Harvard Health Letter

A wash worth its while?

Certain ingredients in some brands of mouthwash may help prevent bad breath, but some experts think that using a toothbrush on the tongue is more effective. Some bad breath experts say that most of the bacteria responsible for the problem reside in a small area near the back of the tongue, and that using a toothbrush to brush them away is more effective than rinsing with a mouthwash. On the other hand, a 2008 review of the existing research (only five studies passed muster) concluded that two of the antibacterial agents most commonly used in mouthwashes, cetylpyridinium chloride and chlorhexidine, may reduce the levels of halitosis-producing bacteria, and that other ingredients (zinc, chlorine dioxide) may neutralize smelly sulfur compounds.
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