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Indiscriminate Use of Mouthwash Alone is not the Solution for Halitosis

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Indiscriminate Use of Mouthwash Alone is not the Solution for Halitosis

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Halitosis can be avoided by following proper dental hygiene practices that include using mouthwashes but alone it cannot cure halitosis. Read the below article.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Preetha. J

Published At October 31, 2016
Reviewed AtOctober 27, 2023


Mouthwashes are an important part of daily oral hygiene practices. Mouthwashes contain many ingredients that help eradicate bad smells coming from the mouth for a period of time. Whenever a person experiences a bad smell or breath emanating from the mouth, the next thing they do is go and buy a mouthwash to get rid of it. This goes on for one or two months, and when it reoccurs, then they give up on the fate or eventually decide on some expert opinion.

People need to give bad breaths more importance in their daily life as it can be due to a small cavity or food debris. But it can also be due to some serious systemic diseases like uncontrolled diabetes, and some liver and kidney problems. The underlying fact is that whenever a person has persistent bad breath, they need to consult a dentist for an expert opinion to rule out some causes such as tooth cavities, gingival or periodontal problems, gastric ulcers, poor digestion, some food items causing the problem, systemic diseases like diabetes, other conditions of liver, abdomen, lungs, and intestine.

Halitosis or bad smell coming from is a common problem affecting all genders, races, and ages. The malodorous smell is produced by many bacterias present in the mouth due to food lodgment and several other factors. Mouthwashes when used kill the bacteria and reduce its population. Also, it is stated by some researchers that the alcohol content in the mouthwash dries out of the mouth when the salivary glands dry, it gets difficult to wash away the bacteria producing the bad smell. It makes the situation of halitosis even worse.

What Is Halitosis?

Halitosis is a medical term for bad breath. Everyone suffers from bad breath from time to time, especially after eating garlic, onions, or any other strong foods. But bad breath that stays and does not go away such as chronic halitosis could mean the person has an oral health issue or a condition that is affecting another part of the body. The odor is so strong that other people notice it easily. This leads the person toward embarrassing situations and psychologically uncomfortable situations. Halitosis can be a social problem in which standard dental treatments and mouthwashes are frequently recommended to control oral causes and provide relief that usually needs constant maintenance. Oral malodor is mainly the impact of microbial metabolism. The mouth is home to several bacterial species with diverse nutritional preferences. These organisms digest proteins and then various odorous substances emerge, leading to foul breath. Oral malodor from the active growth of proteolytic, anaerobic gram-negative bacteria on the fissures of the tongue dorsum can be diagnosed and treated successfully.

What Are the Different Causes of Halitosis?

Halitosis does not always result from poor oral hygiene but may result from various other factors that may or may not be visible. When bad breath does not go away even after maintaining good oral hygiene then an expert’s opinion is needed. Several investigations are needed to be done at a certain level to find the root cause of halitosis.

Some of the Causes of Bad Breath are listed below:

  • Cavities in any tooth can be a good cause of bad breath, as the decaying food in the cavity causes a serious hygiene problem.

  • A dry mouth can be a condition inducing halitosis.

  • When food gets adhered to the person’s tonsils which are located in the back of the throat, it occasionally sets into calcium deposits called tonsil stones or tonsilloliths. It may also lead to a bad smell in the mouth.

  • Any gingival or periodontal problems like loose teeth or bleeding through the gums can also cause it.

  • Gastric ulcers and poor digestion are some causes.

  • Some specific food items like non-vegetarian food, onion, garlic, etc., are also responsible for it.

  • Systemic diseases like diabetes and any other conditions of the liver, abdomen, lungs, and intestine result in halitosis.

  • Improperly aligned teeth retain food debris leading to bad breath.

What Are the Ingredients of a Mouthwash?

Mouthwashes normally contain antiseptic ingredients like Benzalkonium chloride, antibiotic agents, essential oils that are used as flavors, alcohol, Sodium perborate, Zinc chloride, menthol, thymol, eucalyptol, glycerin, and boric acid. These substances can induce allergic reactions. Prolonged use of mouthwashes in which there is a high alcohol concentration may induce white lesions in the oral mucous membrane.

Why Using Mouthwash Is Not Enough to Eradicate Halitosis?

Some of the causes of halitosis are already listed above, and it can be observed that it does not only result from poor oral hygiene but also from various other reasons such as a few systemic illnesses.

  • Mouthwash helps in cleansing the oral cavity and may help in killing and reducing the bad breath-causing bacteria but it does nothing to cure other factors such as gastric ulcers or poor digestion which are commonly observed causes behind a foul-smelling breath.

  • Halitosis eradication relies on the root cause of the issue. For example, if the foul-smelling breath is due to a lack of good oral hygiene, dental cleaning and improved oral hygiene at home will probably help. Although if halitosis is a manifestation of another condition someplace else in the body, then the primary healthcare provider may help the person with proper diagnosis and treatment. So treatment of the underlying condition is a vital factor in the complete elimination of halitosis. If poor digestion is the root cause then improving the digestion can be one of the solutions to prevent halitosis.

  • Halitosis is a condition that has multifactorial etiologies. Blood-borne reasons usually are outcomes of metabolic processes that cast odorous volatile sulfur compounds and are taken by the bloodstream, transported to the lungs, and emitted while exhalation. Non-blood-borne reasons often arise from nasal and upper respiratory tract infections and diseases. Due to various reasons and root causes, using only mouthwash is not enough for curing halitosis.


The underlying fact is that whenever a person has persistent bad breath, the person needs to consult a dentist for an expert opinion to rule out some causes as listed above. Therefore, indiscriminate use of mouthwash is not the solution for halitosis. Recent studies show that indiscriminate use of mouthwash may kill the beneficial bacteria in the mouth, instead of attacking the decay and plaque-forming bacteria. It is always better to take prospective care than responding to later-stage infections and diseases, always think about taking precautions than later being forced to take treatment for diseases that could have been avoided by taking care of oral hygiene.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Does the Use of Mouthwash Reduces Halitosis?

Halitosis refers to bad breath produced by bacteria and stuck food particles. Using mouthwash containing antibacterial components like Chlorhexidine and Cetylpyridinium can help to eliminate bacteria causing bad-smelling breath. But it is a temporary solution for halitosis.


What Is the Treatment for Halitosis?

Following are the possible solutions helping in the treatment of halitosis -
- Brushing twice a day with fluoride-containing toothpaste.
- Interdental flossing once a day.
- Using tongue cleaner.
- Maintain a diet plan.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Regular dental checkups.


Which Mouthwash Is Best Suited for Halitosis?

Mouthwash is very effective in halitosis, though they are not a permanent solution.
Following are the best-suited mouthwash for halitosis -
- Mouthwash containing Cetylpyridinium. It has antibacterial properties which help to kill the bacteria present in the mouth.
- Sodium fluoride helps to prevent the tooth from decaying.
- Chlorine dioxide is used in halitosis and helps to reduce bad breath-causing bacteria.
- Hydrogen peroxide-containing mouthwash helps to heal the periodontal problem with its oxygenating properties.


How to Prevent Halitosis?

Halitosis is a preventable condition. Following are the ways to prevent halitosis -
- Brushing your teeth twice a day.
- Floss once a day.
- Clean your tongue.
- Use Mouthwash regularly.
- Maintain your diet.
- Regular dental checkups.


How to Cure Halitosis?

Halitosis is a curable condition by practicing good oral hygiene.
- Opting for good oral habits and maintaining oral hygiene, using floss and mouthwash, and drinking plenty of water.
- Dental treatments like oral prophylaxis, scaling, and restoration.


What Are the Signs of Halitosis?

The main feature of halitosis is bad breath. If an individual tries to smell their breath or gets a complaint about their bad breath while talking, even after brushing their teeth. This condition should not be ignored, and an affected individual should seek a dental checkup.


Why Does the Use of Mouthwash in Halitosis Worsen the Condition?

Excessive Use of mouthwash can worsen the condition of halitosis because some of the mouthwash may contain 25 % of alcohol which causes dryness of the mouth and produces bad-smelling breath.


How to Investigate Halitosis?

Halitosis can be investigated by examining the patient’s history. An organoleptic measurement is one of the most common and effective ways to investigate halitosis, and it involves smelling the odor from the nose by exhaling air from the mouth. BANA (Microbial enzymatic N-benzoyl-DL-arginine-2-naphthylamide) test is also commonly used by the dentist to diagnose halitosis by taking a swab from the tongue and incubating it at 55 degrees for 5 minutes.


What Is the Use of Mouthwash?

Mouthwash is used for maintaining oral hygiene. Using mouthwash is recommended once a day for cleansing purposes. It also helps in saving teeth from decaying and eliminates bad-smelling breath.


What Is the Classification of Halitosis?

Halitosis is classified into three types -
- Genuine halitosis.
- Pseudo-halitosis.
- Halitophobia.


When Should I Use Mouthwash?

Mouthwash containing fluoride protects the tooth from decay and also eliminates the bad-smelling breath. An individual should not use mouthwash just after brushing their teeth; it may remove the deposited concentrated fluoride from the toothpaste. The right time for using mouthwash is after lunch.


Is It Possible That Using Mouthwash Can Cause Tongue Burning?

Mouthwash may contain 18% - 26% of alcohol which may lead to the burning sensation in the oral mucosa of cheeks, tongue, and gums. A burning sensation can be a result of the content use of alcohol-containing mouthwash.


How Does Mouthwash Help in Whitening My Teeth Color?

Yes, use mouthwash containing hydrogen peroxide once or twice a day for a month. It will help in teeth whitening. It is also recommended to avoid the use of dark-colored mouthwash; It may stain the enamel of the teeth.


When to Use Water After Using Mouthwash?

Using mouthwash containing fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay, so it is recommended to avoid the use of water after mouthwash.
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Dr. Naveen Thomas
Dr. Naveen Thomas



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