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Good Health and Bad Medicine:
 Colds - Part 1

 Colds - Part 2

 Colds - Part 3


 Mouth Washes And Bad Breath

 Nasal Disorders

 Sinuses And Sinusitis



 Asthma And Hay Fever

 Read More Articles About: Good Health and Bad Medicine

Mouth Washes And Bad Breath

( Originally Published 1940 )

MOUTH washes have been endowed by advertisers with every kind of miraculous property. The mouth, according to them, has become the seat of all sorts of ailments, and it is the responsibility of every health-conscious consumer to "disinfect" his mouth so that he can be saved from various malevolent fates. The best answer to this highly imaginative pathology is to be found in a book called General Technic of Medication, by Dr. Bernard Fantus.

Writing on the cleansing of the mouth, Dr. Fantus says: "The essential dentifrice is warm water—and plenty of it; nothing else can take its place and nothing else is needed, excepting a tooth brush to assist it. All that can really be expected from a mouth wash, in the direction of oral hygiene, is that it aid the toothpick, dental floss and tooth brush in the physical removal of culture medium [i.e., food] for micro-organisms.

"Just as rats, roaches and other `vermin' cannot thrive unless one carelessly leaves food accessible to them, so a mouth cannot become foul unless there is dead material in it for bacteria to feed on. The fundamental principle of oral hygiene is to keep the mouth clean and in a cleanable condition. A mouth that has cavities in its teeth can no more be kept clean than a house with holes in its basement can be kept rat free. If the money wasted on dentifrices [tooth pastes, powders and mouth washes] were invested in dental care, there would be better and healthier mouths. .

"A veritable flood of useless disinfectants is poured through human mouths in a vain attempt at sterilizing the mouth, which is an obvious impossibility, because one can-not kill all the micro-organisms in this cavity and one cannot maintain any poison in germicidal strength in this cavity for any length of time. The moment it is washed out of the mouth by the everflowing saliva, enough microbes are there to throng the mouth, because of their almost incredible speed of proliferation [growth], with progeny up to the limit of the available food supply."

These bacteria in all their multitude are harmless if the teeth are kept clean and the gums healthy by use of tooth brush, dental floss and gentle massage of gums with the fingers. Good dental health and good general health render the germs entirely harmless.

Dr. Fantus continues: "In cleansing the mouth, energetic swishing of warm water back and forth and from side to side should be practiced, rather than mere rinsing. . . . The most that so-called mouth tinctures or dentifrices can do is to make the ordeal more pleasant by their esthetic qualities. ... Oh, the sins that are committed against the human pal-ate by inflicting on it thymol, camphor and other nasty, so-called antiseptics in the impossible effort to sterilize or even to `antisepticize' the mouth."


"Disinfectant" mouth washes are therefore a delusion. They will not prevent or cure colds and they will not prevent dental decay. Further, they will not cure or even check halitosis, as the makers of Listerine claim. Halitosis means bad breath. It can be caused by many conditions—such as disease of the nose, the tonsils and the gums, and disorders of digestion. A careful physical examination will usually disclose the cause of the halitosis. A mouth wash will simply wash or "perfume" the mouth odor for a brief period.

Onion or garlic breath is due chiefly to the presence of bits of onion or garlic in the mouth. Chloraxene antiseptic is the most useful agent for neutralizing these odors. When. large amounts of onion or garlic are eaten, some of the sub-stance endowed with the odor enters the blood and is then excreted by the lungs. A mouth wash obviously cannot check an odor having its source in the blood or lungs.

"The only legitimate use of a mouth wash," says the American Dental Association, "is as an adjunct in the toilet of the mouth, to make the mouth temporarily taste pleas-ant."

If there is much mucus present, the mouth may be rinsed with hydrogen peroxide solution—one part of hydrogen per-oxide to four parts of warm water. If a pleasant-tasting mouth is desired, "alkaline aromatic solution .N. F." may be purchased from the druggist. It is almost identical in composition with Lavoris. Most druggists carry solutions practically identical with Lavoris and Listerine for half the price, or less, of the highly advertised product. Avoid washes with strong odor or perfume. A clean mouth has no odor. A perfumed mouth is objectionable to most people.

Sodium perborate or preparations containing it, such as Vince, should be used only upon advice of a dentist, as frequent or careless use can cause severe injury to the mouth. Sodium perborate acts almost like a caustic in some people. It may cause burns of greater or less severity when used in considerable concentrations or repeatedly. It can also produce a "furry" coat on the tongue.


(Mouth washes and dentifrices)

Analka Hexylresorcinol Pepsodent Mouth Wash

Astring-O-Sol Solution ST 37 Wash

Calox Lavoris Rubizan

Dr. Lyon's Mouth Wash Listerine Vick's Voratone

Wash Orosan Zonite

Glycothymoline Orygene

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