Where would we be without mouthwash? An everyday commodity that many of us take for granted, this substance is the one thing that keeps nasty odors caused by food and bacteria at bay. More important than this, however, is the fact that mouthwash is widely considered one of the three key oral cleaning pillars (the other two are flossing and brushing). It kills bacteria on contact, strengthens valuable tooth enamel and serves as an overall barrier that prevents common ailments and diseases from occurring, namely gum disease, tooth decay, and gingivitis. Dentists recommend swishing mouthwash around for about 30 seconds after each brushing cycle to thoroughly clean the mouth; gargling it for a couple seconds will also cleanse the throat. Believe it or not, but there was a time when people had to go without, although it must be mentioned that even today millions of people still don’t have access to this necessary hygienic element.

When Did People start using Mouthwash?

The liquid form we know all too well has an interesting history. The first reported instances of people using oral cleansers dates back to the days of the Greeks and Romans. It may come as a surprise, but our ancestors from over 2,000 years ago recognized the need to keep their mouths clean as well. However, in those days the concoctions consisted of natural herbs like honey, mint leaves and powdered charcoal, in addition to goat milk. The Romans demonstrated an adept understanding of the value of oral hygiene, particularly due to their use of hartshorn; this substance has the same properties of ammonia bleach, which is a powerful disinfectant. Back then it was also a good teeth whitener. As disgusting as it may sound, one of the most valued oral cleansing commodities was by far the most natural: urine. The potency of human urine for bacteria elimination purposes led these early empires to place high taxes on its sale. It wasn’t until later that people placed an emphasis on keeping their breath fresh as well.

The Advent of Modern Mouthwash

The advancements in science and modern medicine led individuals like Anthony Van Leeuwenkoke to find that the only way to effectively destroy bacteria in the mouth was to douse them in ammonia, and later alcohol. The development of antiseptic mouthwashes happened quite rapidly, as scientists began mixing different chemicals together to find out which mixture was the most effective. The first commercially marketed mouthwash was Odol, which was a product made in the late 19th century and is still available today in Germany. Only after World War I did the mouthwash craze really kick off though, with corporations like the Lambert Company promoting the use of the famous product Listerine for its ability to get rid of bad breath. There are many types of mouthwash products available today, all of which contain various chemical formulas made to treat specific problems. At the end of the day, the most important use of this liquid is for killing bacteria that can cause infections. To find out more about which options of mouthwash available on the market today are best for your oral health, discuss the matter further with your dentist during your next dental appointment.