How does one deal with bad breath? For most people, the easiest way would be to grab the biggest bottle of the most popular mouthwash. Others rely on candy mints and breath sprays for relief.

Although some of these products carry unsupported medicinal claims, they are purchased by many people mainly to get rid of foul mouth odor. But are these products effective? The answer is a resounding "No!"

The ineffectiveness of mouthwashes in combating bad breath was emphasized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as early as 1970. The FDA no longer alloys manufacturers to claim that their products can stop bad breath.

At best, they temporarily reduce bacteria and hide the offensive odor. Yet some are no better than brushing or drinking plain water. Chlorophyll tablets, once touted as effective against bad breath and body odor, have also been found to be useless.

"Mouth sprays and drops are products that impart a pleasing fragrance to the breath - long enough, perhaps, for that good-night kiss, but not for much more. The only special benefit to be obtained from mouthwashes, drops and sprays is the temporary replacement of bad odor with a non-offensive aroma. The same is true of the candy mints claimed to freshen the breath by absorbing odors. No substance is known that, in quantities that could be incorporated into a piece of candy, can absorb enough odor to solve permanently the problem of chronic halitosis," said the editors of Consumers Union’s “The Medicine Show.”

How good are mouthwashes in masking bad breath? Tests conducted by Consumers Union (CU) on 15 mouthwashes, candy mints and a breath spray showed that they have very limited uses.

Twenty people participated in the experiment. They all ate a bland breakfast and were asked to refrain from taking any food, drink or smoking until lunchtime. Then they were each fed two slices of pizza seasoned with garlic powder to give them bad breath.

The panelists took a particular mouthwash, candy mint or breath spray afterwards and were assessed by a sensory expert five different times until for two hours after using different breath fresheners. How did they fare? As expected, all the products offered short-lived protection ranging from 10 minutes to an hour.

"Mouthwash typically masked the garlic odor quite effectively when the volunteers' breath were tested 10 minutes after rinsing. But some products were appreciably more effective than others at this 'short-term freshening.' The best immediate breath fresheners included Listerine and Plax. The least effective products included the candies and the spray, which all left some offensive notes," said Consumer Reports, a CU publication.

"Even the best mouthwashes, however, gave out fairly soon. Breath tests taken one and two hours after panelists had rinsed failed to distinguish any products as particularly effective. After an hour, some mouthwashes still had some effect in some people. But the results varied too greatly from person to person to generalize; no product proved to be consistently better than any other. And at the end of two hours, they all had fairly little residual effect. For that reason, our expert graded the mouthwashes on short-term breath freshening, but not on effectiveness beyond 10 minutes," Consumer Reports added. (Next: Do mouthwashes cause oral cancer?)

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Author's Bio: 

Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine