What's In Your Mouthwash?

The best ones go beyond minty-fresh breath.

Find your germ-fighting, tooth-strengthening staple here.

Pick the Right Rinse

They're not one-size-fits-all. Step up your swish-and-spit game by choosing a mouthwash that will handle your top issues.

  • Fresh Breath: Look for antiseptic ingredients like cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) or zinc chloride, which kill bad-breath germs instead of just masking them.
  • Healthy Gums: Stick to a product that targets plaque bacteria, which can cause gingivitis. Look for CPC or a combo of four essential oils including menthol and eucalyptus.
  • Strong Teeth: Grab a rinse with sodium fluoride. The naturally occurring mineral fortifies teeth to prevent cavities and protect against acid.

Know This About Natural Ones

Some ingredients, like zinc chloride, are already naturally derived. Rinses explicitly labeled as "natural" usually do not contain artificial flavors and preservatives. In any case, always choose one with the ADA seal to make sure it's effective.

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Did you know you can soak your toothbrush in mouthwash for seven minutes to sanitize it?

Whitening Washes: What to Expect

Mouthwashes with hydrogen peroxide (an effective whitening ingredient) can remove some surface stains, but they don't spend enough time in contact with your teeth to do too much. You'll need OTC whitening strips to see a big shift.

Should I Worry About Alcohol?

Short answer: No. Studies have not found a link between the ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol) in mouthwash and any health concerns. Still, alcohol may sting and doesn't add any germ-killing benefits to rinses. (It acts mostly as a solvent to keep ingredients from separating.) It can also worsen dry mouth, so if your tongue feels sandpapery, go for a product without it. People with a history of alcohol abuse should also avoid it.

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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