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What Is Chlorine Dioxide Mouthwash?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated May 21, 2024
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Mouthwash is used for many different reasons. Most commonly it kills germs living in the mouth that can cause bad breath, gum disease and tooth decay. Various ingredients are used to achieve this effect. Some common mouthwash additives are alcohol, benzoic acid and menthol. Stabilized chlorine dioxide is another chemical compound that is used as a type of mouthwash, mainly because of its antibacterial effects.

Many mouthwashes depend on the use of fragrances and deodorizing agents to give fresh breath. These additives, along with the germ-killing properties of alcohol or other germicidal liquids, work together to not only freshen the breath, but also to destroy disease-causing germs. The ultimate goal is to prevent both tooth decay and gum disease. High levels of alcohol in some of these products concerns some people, however, and some may choose a chlorine dioxide mouthwash as an alternative.

This compound originally came into use as a mouthwash because of the benefits it provided when used for water treatment. Chlorine dioxide has the effect of controlling odors in water. Due to the fact that it is also a highly effective disinfectant for water-borne pathogens, but safe in the proper quantities, it has gained popularity as an ingredient to promote oral hygiene.

The number one active ingredient in chlorine dioxide mouthwash is stabilized chlorine dioxide, also commonly known as sodium chlorite, though the two are related but not identical compounds. Some claims for this additive assert that it will keep breath fresh up to six hours when used properly. Independent studies, though, do not necessarily back this up. In at least one study this type of mouthwash was found to eliminate bad breath for as little as four minutes, though other studies claim it is effective up to 12 hours when used on a regular basis.

Chlorine dioxide mouthwash works by actually altering the chemistry of foul-smelling gases in the mouth, resulting in a significant and immediate reduction in odors. The problem appears to be that the changes affect existing organic compounds in the mouth, but do not go beyond that. This leaves bacteria that are not killed by the chlorine dioxide mouthwash to continue to produce gases, resulting in the return of bad breath in short order.

A variation on the standard chlorine dioxide mouthwash requires that zinc be added to the mouthwash immediately prior to using it. The zinc neutralizes the odor-causing properties of the bacteria in the mouth, thus preventing bad breath for a much longer period. This combination can virtually eliminate odor problems for up to 12 hours.

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Discussion Comments

By anon991012 — On May 20, 2015

I have used Profresh for years (and a tongue scraper). Of course you never really know how your own breath smells, but my husband says I am cured and I feel much more confident than I used to when talking to people.

By anon349087 — On Sep 23, 2013

Which products have chlorine dioxide? I would prefer a version that does not need to be mixed right before using, as that makes it complicated to carry around.

By anon344463 — On Aug 09, 2013

Mouthwash products containing this active ingredient are far superior than typical alcohol or fluoride based mouthwash products. Products such as these are recommended by dentists and are available per dentist office, they effectively neutralize odor-causing germs and help maintain healthy gums.

By anon340604 — On Jul 04, 2013

I read some articles that mentioned Chlorine Dioxide. One of the articles that was published on New York Times offered a number for ordering Chlorine Dioxide mouthwash. I also read about Chlorhexidine which needs a prescription to be purchased too. I do not know how effective these mouth washes are. From reading so much written material about halitosis, I learned that Chlorhexidine, Chlorine Dioxide mouthwashes and oil pulling (15 minutes every morning) are the best ways to eliminate bad breath.

By burcinc — On Mar 19, 2013

@turquoise-- I don't think the typical mouthwash brands we're used to contain this ingredient. Some higher-end, more expensive mouthwashes might, but avoid them if they also contain alcohol.

My mom is using chlorine dioxide mouthwash post her dental operation but it was prescribed to her by her dentist. So I don't think it's available over the counter. This mouthwash is very good though, I also used it several times. It doesn't contain alcohol, so there is no burning sensation but it kills germs and freshens breath.

By turquoise — On Mar 18, 2013

Where can I get chlorine dioxide mouthwash? I looked at the ingredients on all the mouthwashes I saw at the pharmacy. None of them listed this ingredient!

By bluedolphin — On Mar 17, 2013
I heard that if you scrape your tongue before using a chlorine dioxide mouthwash, it will get rid of bad breath for a really long time. Since chlorine dioxide doesn't actually kill bacteria, tongue scraping is supposed to take care of that bit.

Has anyone used chlorine dioxide mouthwash this way? Do you think it's effective at eliminating bad breath?

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