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What Are the Common Mouthwash Ingredients?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 21, 2024
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Mouthwash is a common oral hygiene product used to rinse the mouth. It often contains antiseptic, as well as flavor. Preservatives are other common commercial mouthwash ingredients. Some mouthwashes may also contain bleaching agents, like hydrogen peroxide.

Antiseptics are the most important mouthwash ingredients. These help kill bacteria in the mouth that cause bad breath, gingivitis, and tooth decay. Some mouthwash antiseptics and antibacterial agents may include thymol, hexetidine, and benzalkonium chloride. Some antiseptics, like cetylpyridinium chloride, may even help reduce the formation of plaque on the teeth.

Fluoride is also one of the most common mouthwash ingredients. This substance not only inhibits the growth of bacteria, but it can also strengthen the enamel on teeth. Strong enamel on teeth can often help prevent cavities and tooth decay. Some cities add fluoride to the local drinking water supplies for this reason.

Different flavors are also often listed as mouthwash ingredients. These help make the mouthwash taste better. They will also often help mask the odor of bad breath. Many mouthwashes have a minty taste.

The minty taste of some mouthwashes can be attributed to the addition of menthol. This substance is usually obtained from the peppermint plant. Methyl salicylate, also referred to as simply wintergreen, may also be used as a mouthwash flavoring. Sweeteners are also added to many mouthwashes. Some of them, like xylitol and stevia, can also help inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Like most other commercial products, most mouthwashes also contain preservatives. These help prevent mouthwash from going bad. A substance known as methylparaben is sometimes used as a preservative in mouthwash.

Alcohol is also commonly among mouthwash ingredients because it is a preservative and an antiseptic. Some users may experience unpleasant side effects when using alcoholic mouthwash, including irritation and dry mouth. Children can also swallow this mouthwash, so a safer non-alcoholic mouthwash is usually recommended.

Some mouthwash manufacturers have also begun adding bleaching agents to their mouthwash. Hydrogen peroxide, which is also an antiseptic, is sometimes added to mouthwash to help whiten teeth. Some users, however, may find that their teeth become overly sensitive or brittle when using these types of oral hygiene products.

People who are sensitive to any of the common commercial mouthwash ingredients may wish to use a homemade mouthwash. Water is usually the base for homemade mouthwash, and a number of flavorful and fragrant natural ingredients can be added. Thyme, rosemary, peppermint, spearmint, and fennel are some of the herbs that can be used in homemade mouthwash. Raw honey can also be used as a sweetener, and baking soda or honey can be added for their antiseptic properties.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Nov 09, 2014

Not all of the ingredients in mouthwash are bad. When I first found out that mouthwash has an artificial sweetener called xylitol, I was upset. I try to avoid such sweeteners in my diet so I wasn't too happy to know that I was gargling with it. But then I read about the antibacterial effects of xylitol and that it's actually beneficial because it prevents cavities. Apparently, this is also why they include it in gum. So it's not a bad ingredient.

By donasmrs — On Nov 09, 2014

@bluedolphin-- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a foaming agent. It's also used in shampoos and soap to make the product foam. Some mouthwashes also contain it. A few experts have expressed concern over this ingredient being in mouthwash. It is believed that it strips away natural protective lubricants made by the mouth. So you should try and avoid it. It's also probably in your toothpaste so watch out for that as well.

Alcohol is another common mouthwash ingredient that strips away the natural oral lubricants. Our mouth actually does have a mechanism to protect the gum and teeth from bacteria. Our saliva contains antibacterial agents. Of course, brushing and gargling regularly helps immensely. But it's best to use natural toothpaste and mouthwash that doesn't disturb our oral balance.

By bluedolphin — On Nov 08, 2014

I was looking at the ingredients list of my mouthwash and noticed "sodium lauryl sulfate." What is it exactly and why is it in mouthwash? I don't remember seeing it in my mouthwash before. Is it a new addition to the ingredients?

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