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Mouthwash is an important step in effective oral hygiene because it kills plaque-causing bacteria, fights tooth decay and gum disease and freshens breath. Mouthwash hasn’t always been so effective, though, and the ingredients used to be very different.

The use of oral rinses dates back to ancient Roman times, when people knew little about what really causes plaque and bad breath. Archaic rinses included unconventional ingredients, such as urine, tortoise blood, goat milk and charcoal—anything that people thought might clean their mouths. Over time, people switched to more palatable ingredients, including olive juice and leaves, pomegranates and cold water.

Mouthwash as we know it today appeared in the 1800s, alongside toothpaste. Developers began using alcohol to stabilize the formula, as well as fight bacteria. Listerine, one of the more popular mouthwash brands, was created around this time. Mouthwash recipes eventually adopted more effective bacteria-fighting ingredients, such as cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), fluoride, sodium hexametephosphate and hydrogen peroxide.

Over the years, companies have split mouthwash into two categories: cosmetic and therapeutic.

Cosmetic: Cosmetic mouthwash temporarily reduces bad breath and leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth. It doesn’t address the causes of bad breath, such as plaque, gingivitis or cavities.

Therapeutic: Therapeutic mouthwash fights the bacteria that otherwise stays on the surface of the teeth and causes plaque, tooth decay and bad breath.

At Sterling Dental, we recommend using a mouthwash at least once a day to kill any bacteria leftover from brushing and flossing. If you’re unsure which mouthwash is best for you, contact Dr. Gregory J. Brandau at 941-926-9888 for a professional recommendation. You’re also welcome to visit our facility in Sarasota, Florida.