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Mouthwashes...they work! (Spread the word.)

October 8, 2008 |  4:37 pm

Swirling a mouthwash around your mouth may really make your breath smell sweeter, according to a review by the Cochrane Collaboration, a body of scientists that assess medical evidence. In their report, released this week, the scientists reviewed five research trials involving 293 people. Among their findings:

* Antibacterial mouth rinses containing the antibacterial chemicals chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium were better than placebos at making breath less smelly;

* So were mouth rinses containing chlorine dioxide and zinc, which work by neutralizing the chemicals in breath that make it smelly -- sulfur compounds such as hydrogen sulphide;

* Though the two categories both performed well, a potential drawback to the chlorhexidine ones were that mouths and teeth were temporarily stained and the sense of taste was temporarily altered;

* For all the excited articles they inspire in the press, so-called "electronic noses" are not as good at assessing the offensiveness of breath as the good old human nose, the team concluded -- and thus the human type should remain the "gold standard" for such tests. 

Want to learn more about bad breath? Lean close, and we'll breathily whisper some good links in your ear: halitosis at the Mayo Clinic, how to test your own breath, a halitosis movie (!) from the American Dental Assn. and a veritable cornucopia of halitosis science  including such classic papers as "Therapeutic Approaches to Morning Breath,"  "Assessing the Contribution of the Tongue to Oral Malodor," and other treats besides.

-- Rosie Mestel

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