Nobody wants to be the person with bad breath, but that quick swish of mouthwash before you head out the door might actually be making your bad breath, and overall health, worse in the long run.
Today we’re talking about the research-backed link between mouthwash, bad breath, poor oral health, reduced nitric oxide production, and, get this…heart disease!
We’re also covering what you can do to combat bad breath at its source using tips from my dear friend and Functional Dentist Dr. Mark Burhenne.
Let’s jump in!
Mouthwash Is Not Good for Bad Breath
Similar to the effect antibiotics have on our gut microbiome, mouthwash kills both the good and the bad bacteria in our oral microbiome. The right balance of good bacteria in our mouth serves a very important purpose: to protect us from gum disease, tooth decay, cavities, and even bad breath! 🤯
Additionally, according to askthedentist.com, the high alcohol content in mouthwash dries out your mouth, causes pH imbalances, and reduces saliva production, inhibiting the delivery of nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin K2 that keep our teeth healthy and strong.
Why would mouthwash companies create a product that removes the very things we need to keep our mouths healthy? And why are conventional dentists still recommending we use it? It’s a good question, and the truth is, we don’t know.
It might seem like a conspiracy, but I do believe the original intentions behind mouthwash were good. Knowing what we do now about its negative side effects (read on for more), it’s most likely being kept alive by two things: profiteering and a general sense of incompetence.
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The Mouth-Body Connection
Most people are unaware of the impact our oral microbiome has on the rest of our body, and it’s a big one! Bad bacteria cause gum disease and inflammation. Good bacteria protect our teeth and gums and produce nitric oxide—the supermolecule that enhances immunity, sleep, insulin sensitivity, exercise performance, and cognitive function and helps regulate blood pressure (1-5).
Some Compelling Research on the Effects of Mouthwash
A study of over 500 participants found that frequent mouthwash users (two times per day) had double the risk of high blood pressure compared to non-users (2). Another three-year study of 950 healthy participants found that in twice-daily mouthwash users, 30 percent went on to develop prediabetes or diabetes (6).
Furthermore, a 2022 review paper showed that the use of mouthwash before a workout can have a negative impact on performance and the cardiovascular benefits we get from exercise (5). With these unintended consequences of mouthwash, you’re better off getting to the root cause of bad breath and correcting it at its source.
Get to the Root Cause of Bad Breath
Poor oral hygiene (i.e., not brushing and flossing twice a day) and eating a diet that’s rich in simple carbs, refined sugars, and processed food and beverages causes the overgrowth of bad bacteria in your mouth, resulting in bad breath.
And when your gut microbiome is out of balance (typically from a bad diet, antibiotics, infection, etc.), it can cause your breath to smell too. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, or H. pylori or Giardia infection are a few potential root causes here.
Functional Dentist Dr. Steven Lin has an amazing resource on the gut-focused root causes of bad breath. If you have any of the above conditions and experience bad breath, working with a Functional Medicine doctor can help correct the root cause.
- Clean up your diet. So, first things first, minimizing simple starches and sweets in your diet will help rebalance the oral microbiome to promote better breath.
- Stop using traditional mouthwash. The verdict is in: mouthwash is not doing your oral health any good. Throw traditional mouthwash in the trash and replace it with good oral hygiene, daily flossing, and brushing with fluoride-free toothpaste.
- Toothpaste recommendation: Boka. Boka toothpaste uses hydroxyapatite, an alternative to fluoride that many dentists recommend because it remineralizes, strengthens, and cleans teeth. It’s also oral microbiome friendly and nontoxic, and it brightens your smile without harsh whitening agents.
- Floss recommendation: Did you know that many flosses are coated with Teflon or petroleum? It’s not worth freaking out about, but there are cleaner options out there, like this floss from Boka that’s coated in beeswax.
- Tongue scraping. Tongue scraping is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that’s been around for centuries that gets rid of any bad bacteria and promotes fresh breath and good oral hygiene. I’ve been tongue-scraping every morning for years, and it works. My wife will back me up on this, she definitely notices a difference when I forget to do it some mornings. Here’s a link to one that’s highly rated on Amazon.
- Dental Herb mouthwash. If you want to use a mouthwash for fresh breath that doesn’t disrupt your oral microbiome, my dentist’s office recommends this tooth and gum tonic by Dental Herb. It is a little expensive and not totally necessary for good oral hygiene if you’re using my tips above. Dental Herb is alcohol free and uses all-natural herbs and spices that are totally safe if you’re not ready to let go of your mouthwash just yet!
Listerine’s slogan is: “Kills germs that cause bad breath.”
But what it should say, in my opinion, is: “Kills germs that cause bad breath AND good breath.”
Probably wouldn’t do as well, would it?
Mouthwash was originally developed with good intentions (like most things), but now, knowing what we do, there are better options to take care of our oral microbiome and promote good oral health.
What are your thoughts on mouthwash? Have you ever tried tongue scraping? Reply back to this email and let me know!
Here’s to your health,