Debunking The Myth: Do Mouthwashes Really Eliminate Bad Breath?

Debunking The Myth: Do Mouthwashes Really Eliminate Bad Breath?

Did you know that more than half of South Africans suffer from bad breath, medically known as halitosis? While mouthwashes have become popular as a staple of oral hygiene routines, the question remains: do they really eliminate halitosis?

Read on to discover more about mouthwashes, their effectiveness in combating halitosis, and some tips for keeping your breath fresh.

Understanding the Culprits Behind Bad Breath

Before we dive into the world of mouthwashes, it’s important to understand what causes halitosis. Here are some of the common culprits:

Poor Oral Hygiene

Inadequate oral hygiene is the most common cause of bad breath. When food particles and bacteria linger in your mouth, they release unpleasant odours.

Dry Mouth

Saliva protects teeth and gums and helps keep breath fresh. Bad breath is one symptom of xerostomia, or dry mouth.


Foods like garlic and onions contain pungent oils that can lead to temporary bad breath.

Tobacco Use

Smoking or chewing tobacco can cause bad breath due to the chemicals and odours they produce.

Underlying Health Issues

Sometimes, bad breath can indicate underlying health problems, such as gum disease, respiratory infections, or digestive disorders.

Pros and Cons of Mouthwashes

Mouthwashes come in all colours and flavours; most claim to beat bad breath. But let’s peel back the layers and get to the truth:

Temporary Freshness: The alcohol content in mouthwashes provides a temporary sensation of freshness. It can also kill some bacteria and offer a brief cooling effect.

Masking Odour: Some mouthwashes contain ingredients like eucalyptol and menthol that mask bad breath instead of addressing the root causes. While temporarily making your breath seem better, they don’t eliminate the underlying issues.

Limited Bacterial Control: Although mouthwashes can reduce the bacteria in your mouth, they don’t necessarily target the specific bacteria responsible for bad breath. Plus, the oral microbiome is a complex ecosystem, and disrupting it with excessive mouthwash use can have unintended consequences.

Proper Usage Matters: Correct mouthwash usage is required to maximise their effectiveness. Overusing or rinsing too vigorously can disrupt your mouth’s natural bacterial balance.

Alternative Strategies for Taming Bad Breath

While mouthwashes can offer a quick breath boost, dealing with the root causes of bad breath is essential for long-term freshness. Here are some alternative strategies to keep your breath in tip-top shape:

Maintain Proper Oral Hygiene
  • Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Remember to floss daily to remove those sneaky food particles and bacteria.
  • A tongue scraper can be useful for cleaning the tongue’s surface, which is a breeding ground for germs.
  • Stay committed to regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings.
Stay Hydrated

Drinking water throughout the day can help maintain optimal saliva flow, reducing the risk of dry mouth and bad breath.

Sugarless Gum and Mints

Chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugar-free mints can help stimulate saliva production and temporarily freshen your breath.

Dietary Choices

Limit your intake of foods that cause bad breath, and add more fruits and vegetables to your diet.

Stop Smoking

Quitting smoking or chewing tobacco can significantly improve your breath and offer numerous other health benefits.

Alcohol-Free Mouthwash

Consider alcohol-free options that promote a balanced oral microbiome and long-term oral health. Also, look for a mouthwash that kills germs, fights tartar buildup, restores enamel and helps prevent cavities.

Consult a Professional

If bad breath persists despite your best efforts, don’t hesitate to consult a dentist or healthcare provider. They can diagnose and treat underlying issues like gum disease or other oral conditions contributing to bad breath.


While mouthwashes can provide a quick burst of freshness, the myth that they can single-handedly eliminate bad breath has been debunked. These products can be a helpful complement to your oral hygiene routine, but they don’t address the root causes of halitosis. Focus on oral care and maintain a healthy lifestyle to achieve long-lasting freshness.

At Affinity Dental, we are dedicated to making dental care accessible and affordable for you and your family. When you choose one of our dental plans, you can access a vast network of over 2,000 skilled and professional dentists. Our benefits include mouth examination, scale and polish, intraoral radiographs, infection control, and more. Contact Affinity Dental for helpful advice on which dental plan best suits you and your family, and visit a network Dentist for more ways to keep your smile bright and your breath fresh.

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