These Weird "Mouthwash Alternatives" Will Baffle You

Mouthwash is a popular target of hate by the "natural," "holistic" and "ayurvedic" communities as being a repurposed surgical antiseptic and containing "dangerous chemicals" such as methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen). While it's true that the popular mouthwash, Listerine, was originally developed as a general-purpose antimicrobial cleaner, its current formulation contains less than 0.06% methyl salicylate, and is completely harmless when used as directed. However, patients who read these holistic diatribes against mouthwash may be inclined to try some of these recipes touted as mouthwash alternatives.

Oil Pulling:
This mouthwash stand-in promises to freshen breath and kill bacteria through swishing with coconut oil for anywhere from 5-20 minutes. In addition to whiter teeth and fresher breath, this method promises "increased energy, clearer skin, and a detoxification of the body." Which toxins? Don't worry about it. The frequency with which coconut oil is used as the oil of choice may originate from the fact that coconut oil is bacteriostatic, meaning bacteria cannot grow or reproduce in it. However, it has no germicidal action.

Cinnamon and Honey:
Nothing like a good application of sugar to ward off tooth decay! This self-defeating solution was probably developed based on the idea that honey on its own doesn’t spoil and has antibacterial properties. Where this logic breaks down, is when honey is at all diluted. It is the absence of water (along with acidic by-products of the bee’s digestion) that gives honey this effect. In fact, the average pH of honey is 3.9, falling below the critical 5.5 at which enamel starts to de-mineralize and making for a dental double-whammy.

Tea Tree Oil:
Another dubious health tip from a popular "natural" lifestyle website is to use a solution containing mostly tea tree oil as mouthwash. Wood from the tea tree, a species of myrtle known as Melaleuca alternifolia, can be processed using steam distillation into a pungent, volatile oil reminiscent of eucalyptol. While safe for external use, tea tree oil is toxic and extremely irritating when taken internally, and its effects on the oral mucosa may be similar. Any accidentally ingested quantity of tea tree oil usually equals a painful stomachache and gastroenteritis.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Apple Cider Vinegar:
Perhaps the most ill-advised recommendation out there, some websites recommend a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and apple cider vinegar to swish with. While this mixture could certainly whiten teeth due to the peroxide and acidification of the oral environment, hydrogen peroxide unless applied carefully and in the correct concentration is extremely irritating and can kill healthy tissue. The real issue though, is that vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can sometimes react, especially if shaken in a closed container, to form peroxyacetic acid (PAA). PAA is a strong oxidizer and can cause significant irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory system.


Blodgett, D. (2017). Mouthwash Is Bad For You: 4 Better Alternatives. Blodgett Dental Care. Retrieved 8 November 2017, from

The 7 Health Benefits Of Oil Pulling. (2017). Retrieved 8 November 2017, from

8 Natural Alternatives To Toxic Mouthwashes (We Give You The Recipes Right Here!). (2017). NaturalON - Natural Health News and Discoveries. Retrieved 8 November 2017, from

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Bad for Your Teeth? | Water Tower Dental Care. (2017). Water Tower Dental Care. Retrieved 8 November 2017, from

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