Best Mouthwash For Bad Breath

Bad breath (halitosis), is an embarrassing but common problem. The good news is you don’t have to suffer with bad breath; there are mouthwashes that rapidly tackle it. The bad news is, there’s a lot to choose from – and some that sell the dream but don’t deliver. We’ve tested a range of products and compiled a list of ten for you to consider.

But first, to save time and money, it’s essential you understand two things about bad breath and mouthwashes for bad breath. We quickly sum these up below and provide more detailed explanations later.

Types of mouthwash

  1. Specialist mouthwashes for bad breath contain ingredients that target the root causes of bad breath. Used regularly they can end the problem and keep it at bay. They are usually more expensive.
  2. General mouthwashes are usually cheaper and aimed at a wider range of oral health problems. They may only mask bad breath and not have a lasting impact.

We’ve placed our ten products into these two categories. Which you go for depends on the causes of your bad breath.

What causes bad breath?

We go into more detail later, but in summary:

Cause of bad breathMouthwash needed
Build-up of oral bacteria which give off smelly gases. Some people are naturally prone to this, especially if they have overlapping teeth or bracesSpecialist
Dry mouth (lack of saliva). Saliva helps to remove the bacteria that cause bad breathSpecialist
Medications. Some medications and cancer treatments cause dry mouth, leading to bad breathSpecialist
Smoking. This can cause dry mouth and also makes the breath smell of tobaccoSpecialist or General
Pungent foods and drink such as coffee or garlicGeneral
Low carb/keto diets. The production of ketones can cause bad breath. General

Best mouthwashes for bad breath

MouthwashTypeCause treated
UltraDEX Daily Oral RinseSpecialistBacterial build up & bad breath gases
CloSYS Antiseptic Oral RinseSpecialistBacterial build up
CB12 Mouthwash SpecialistBacterial build up & bad breath gases
The Breath Co Fresh Breath Oral RinseSpecialistBad breath gases
Smartmouth Original Activated MouthwashSpecialistBad breath gases
BiotèneSpecialistDry mouth and bacterial build up
Nature’s Answer PerioBriteGeneralDry mouth and bacterial build up
Colgate Plax Soft MintGeneralWide spectrum
Listerine Cool Mint ZeroGeneralWide spectrum
Crest Pro Health Multi ProtectionGeneralWide spectrum

Mouthwash Mini Reviews


UltraDEX Daily Oral Rinse

Key Features

  • Type: specialist 
  • Cause targeted: Bad breath gases and bacterial build up
  • Key ingredients: Chlorine dioxide and sodium monofluorophosphate
  • How does UltraDEX taste? Without the flavouring the taste is slightly bitter. Mint flavouring (supplied) can be added. Whether you add the flavouring or not, we found a slight aftertaste lingered for about 30 minutes.
  • Unique Selling Point: eliminates bad breath instantly

How does UltraDEX Daily Oral Rinse work?

UltraDEX contains chlorine dioxide. This destroys the gases in the gases released by harmful oral bacteria. It is clinically proven to keep breath fresh for 12 hours.

It also contains Sodium monofluorophosphate. This ingredient not only protects from cavities, but inhibits the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth.

So UltraDEX works by eliminating the smell, and reducing the amount of bacteria that cause the smell.

What we like

  • Clinically proven to work for 12 hours
  • Ph balanced to make mouth less prone to bacteria
  • Free of sulfates and alcohol so gentle on gums
  • Gluten free
  • Contains fluoride to prevent cavities and protect enamel
  • Contains no teeth staining ingredients and can help to keep teeth white
  • Fresh mint flavour and an unflavoured version (with a separate flavour sachet) is available for anyone sensitive to mint

What we don’t like

  • No visual measuring cup and no markings in the lid to ensure correct dose
  • Though this is a cheaper mouthwash, you do need 2x 15ml doses per use (one to rinse, one to gargle)
  • Unflavoured, the taste is a little bitter. Though not all users experience this

Who is UltraDEX Daily Oral Rinse best for?

If you are looking for a fast acting product that neutralises bad breath and provides extra protection for teeth and gums this is a great product for you to try. It has no alcohol so is suitable for sensitive mouths. 

The unflavoured version is great for anyone who is sensitive to mint or is using homeopathic remedies.

UltraDEX uses similar technology to The Breath Co but at a cheaper cost. If you are torn between the two, I would try this first. If you love it, you will save money over the long term.

What ingredients are in UltraDEX Daily Oral Rinse?

Mouthwash: Aqua, Chlorine Dioxide, Trisodium Phosphate, Sodium Monofluorophosphate, (230 ppm Fluoride), Citric Acid, Sodium Chlorite and Sodium Bicarbonate.

Flavour sachet: Polysorbate 20, PEG-60, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Aroma, Menthol, Saccharin, Limonene and Linalool

CloSYS Antiseptic Oral Rinse with flavour control

Key Features

  • Type: specialist 
  • Cause targeted: Bacterial build up
  • Key ingredients: A patented formula (chlorostan) based on chlorine dioxide
  • How does CloSYS Rinse Taste?: Without flavouring the taste is bland, like water. Mint flavouring (supplied) can be added. Even with all the flavouring added, it was not overpowering.
  • Unique Selling Point: Unflavoured, with a separate flavouring system

How does CloSYS Oral Rinse work?

CloSYS uses a patented system called cloralstan (based on chlorine dioxide) which is clinically proven to eliminate the odour generated by bad breath bacteria, as well as significantly reducing the harmful bacteria themselves. In addition to this, it helps to stop future build up of bacteria.

The solution is naturally activated by the saliva in your mouth. 

CloSYS is an alcohol free unflavoured mouthwash. It comes with a dropper and natural peppermint oil that you can add to the mouthwash, or leave out. 

What we like

  • Kills 99% of oral bacteria
  • Ph balanced to make mouth less prone to bacteria
  • Free of sulfates so gentle on gums
  • Alcohol free – alcohol can dry out gums and cause bad breath
  • Contains fluoride to prevent cavities and protect enamel
  • Contains no teeth staining ingredients
  • Approved by the American Dental Association 
  • Trusted brand

What we don’t like

  • Cost – though this is for a large 945ml bottle
  • Only available in this large size

Who is CloSYS Oral Rinse best for?

CloSYS is an American product and is American Dental Association approved. It is one of the leaders when it comes to fighting bad breath. 

Its mild, alcohol free formulation makes it a great choice for anyone with a sensitive mouth who wants to maintain fresh breath. Because it’s unflavoured, it is also suitable for anyone with a mint sensitivity or who is using homeopathic remedies.

CloSYS Oral Rinse ingredients

Rinse: Water, stabilized chlorine dioxide, trisodium phosphate, citric acid. 

Flavour dropper ingredients: natural mineral oil and natural peppermint.

CB12 Mouthwash

Key features

  • Type: specialist 
  • Cause targeted: Bacterial build up and bad breath gases
  • Key ingredients: A patented formula based on chlorhexidine and zinc acetate
  • How does CB12 taste? The mild mint version is only slightly minty. Mint menthol is stronger but not ‘burning’ strong and neither left an aftertaste
  • Unique Selling Point: 12 hour protection

How does CB12 Mouthwash work?

CB12 contains chlorhexidine and zinc acetate. 

Chlorhexidine is professionally acknowledged to be the gold standard oral antibacterial. It quickly kills the bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease and it clings to mouth tissue. This means it continues to work, even after you’ve spat it out.

Zinc acetate neutralises the smelly gases that are given off by harmful bacteria.

So CB12 both neutralises smell and eliminates the cause of the smell.

What we like

  • Uses gold standard oral antibacterial agent (chlorhexidine) to reduce the bacteria that cause bad breath
  • Uses zinc acetate to neutralize odours
  • Clinically proven to be effective
  • Contains fluoride so helps to prevent tooth decay
  • Sulphate free so gentle on gums
  • Provides protection for 12 hours
  • Cool, mild taste
  • Attractive packaging

What we don’t like

  • Cost
  • Chlorhexidine can cause teeth staining over time, though a whitening version is available
  • Contains alcohol which can dry out the mouth

Who is CB12 Mouthwash best for?

CB12 is engineered to zap bad breath caused by bacterial build up. It is clinically proven to be effective and long lasting and contains gold standard ingredients to do its job.

Its active ingredient may stain over time, though it is in very low concentration so is unlikely to do so. CB12 Whitening is available if this is an issue for you. And if you want a similar, alcohol free mouthwash, try CloSYS antiseptic Oral Rinse.

CB12 Ingredients

0.3% zinc acetate dihydrate, 0.025% chlorhexidine diacetate, aqua, glycerin, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, alcohol, sodium fluoride, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, potassium acesulfame, citric acid and aroma.

The Breath Co Fresh Breath Oral Rinse

Key features

  • Type: specialist 
  • Cause targeted: Bad breath gases released by harmful bacteria
  • Key ingredients: An patented oxygen compound called OXYD-8
  • How does The Breath Co Oral Rinse taste: The mild mint is light, but I did find it affected the taste of food and drink for about an hour after use. The ice mint is stronger, but not overpowering and had much less impact on taste after use.
  • Unique Selling Point: Produced by a dentist/bacteriologist whose daughter was being bullied because of bad breath

How does The Breath Co Oral Rinse work?

The Breath Co was originally created in the US by a dentist (Dr Harold Katz) whose daughter was being bullied due to bad breath. So you can be sure it’s been made with a loving determination to conquer halitosis and restore confidence!

Katz didn’t want to just mask the problem, he wanted to discover its cause and put a complete stop to it. Being a bacteriologist helped him do this. 

The Breath Co Oral Rinse contains a patented ingredient called OXYD-8. This is an oxygen compound which interacts with bacteria to prevent them producing foul smelling gases.

So The Breath Co Oral Rinse deals with halitosis at its source, not by simply masking it with strong flavours or harsh antibacterial ingredients.

What we like 

  • Formulated by a dentist/bacteriologist
  • Works instantly and gives 12 hour protection
  • Helps to reduce bacteria and restore a healthy Ph balance
  • Alcohol and sulphate free so less chance of burn, sore mouth or ulcers
  • Vegan, kosher, approved for diabetics and not tested on animals
  • No artificial colours or flavours
  • Gentle formula, non burning.

What we don’t like 

  • Costly as each time you use it you need 2x15ml doses
  • Can affect taste for a while after use

Who is the Breath Co Oral Rinse best for?

If you are looking for a really mild and gentle mouthwash that doesn’t burn yet stops bad breath in its tracks, The Breath Co Oral Rinse is definitely one you should consider. It has other oral health benefits too, such as helping to reduce bacteria and plaque and maintaining a healthy pH balance in the mouth.

This is not a cheap product, but it is effective and very kind to anyone with a sensitive mouth.

The Breath Co Oral Rinse ingredients

Purified Water, OXYD-8 (a patented version of ClO2), PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Benzoate, Essential Oil of Peppermint, Sodium Hydroxide

SmartMouth Original Activated Mouthwash

Key features

  • Type: specialist 
  • Cause targeted: Bad breath gases
  • Key ingredients: A patented zinc ion solution. The bottle has two pouring spouts with separate solutions which activate when poured
  • How does Smartmouth taste? The taste is described as mint but has a bit of a medicinal quality to it. It is mild and does not burn
  • Unique Selling Point: zinc iol technology blocks bacteria from producing smelly gases

How does SmartMouth Original Activated Mouthwash work?

Smartmouth comes in a ‘two in one’ container with separate pouring spouts.

One half contains sodium chlorite. This cleans teeth and gums whilst eliminating bad breath gases. The other half contains zinc chloride.

When you tip the container to mix the two solutions billions of zinc ions are released. These block germs from releasing bad breath germs in the first place.

So swishing with SmartMouth eliminates bad breath gases and stops them returning for 12 hours.

What we like

  • Helps to end morning breath when used before bedtime
  • Works quickly and the effects are long lasting
  • Alcohol free, no burn
  • Despite the odd taste, does leave your mouth fresh with no aftertaste

What we don’t like

  • Slightly odd taste
  • Bottle design: it is hard to get an equal mix of the two solutions
  • Very high cost
  • Does not eliminate the bacteria that cause the smelly gases

Who is Smartmouth Original Activated Mouthwash best for?

Smartmouth mouthwash is a great product if you are looking for a mouthwash that works quickly to remove bad breath gases and keep them at bay for at least 12 hours. It is very effective for getting rid of morning breath (if you use it before bedtime) and it is wonderful to wake up with a fresh mouth.

Our main reservation is that Smartmouth Original Activated Mouthwash is far too expensive for a mouthwash that does not deal with the true root cause of bad breath – the bacteria that produce bad breath gases in the first place.

The container has been redesigned but it is still tricky to get the pouring spouts to deliver the fluids correctly. There is a video to help you do this.

On balance, unless morning mouth is a big problem for you, we would say £30 to investigate the effectiveness of a mouthwash is a little steep. However, if you splash out and give it a go you may join the many users who feel this is the only effective mouthwash to quickly deal with bad breath.

Biotène Moisturising Mouthwash

Key features

  • Type: specialist 
  • Cause targeted: Dry mouth and bacterial build up
  • Key ingredients: A patented enzyme system 
  • How does Biotène taste? Quite bland, very slightly minty
  • Unique Selling Point: stabilizes your oral environment and helps your mouth heal itself

How does Biotène Moisturising Mouthwash work?

Biotène mouthwash uses a patented LP3 Enzyme System, a combination of three enzymes naturally found in saliva. Each one has moisturizing and antibacterial properties.

Biotène gently cleanses, replaces saliva and encourages saliva production. Saliva plays a big role in oral health and is key for fighting bad breath bacteria.This means Biotène helps to restore your body’s own ability to protect your oral health.

In addition, Biotène contains other moisturizing ingredients such as glycerin which combines with water to provide a layer of lubrication that acts as a saliva replacement. 

What we like

  • Clinically proven to significantly reduce the symptoms of dry mouth
  • Alcohol free so refreshes without burning
  • Sulphate free so gentle on gums
  • Gently cleans a dry mouth and protects against bad breath
  • Uses the LP3 salivary enzyme-protein system
  • Helps relieve mouth ulcers/canker sores
  • Helps your mouth heal itself

What we don’t like

  • Bland taste and thick consistency
  • The enzymes are derived from dairy products, so though you don’t swallow mouthwash check with your doctor if you are dairy intolerant.
  • Cost 

Who is Biotène Moisturising Mouthwash suitable for?

Dry mouth is a key cause of bad breath – in some senses we have all experienced it. During the night we produce hardly any saliva. That’s why we often wake up in the morning with a dry mouth – and bad breath!

If your mouth is dry all the time, you can also suffer from sore gums and ulcers. If this is you, Biotène mouthwash is a popular and effective answer with excellent customer feedback.

Many users see Biotène as a miracle cure. There are other options for treating dry mouth but though they may seem cheaper, the bottle sizes are much smaller.

What ingredients does Biotène Mouthwash contain?

Aqua, Glycerin, Xylitol, Sorbitol, Propylene Glycol, Poloxamer 407, Sodium Benzoate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Methylparaben, Proplparaben, Aroma, Sodium Phosphate and Disodium Phosphate.

Nature’s Answer PerioBrite Mouthwash

Key features

  • Type: Specific
  • Cause targeted: Dry mouth and bacterial build up
  • Key ingredients: Coenzyme Q10 and Folic Acid
  • How does PerioBrite taste? Fairly strong herbal/medicinal taste that’s fresh and slightly minty
  • Unique Selling Point: all natural – yet created by a dentist

How does Nature’s Answer PerioBrite Mouthwash work?

Nature’s Answer PerioBrite contains natural antibacterial ingredients that deal with the causes of bad breath. It also promotes overall oral health and relieves dry mouth (which can also cause bad breath).

Its main ingredient (Phytoplenolin) is an extract from Centipeda, a medicinal plant used by aboriginal Australians. Combined with the enzyme CoQ10, phytoplenolin relieves inflammation, prevents damage to oral tissue cells and energises cells so that gum tissue health is restored.

The action of Phytoplenolin is supported by the use of folic acid and clove which are also known to support oral tissue health. And there is a cornucopia of other natural antibiotic botanical extracts which cleanse, refresh and moisturise the mouth.

Lastly it is sweetened with xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol that bacteria waste energy trying to feed on. This leads to a reduction in harmful bacteria in the mouth.

What we like

  • All natural
  • Formulated by a dentist
  • Designed to promote oral health at a cellular level
  • No sulphates
  • Cruelty free
  • Alcohol, gluten and fluoride free
  • Contains xylitol

What we don’t like

  • Cost – each dose is 25ml, that’s a lot of mouthwash per swish!

Who is Nature’s Answer PerioBrite Mouthwash suitable for?

PerioBrite Natural Mouthwash will keep your breath fresh, but more than that it promotes oral health at a deep down cellular level.

It contains an abundance of natural botanical ingredients that have long standing, recognised oral health benefits. And it uses ingredients that stimulate and energize tissue cells to work to optimum levels to keep your mouth naturally healthy.

If you want an all natural product that has the kudos of being formulated by a dental professional, you should consider investing in Nature’s Answer PerioBrite.

What ingredients are in Nature’s Answer Periobrite Mouthwash?

Phytoplenolin (Centiped Cunninghamii Extract), Bio-Chelated Extracts: Calendula Flower, Chamomile Flower, Echinacea Purpurea Tops, Gotu Kola Herb, Prickly Ash Bark, Olive Leaf, Grapefruit Seed, Black Walnut Green Hull, Green Tea Leaf, Goldenseal Root, Essential Oils Of Peppermint, Oregano, Rosemary, Lavender, Cinnamon, Clove, Lemon, Eucalyptus & Thyme, Bio-Saponin (Quillaja Extract, Yucca Extract, Sarsaparilla Root Extract, Wild Yam Root Extract), Xylitol Folic Acid, Cinnamon Bark Extract, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis), Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone). Purified Water, Vegetable Glycerin.

Listerine Cool Mint Zero Alcohol

Key features

  • Type: General
  • Cause targeted: Kills oral bacteria
  • Key ingredients: Benzoic acid, methyl salicylate and thymol which are all antibacterial
  • How does Listerine Cool Mint taste? Minty, but not intense like regular Listerine
  • Unique Selling Point: Long established reputation for antibacterial mouthwash

How does Listerine Cool Mint Zero Mouthwash work?

Named after the father of antiseptic surgery, Joseph Lister, it’s no surprise that Listerine Mouthwash focuses on killing the germs that cause bad breath. It also contains fluoride to prevent cavities and strengthen tooth enamel.

Overall, we think that the best Listerine for bad breath is Listerine Cool Mint Zero Mouthwash.

It contains several antiseptic ingredients (listed above) that kill oral bacteria and makes use of eucalyptol and thymol to mask the odours that can be caused by bacterial build up.

What we like

  • Contains fluoride
  • Price
  • Established reputation
  • Zero alcohol
  • Less intense flavour than regular

What we don’t like

  • Contains sodium lauryl sulphate which can cause irritation to gum tissue
  • Contains methyl salicylate which cools, but can sometimes feel like burn on gum tissue
  • The effectiveness of its main antibacterial ingredient (benzoic acid) has been called into question
  • Masks, rather than neutralizes, bad breath odours

Who is Listerine Cool Mint Zero Mouthwash suitable for?

Listerine is a company with an established reputation for antibacterial mouthwash.  Combined with a range of ingredients it also protects and strengthens teeth and protects gums.

While it is not specifically marketed as a bad breath product, it does contain ingredients that kill oral bacteria.

It is suitable for anyone who is not sensitive to sodium lauryl sulphate. Since the efficacy of its main antibacterial ingredient is questioned, it is probably best used by anyone who does not suffer with plaque build-up, but who smokes, eats pungent food or is on a low carb diet.

What ingredients are in Listerine Cool Mint Zero Mouthwash?

Aqua, Propylene Glycol, Sorbitol, Poloxamer 407, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Eucalyptol, Benzoic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Methyl Salicylate, Thymol, Sodium Saccharin, Sodium Fluoride, Menthol, Sucralose, Aroma, CI 42053, Contains Sodium Fluoride (220 ppm F)

Crest Pro Health Multi Protection Mouthwash

Key features

  • Type: General
  • Cause targeted: Kills oral bacteria and freshens breath
  • Key ingredients: Cetylpyridinium Chloride
  • How does Crest Pro Health taste? There are two flavours, wintergreen and clean mint. We tried the clean mint which was quite refreshing and not too strong.
  • Unique Selling Point: Kills 99% of the germs that cause bad breath, plaque and gingivitis

How does Crest Pro Health Multi Protection Mouthwash work?

Crest makes use of an antibacterial agent called Cetylpyridinium Chloride. This is thought to prevent the growth of bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease.

It also contains mint flavouring that helps to freshen the mouth and mask the smell of bad breath.

What we like

  • No Alcohol
  • Sodium lauryl sulphate free
  • Refreshing taste
  • Helps to fight plaque and gingivitis as well as bad breath
  • Cost
  • Established brand

What we don’t like

  • Some users complain of a metallic after taste
  • Masks, rather than neutralizes, bad breath odours
  • No fluoride

Who is Crest Pro Health Mouthwash Zero Alcohol suitable for?

This is good budget mouthwash from an established brand. Crest is one of the most globally recognizable brands in oral health and its products are approved by the American Dental Association (the gold standard for establishing “the safety and efficacy of dental products”).

It will kill bad breath germs and leave your mouth feeling fresh. If you’re looking for a cheap, fluoride free, fresh breath feel this is a good option.

However, it does not neutralize bad breath odours – just masks them. This is great if you’re a smoker, love coffee, garlic – or other strong smelling foods.

What ingredients are in Crest Pro Health Zero Alcohol Mouthwash?

Water, Glycerin, Flavor, Poloxamer 407, Sodium Saccharin, Methylparaben, Sucralose, Propylparaben, Blue 1. Cetylpyridinium Chloride 0.07%.

Colgate Plax Soft Mint

Key features

  • Type: General
  • Cause targeted: Kills oral bacteria and freshens breath
  • Key ingredients: Cetylpyridinium Chloride
  • How does Colgate Plax Soft Mint taste? Cool, but quite strong, menthol flavour
  • Unique Selling Point: 24/7 Bad breath control and long lasting ‘cool’ feeling

How does Colgate Plax Soft Mint Mouthwash work?

Colgate Plax Soft Mint works in a very similar way to Crest. Like Crest it contains the antibacterial agent cetylpyridinium chloride which inhibits growth of bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease.

The main difference between the two washes is that Colgate also contains fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel and fight cavities. 

Colgate also has a cooler, fresher menthol flavour. It has more of a ‘kick’ than Crest. The menthol helps to mask the smell of bad breath.

What we like

  • Contains fluoride
  • Has a strong, refreshing menthol flavour
  • Sodium lauryl sulphate free
  • Alcohol free
  • Price
  • Helps to protect against plaque and gingivitis

What we don’t like

  • Only masks, rather than neutralises bad breath odours
  • Some users find the taste has too much of a kick

Who is Colgate Plax Soft Mint Mouthwash suitable for?

This is a great budget mouthwash, and it contains fluoride. It will inhibit the growth of germs that cause bad breath and help to mask bad breath odours.

If you want a fresh breath feel on a shoestring, and are also looking for a product containing fluoride, I would go for this over Colgate.

It is suitable for anyone fond of coffee, strong smelling foods or who smokes.

What ingredients are in Colgate Plax Soft Mint Mouthwash?

Aqua, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Sorbitol, Poloxamer 407, Aroma, Cetylpyridinium Chloride, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Fluoride 0.05%, Sodium Saccharin, Menthol, CI 42051

Best mouthwashes overall for bad breath

Best specialist mouthwash for bad breath caused by bacterial build up

UltraDEX

On balance, our choice is UltraDEX because it both reduces bacterial load in the mouth and destroys the gases they release. And it is clinically proven to stop bad breath and keep breath fresh for 12 hours.

It also contains Sodium monofluorophosphate which not only inhibits harmful bad breath bacteria but also provides more general protection for tooth enamel and against decay.

CB12

Lastly, it’s alcohol and sulphate free so it contains no ingredients that might dry out your mouth and increase your chances of developing bad breath from dry mouth.

It is a little more pricey than CB12 – but CB12 was knocked into third place by the addition of alcohol. This is a shame, because CB12 is an otherwise great product. Its effectiveness is backed up by clinical studies and its ingredients are professionally respected and thought to be gold standard ingredients to do the job. 

CloSYS

CloSYS is second, narrowly pushed into that place by its slightly higher cost.

But to be honest, all the specialist mouthwashes we selected from those tested were great products, with highly positive customer feedback.

Best specialist mouthwash for bad breath caused by dry mouth

Biotene

Biotène is without doubt the best mouthwash for bad breath caused by dry mouth. It relieves the symptoms of dry mouth quickly, stops bad breath fast, and the effects last for around 4 hours. Its ingredients are gentle and rapidly provide soothing relief.

The saliva replacement enzymes are natural, and encourage you to produce more of your own saliva, which is key to managing bad breath.

You won’t get the kick you get from ordinary mouthwash, but if dry mouth is the root cause of your problem, Biotène is a popular and effective answer with excellent customer feedback.

And remember, though the cost of a bottle may seem high, it is up to four times larger than most mouthwash containers, so it’s better value for money than you think.

Best general mouthwash for bad breath

Plax Soft

In this category we have chosen Colgate Plax Soft Mint. It works in a very similar way to Crest in that it contains the antibacterial agent cetylpyridinium chloride which inhibits the growth of bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease.

The reason it pips Crest to the post is its cooler, fresher flavour and feel, plus the addition of fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and fights cavities. 

And the reason why we placed Listerine last is that, whilst it is alcohol free, it contains sulphates which can irritate the gums.

What is bad breath?

Bad breath simply describes an unpleasant smell which comes from your mouth! We all have it at one time or another for different reasons. It is apparently number 2 on the list that turns people off when meeting someone, so it’s important to deal with it effectively. For this to happen you need to know what’s caused it in the first place.

What causes bad breath?

Build up of oral bacteria is THE main cause of bad breath.  Particles of what we eat or drink linger in our mouths and feed bacteria, causing them to multiply.

As bacteria reproduce and process food debris they give off smelly gases (aka bad breath). The only way to eliminate this is to eliminate the bacteria. Choosing a good mouthwash is the first – but only the first – step to doing this. Because it’s crucial to have a good oral health regime based on more than just the right mouthwash.

However, it’s also vital to understand that other factors lead to bad breath and that if these apply to you, you need to find the right product to help. These factors are listed below with suggestions about what to do in these cases.

  • Smoking – Smoking causes dry mouth (xerostomia) so there is less saliva to wash bacteria away. Drink plenty of water and use a mouthwash formulated to deal with xerostomia like Biotène
  • Some medications and cancer treatments also cause dry mouth
  • Eating pungent foods like garlic – Use a mouthwash between brushing and keep a supply of xylitol sugar free mints handy (xylitol – a sweetner that harmful oral bacteria can’t process, but the energy they waste trying kills them off)
  • Low carb diets – These cause the body to release ketones that can cause bad breath. If you’re on one of these diets, use mouthwash between eating and xylitol sugar free mints/gum to mask the odour.

How would I know if I have dry mouth?

If dry mouth is the cause of your bad breath, it is important to choose a mouthwash that cures this condition.

Symptoms of dry mouth (besides bad breath) include:

  • Mouth feeling persistently parched or sore
  • Frequent mouth ulcers/canker sores
  • Cracked or dry lips
  • Excess plaque or tartar build up
  • Sticky feeling in the mouth
  • Tongue sticking to the roof of the mouth
  • Grooves in the tongue
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing or chewing
  • An altered sense of taste
  • Persistent ‘morning mouth’

What should you look for in a mouthwash to deal with Bad Breath?

A mouthwash that treats the root causes of bad breath (not just mask it) should contain one or more of the following types of ingredient:

  • Antibacterial ingredients like chlorhexidine, zinc, sodium chlorite, chlorine dioxide and eucalyptus oil.  Triclosan is also used but there are concerns surrounding the use of this chemical.
  • Deodorizing ingredients such as sodium bicarbonate, calcium bicarbonate, zinc acetate, chlorine dioxide or oxygen compounds like OXD-8 may also be included.
  • Saliva replacement ingredients. Saliva plays a key role in reducing bacteria. If you have dry mouth you need a mouthwash containing ingredients that either replace saliva or encourage its production such as Lactoperoxidase, Lysozyme and Lactoferrin.
  • Moisturising ingredients to stop your mouth from drying out
  • A patented formula which shows that the maker has taken time to research and test the product to make sure it is safe and effective.

And a word about alcohol. Alcohol can dry out your mouth, so a mouthwash containing it can sometimes make bad breath worse. In otherwords, it’s not always an effective treatment for bad breath. This is not the case for everyone as we are all unique in how we respond to different products. And alcohol is also an effective anti bacterial – but it does tend to kill good bacteria as well as bad!

And as for that burning feeling? Some people believe that a mouthwash only works if it burns. When you first try a new mouthwash it is normal to feel a bit of a kick (unless it’s unflavoured). But if this continues for several days, the mouthwash is likely to be doing more harm than good!

Real, long lasting breath freshness can only occur when the bacteria causing bad breath is brought under control. For this to happen you need to do more than just swish with mouthwash. Below, you will find advice on other steps you can take to eliminate bad breath once and for all.

A step by step program to eliminate bad breath

Each of our carefully selected mouthwashes caters for a range of other oral health needs. These include dry mouth, the need for a non fluoride product, the desire for a purely natural product, etc.

But choosing the right mouthwash is only the beginning of a regime that knocks bad breath on the head, once and for all.

  • It’s important to brush correctly. At least twice a day for two minutes.
  • Use an electric toothbrush!  The choice is bewildering but at the very least consider an Oral B pro 1000 which removes 300% more plaque than a manual toothbrush.
  • FLOSS!  Flossing has so many benefits. No matter how good your mouthwash, toothbrush and brushing technique – food debris will lurk in impossible to reach places. Your mouth is an ideal environment for food debris to decay and bacteria to multiply exponentially. This will not only lead to bad breath, but potentially to gum disease. Or even bacteria entering your bloodstream and damaging your overall systemic health. Only flossing will deal with this problem. If you hate flossing, then invest in a water flosser. It’s fun, fast and super effective.
  • Don’t forget your tongue!  Bacteria love your tongue. It’s fuzzy and warm and damp and a great place for bacteria to be. Invest in a tongue scraper.
  • Visit your dentist at least twice a year for a deep clean and advice on how to make your mouth, which is after all an important gateway to your body, in tip top condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does mouthwash help?

Yes – providing you choose the right one and follow the instructions for use. A good swish helps to reach the nooks and crannies your toothbrush can’t get to. It can help to dislodge food debris that linger in your mouth, feeding the bacteria that cause bad breath. The right mouthwash, one that treats the cause of your condition, can knock bad breath on the head, once and for all.

When should I use mouthwash?

Different mouthwashes have different instructions. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions. 

But in general our advice is not to use mouthwash immediately after brushing.  Your toothpaste contains ingredients that continue to work even after brushing.  Using mouthwash immediately will mean you lose the benefits of those ingredients. 

So, good times to use a mouthwash are mid-morning and after eating lunch (when you may not have access to your toothbrush).

Can mouthwash replace brushing?

Most definitely not!

Your mouth may feel clean after using mouthwash, but mouthwash alone is never going to clean your teeth properly. No amount of swishing by itself will remove plaque (bacterial build up) from teeth. 

Plaque is a film of bacteria that builds up on your teeth. It’s sticky and hard to remove. The only way to get it off is mechanically, with a good brush and toothpaste. If you don’t brush, that plaque will remain and cause not only bad breath, but decay and gum disease.

A wisely chosen mouthwash is a great addition to brushing, but never, ever use it as a replacement for brushing.

Can mouthwash replace flossing?

Again, no.

The most common cause of bad breath is bacterial build up. Bacteria thrive and multiply when they are fed. 

Particles of what we eat and drink get lodged in nooks and crannies in our teeth. When bacteria feed on these they multiply and produce smelly gases.

A good swish will help to dislodge some food debris from those hard to reach places, but only a good flossing stands a chance of removing them completely.

Flossing can be tiresome, but it really is the best thing you can do to look after your oral health. 

Your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body. If you don’t look after it and end up with gum disease this can threaten your overall health. There are clear links between gum disease and systemic health. This includes heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, chronic kidney disease, arthritis, cognitive impairment and cancer.

If flossing is hard for you, consider a water flosser. This makes flossing fun and easy.

What home remedies can I use to combat bad breath?

There are a number of items you may already have in your fridge or kitchen cupboards that can help with your fight against bad breath. These include:

Probiotic yogurt or yogurt drinks

Probiotic food or drink contains ‘good’ bacteria that can help to out compete the bad bacteria in your mouth (and gut!).

Zinc supplements

Zinc is used in mouthwashes to neutralise bad breath. Taking it as a supplement may also help, as well as boosting your immune system.

Fennel Seeds

When you chew fennel seeds they release breath freshening essential oils.

Parsley

Parsley is recommended for neutralising the smell of garlic. This is because it contains a lot of chlorophyll which can neutralize smells.

Pineapple Juice

There’s anecdotal evidence that pineapple juice is an effective treatment for bad breath. Whilst there’s no science to support this, it costs little to find out and if it works for you it’s a pleasant solution. 

However, do remember to rinse your mouth out with water after drinking it, as it contains natural sugars that will feed oral bacteria otherwise!

Water

Studies show that saliva plays a very important part in oral health. In terms of bad breath, it helps to rinse away harmful bacteria.

During sleep, we produce very little saliva. This is why we wake up with ‘morning breath’. You can help keep your mouth moist by keeping yourself hydrated.

Drinking water frequently during the day (rather than sugary drinks or tea and coffee) helps to boost saliva production.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps to boost saliva production. Saliva is part of your body’s natural defence against bad breath bacteria as it helps to wash the bacteria away.  

Green tea

Studies show that green tea, especially matcha green tea, helps to neutralise bad breath gases. It also has antibacterial properties that can reduce the bacterial load in the mouth. So drinking green tea, rather than your conventional cuppa can help to alleviate bad breath.

Can children use mouthwash?

Each mouthwash will have its own recommendations for use by children. 

Generally, mouthwashes are not suitable for children under 6. This is usually because young children can find it hard to control their swallowing reflex and end up ingesting too much of a product that is designed to be spat out, not consumed.

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