Study Finds Mouthrinses Effective for Treating Bad Breath

Up to half of all Americans claim to suffer from halitosis, also known as bad breath.

There are many causes of bad breath, according to the American Dental Association. Certain foods (garlic and onions, for instance) contribute to objectionable breath odor. Dieters can also develop unpleasant breath from infrequent eating.

Tobacco products can also cause bad breath, as can certain medical disorders such as a local infection in the respiratory tract, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, or a liver or kidney ailment.

Without daily toothbrushing and flossing, particles of food can remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria and potentially causing bad breath. Food that collects between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums can rot, leaving an unpleasant odor.

"People who may have had bad breath don't necessarily have gum disease," said Dr. Zbys Fedorowicz from the Ministry of Health in Bahrain, lead author of a Cochrane Library report on treating halitosis with mouthrinses. "But most people who have gum disease will have bad breath."

Mouthrinses can either kill bacteria, neutralize it or mask the odors. Reviewing five randomized, controlled trials involving 293 participants using mouthrinses or a placebo, researchers found that rinses containing antibacterial agents can play an important role in reducing the levels of halitosis-producing bacteria on the tongue.

"We found that antibacterial mouthrinses, as well as those containing chemicals that neutralize odors, are actually very good at controlling bad breath," said Dr. Fedorowicz.

However, those products containing chlorhexidine, another antibacterial agent, resulted in noticeable but temporary staining of the tongue and teeth. "You can brush some of it off but between the teeth where the brush doesn't reach that well, it's quite adherent," said Dr. Fedorowicz of the staining.

Patients concerned about bad breath should consult their dentist for help in identifying the cause. If it's due to an oral condition, a dentist can develop a treatment plan to help eliminate bad breath. Maintaining good oral health is also essential. Schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Foul-smelling breath, usually caused by the breakdown of food. Other culprits include poor dental hygiene, dry mouth, disease, infection, tobacco use and severe dieting.


Most bad breath starts in your mouth, and there are many possible causes that include:

  • Food particles from stinky foods like garlic and onions
  • Smoking
  • Respiratory Infections
  • Acid Reflux
  • Poor Oral Hygiene

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