Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice. All statements are merely the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their dentist's guidance in regard to mouthwash.
There are so many different mouthwash brands on the market that it can be hard for consumers to make an informed purchase decision. There's cheap mouthwash, "natural" mouthwash, alcohol-free mouthwash and more.
But what actually causes bad breath, and can it be fixed with regular use of mouthwash? What ingredients should consumers be looking for, and looking to avoid? What's the best mouthwash brand in the US? And how do real people describe the effects of mouthwash on bad breath?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we review clinical studies to determine what causes bad breath, and whether or not it can be resolved with regular use of mouthwash.
We'll discuss ingredients to look for and to avoid, give our pick for the best mouthwash brand in the US, and feature unsponsored reviews from real people testing mouthwash for bad breath.
What Causes Bad Breath?
The medical term for bad breath is halitosis, and it's caused by a buildup of "bad" bacteria in the mouth.
A 2005 medical review describes this type of bacteria leading to bad breath as "volatile sulfur compounds."
This bacteria resides not only around the teeth, but also on the tongue, which is why it's important to regularly scrape the tongue for optimal oral hygiene.
Failing to regularly brush teeth and floss can cause this buildup of bad bacteria.
Poor oral hygiene is described as a leading cause of bad breath in a medical review published in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine.
This suggests that even if mouthwash can help to temporarily improve bad breath, good oral hygiene is required for prevention of bad breath developing in the first place.
Individuals who experience regular bad breath while maintaining proper oral hygiene should see a dentist, because there are rare causes such as throat infection or certain diseases.
Can Diet Fix Bad Breath?
A dentist and TikTok creator named "Joycethedentist" has a recommendation for dietary changes to improve breath:
@joycethedentist You are welcome fresh breath fam #dentist #freshbreath #detox #fyp ♬ She Share Story (for Vlog) - 山口夕依
Best Mouthwash Ingredients
Ideally when shopping for a mouthwash to treat bad breath, you want to look for one containing at least one active ingredient that's clinically shown to kill the bacteria causing bad breath.
There are both natural and synthetic compounds that are clinically shown to be effective against halitosis.
Cetylpyridum chloride was described as an "effective agent for halitosis reduction" in a clinical trial published in the Archives of Oral Biology journal.
Essential oils such as tea tree oil, lavender oil and eucalyptus oil are naturally-derived and have antibacterial effects that can reduce halitosis, according to a 2020 medical review.
We tend to prefer naturally-derived compounds generally, and the above-linked medical review noted that essential oils have been used to treat halitosis for centuries.
Real People Test Mouthwashes
The popular YouTube channel "Good Mythical Morning" did a test of various mouthwash brands:
The TikTok creator "Joycethedentist" has a fascinating video testing the effects of different mouthwash brands on nitric oxide levels, which is associated with heart health:
@joycethedentist Lets not use blanket statements: not ALL mouthrinse is bad! Im on a mission to find out which mouthrinses can stay and which ones gotta go. Which mouthwash should I test next? #mouthwash #mouthrinse ♬ original sound - Joycethedentist
Our Clean Mouthwash Picks
We favor mouthwash brands that use essential oils as active ingredients, without any unhealthy inactive ingredients.
Tooth & Gums Tonic by Dental Herb Company is our top overall mouthwash.
This product contains research-backed essential oils like peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender, and lasts over two months if used as directed.
Eco-Dent Mouthwash is our top discount mouthwash.
This brand contains a blend of 12 essential oils, and only costs $9.99 at the time of publishing this article.
Both of the products recommended in this section are entirely free of ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy.