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria. We should preserve good bacteria for their beneficial activities when it comes to oral health.
Listerine is by far the most popular product on the market when it comes to mouthwashes. Dentists give it out regularly and everyone seems to be sold on the 30 seconds to kill 99.9% of the germs. In reality, Listerine contains alcohol, fluoride, SLS, artificial coloring and more. These ingredients have been linked to a long list of effects that can have a real impact on your health. Don’t focus on the label and its supposed benefits. The truth is, the majority of people use it to freshen their breath or to prevent teeth decay, all of which can be done by much healthier alternatives without the harmful side effects of commercial mouthwash such as Listerine.
Here are the ingredients listed in one of the Listerine bottles (we’ve highlighted the ingredients we mentioned before):
Active: Sodium fluoride 0.02% (0.01% w/v fluoride ion)
Inactive: Water, sorbitol, alcohol (21.6%), poloxamer 407, sodium lauryl sulfate, flavor, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate, thymol, phosphoric acid, menthol, disodium phosphate, sucralose, FD&C Red No. 40, FD&C Blue No. 1
Here’s The Deal
A lot of these ingredients are found in our mouthwash because FDA deems them generally safe. However, these ingredients can still produce side effects in the short run and are very detrimental to your health in the long run. Studies have linked them to a variety of health issues (as listed in the “linked to” sections). It wouldn’t be the first time that the FDA has deemed chemicals safe in the past, which turned out to be anything but. And vice versa. Also, most of these ingredients may not only cause adverse effects to us but the environment as well. Many of these ingredients end up in aquatic environments which they are toxic in.
Most importantly, there are better natural alternatives. The best way to take charge of your health is to limit the number of chemicals you are exposed to every day. Your mouth is a great place to start. If you want us to research natural alternatives, drop us a comment below.