The general purposes of mouth washes marketed today are to leave a pleasant after taste, reduce bacterial colonies, cavity prevention and dental whitening. These are all good reasons to use a mouthwash if the ingredients serve the purpose. Historically, all sorts of wild ingredients were thought to be beneficial. Science has shown that these early attempts sometimes were more harmful than good.
Unfortunately, even with the passage of time, if you read the labels of some popular commercial common mouth washes you will find some ingredients which can be harmful! The best ingredients are anti-bacterial without any toxic effects. If it stings, or burns, it does not follow that it is good for you!
Listerine which contains phenol and ethanol, for instance, was invented in the nineteenth century as surgical antiseptic. It was later marketed, in distilled form, as a floor cleaner, a cure for gonorrhea, and for dandruff.
The mouthwashes which contain ethanol, which is toxic to bacteria at concentrations of 40%, and to viruses at 60%, have ethanol concentrations of only 21.6% to 26.9%. At this concentration, the ethanol only serves to dissolve the active ingredients and is not particularly effective. Alcohol dries and changes the pH of the mouth and throat and long-term use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes increases the risk of mouth and throat cancers so for occasional use, are ok, but not for long term use.
Manufacturers have added other ingredients that can be undesirable as well. For example, one popular alcohol-free mouthwash has the ingredients: water, sorbitol solution, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, benzoic acid, sodium benzoate, poloxamer 407, sodium saccharin, flavor, sucralose, FD&C green no. 3. None of these ingredients serve the user well, they are only there for dilution, appearance, or taste. Each of these ingredients have clear warnings:
Propylene glycol is a cosmetic form of mineral oil found in automatic brake and hydraulic fluid and industrial antifreeze. The Material Safety Data Sheet warns users to avoid skin contact with propylene glycol as this strong skin irritant can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.
Sodium lauryl sulfate, (SLS) is similarly harmful as it dissolves the grease on car engines. Sodium lauryl sulfate also dissolves the oils on your skin, which can cause a drying effect. It is also well documented that it denatures skin proteins, which causes not only irritation, but also allows environmental contaminants easier access to the lower, sensitive layers of the skin. Perhaps most worryingly, SLS is also absorbed into the body from skin and mucosal application. Once it has been absorbed, one of the main effects of sodium lauryl sulfate is to mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen. This has many health implications and may be responsible for a variety of health problems.
It appears that sodium benzoate forms a chemical known as benzene when in the presence of vitamin C. Benzene not only causes damage to DNA, the genetic material, it’s also a known carcinogen and appears to play a role in a variety of diseases due to its DNA damaging capabilities.
Another reason sodium benzoate may be considered an unhealthy preservative is its effect on children. Some studies have shown that sodium benzoate along with artificial food colorings can cause children with ADHD to be more hyperactive.
Some chlorinated carbon molecules like sucralose serve as the basis for pesticides such as D.D.T. and accumulate in body fat. Sucralose (Splenda) is a chlorocarbon. Sucralose is made from sugar but is derived from sucrose (sugar) through a process that selectively substitutes three atoms of chlorine for three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sucrose molecule. Ingesting Sucralose may be like ingesting tiny amounts of chlorinated pesticides. The chlorocarbons have long been known for causing organ, genetic, and reproductive damage. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the testing of sucralose reveals that it can cause up to 40 percent shrinkage of the thymus: a gland that is the very foundation of our immune system. Sucralose also causes swelling of the liver and kidneys, and calcification of the kidney.
In contrast to the alcohol containing mouthwashes, some popular non-alcohol mouth rinses have other non-toxic ingredients. Some also contain questionable ingredients as well, so the label non-alcohol does not guarantee that it is nontoxic. For example, these include:
Non-alcohol Mouthwash 1
Active Ingredient: Aloe Vera 20%
Inactive Ingredients: Purified Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Echinacea, Goldenseal, Calendula, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors (contains cinnamon oil), Grapefruit Seed Extract, Olivamidopropyl Betaine (sourced from olives), Potassium Citrate, Copper Chlorophyllin Color.
Non-alcohol Mouthwash 2
CONTAINS: Deionized Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Extracts of Echinacea Angustofolia, Echinacea Purpurea, and Gotu Kola, Pure Essential Oils of Peppermint, Red Thyme, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Globulus and Lavender, Plant Saponins.
Non-alcohol Mouthwash 3
Water, Glycerin, Sorbitol, Aloe vera leaf juice, Propanediol (vegetable source)
Natural flavors, Natural oils derived from the leaves of mint and other aromatic plants.
Benzoic acid, Zinc chloride, Menthol,
Excess zinc has been found to contribute to anemia, neutropenia, fatigue, weakness, dizziness and even heart attack or stroke in some cases.
The rule of 'caveat emptor' applies to any purchase. Since all mouthwash ingredients are clearly labelled on each bottle, do your own research, and pick the mouthwash that is least harmful and most beneficial for your own daily use.