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When you’ve been eating clean, you may notice that your breath sometimes smells less than fresh. Contrary to popular internet lore, veganism does not automatically cause tooth decay. However, a vegan diet can lower the pH in your mouth which can lead to a lingering bad taste and, yes, that may lead to bad breath.

Before you reach for the Listerine, however, you should know that most mouthwashes aren’t vegan. Like many personal care brands, Aim, Aquafresh, Colgate, Crest, Listerine, Mentadent, Reach, and Scope all test their products on animals.

That being said, if you’re experiencing a bout of halitosis or just like the clean feeling of using mouthwash, don’t worry! There are plenty of natural, cruelty-free mouthwashes to choose from. Here’s what to look for when shopping for the best vegan mouthwash for you.

What’s the problem with alcohol-based mouthwashes?

Mass-market mouthwashes are literal cocktails: they contain mostly alcohol. Unlike cocktails, though, they are flavored with chemicals, not of a splash of grenadine or soda.

Unsurprisingly, using these mouthwashes may not be good for you. Some research has suggested that alcohol-based mouthwashes may actually increase your risk of developing oral cancer. The chemical ingredients in some mouthwashes are also associated with high blood pressure, cancer, and blood clotting in the brain.

On top of all of this, it’s not safe for some people to use alcohol-based mouthwashes at all. Children, diabetics, and people undergoing chemotherapy should stay away from these mouthwashes.

Why is alcohol-free mouthwash a better option?

Believe it or not, the key to good oral health and fresh breath is already in your mouth: your saliva. Saliva helps prevent food from sticking to your teeth and gums, aids in digestion, and keeps your breath smelling fresh. Toronto dentist Dr. Joe Bulger describes saliva as a “shield” for your overall oral health.

Alcohol is a desiccant, meaning it dries out the mouth and reduces saliva production. Therefore, alcohol-based mouthwashes may be doing more harm than good. If you lose your “saliva shield” by using chemical mouthwashes, your teeth become more susceptible to staining, softening, and bacteria development.

Natural antibacterial mouthwash works with your body, and natural mouthwashes don’t inhibit saliva production or cause irritation. They don’t simply mask the temporary problem of bad breath; rather, they improve the overall health of your mouth.

What are the ingredients in non-alcoholic mouthwashes?

In terms of effective ingredients that reduce bacteria without harming saliva production, different companies take different approaches. Here are the active ingredients you should look for when buying a non-alcoholic mouthwash:

Sodium bicarbonate: Sodium bicarbonate is plain old baking soda, well known for its bacteria-killing properties.

 

Sodium benzoate: This other form of sodium also inhibits bacterial growth. However, it is not a naturally occurring substance and some concerns have been raised about its presence as a food additive (look out for the E number E211). While it’s generally considered safe by the FDA, it’s probably safer not to swallow your mouthwash if it contains sodium benzoate…like you needed another reason!

 

Chlorine dioxide: Admittedly, it’s a little hard to find information about chlorine dioxide-based mouthwashes not published by the manufacturers that make them. The companies that make these products claim that chlorine dioxide is the most effective ingredient for fighting bad breath.

Some consumers, however, are a little freaked out by the idea of chlorine dioxide in their mouth. Chlorine dioxide is effective at killing bacteria – so effective that it’s widely used in waste water treatment plants!

Chlorine dioxide is FDA approved for certain food-related uses (like as an antimicrobial wash for fruits and vegetables), but this doesn’t cover uses in personal care products.

 

Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic that has long been a home remedy for treating bad breath, gingivitis, plaque, and mouth irritation. You no longer have to make your own tea tree mouthwash, however, as there are plenty of options on the market.

 

Aloe Vera: Another ancient homeopathic powerhouse, aloe vera’s antibacterial properties make it an ideal ingredient for alcohol free mouthwash. Aloe vera juice is safe for oral use and completely digestible.

 

Colloidal Silver: A less common active ingredient in natural mouthwashes is colloidal silver (tiny silver particles suspended in a liquid) which is believed to be antibacterial. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services strongly dissuades consumers from buying colloidal silver products due to proven health dangers.

 

Zinc: Some studies show zinc is effective at disrupting the chemical causes of bad breath. Because it’s a naturally occurring mineral, zinc is a great active ingredient for an organic mouthwash formula.

Why is there no fluoride in natural mouthwashes?

Most vegan and alcohol-free mouthwashes are specifically fluoride-free, which may seem surprising given the long-touted benefits of fluoride for dental health. More recently, however, studies have indicated that added fluoride may not be as good for teeth as we thought. Fluoride may also have adverse effects on bone density and thyroid function, amongst others. See the video below from Dr. Chris Napoli for more info:

While we’re on the subject of added ingredients, many people looking for natural personal care products are also wary of sodium lauryl sulfide (SLS) in mouthwashes and toothpaste. SLS is a skin irritant that may cause or delay the healing of canker sores. There are also some studies linking SLS to eye development problems in children. For that reason, many non alcoholic mouthwash brands advertise their products as SLS-free.

Vegan mouthwash options

Still need help finding the best alcohol-free vegan mouthwash? Here’s our run-down of some of the options available to you:

Therabreath Fresh Breath Oral Rinse

Therabreath Fresh Breath Oral Rinse is certified vegan, gluten-free, and contains no alcohol or artificial flavors. People with everything from occasional dry mouth to serious halitosis claim that Therabreath always leaves their mouth feeling clean and fresh. The formula contains peppermint oil which gives this vegan mouthwash a mild flavor that is refreshing without being overwhelming.

As for active ingredients, Therabreath advertises that it kills bacteria using a “special” and “patented” ingredient called OXYD-8. (Um…what?) OXYD-8 is apparently Therabreath’s made-up name for chlorine dioxide, which is usually used for industrial disinfecting. Therabreath also contains sodium benzoate, which some consumers like to avoid because of possible links to health problems.

WHAT WE LIKE:

✅ Great mild flavor

✅ Effective for both dry mouth and bad breath

✅ Flavored with peppermint oil

WHAT WE DISLIKE:

❌ Active ingredient is chlorine dioxide

❌ Contains sodium benzoate

VITA-MYR All Natural Zinc-Plus Mouthwash

VITA-MYR’S natural mouthwash contains only 5 ingredients: water, zinc, folic acid, myrrh oil, and clove oil. As vegan mouthwashes go, that’s about as simple as they come. The makers of VITA-MYR claim that each ingredient naturally works with the body and immune system to eliminate the bacteria that cause bad breath.

Customers also love it. People have shared stories of this mouthwash helping with everything from mouth sores caused by chemotherapy to life-long gum disease and halitosis. Anecdotal evidence suggests that VITA-MYR is effective for a host of oral complaints.

Speaking of complaints, the only notable downside is the taste. Since VITA-MYR contains clove oil instead of more common peppermint or cinnamon, the flavor may take some getting used to. The myrrh oil, though primarily included as an anti-inflammatory ingredient, also contributes to the unusual taste.

WHAT WE LIKE:

✅ Only 5 natural ingredients

✅ Works with the immune system

✅ Customers find it effective for bad breath and other complaints

WHAT WE DISLIKE:

❌ Taste can be off-putting for some

Eco-Dent Daily Rinse

Eco-Dent Daily Rinse is flavored with a burst of cinnamon oil and features a “time-tested blend” of 14 natural oils. Though the effects of these oils aren’t specified, a lot of customers love this cinnamon mouthwash, particularly for healing canker sores.

The active ingredient in Eco-Dent is simple, natural sodium bicarbonate, a.k.a. baking soda. However, this mouthwash does boast a long, not-so-simple list of inactive ingredients. This may be a deterrent for some people, but others may feel it’s part of the uniqueness of this product.

Customers like that Eco-Dent is gentle and feels great to use. However, there isn’t much information about how effective Eco-Dent is for bad breath. If you’re concerned about improving your oral health generally, Eco-Dent is probably a good bet. If you’re specifically looking to freshen your breath, you may want to go elsewhere.

WHAT WE LIKE:

✅ Yummy cinnamon taste

✅ Baking soda is the active ingredient

✅ Great for healing canker sores and promoting oral health

WHAT WE DISLIKE:

❌ Long ingredient list may not work for some consumers

❌ Unclear if it helps bad breath

JASON Natural Healthy Mouthwash

While some natural mouthwashes stick to one active ingredient to kill bacteria, JASON Natural Healthy Mouthwash uses two: tea tree oil and aloe vera. In addition, the brand takes a dual approach to flavoring their mouthwash, using clove and cinnamon oils to add a spicy taste.

This mouthwash has some devoted customers who claim this product helps freshen breath, reduce oral infections, and prevent cavities. The formula does contain menthol, which is good for fresh breath but not so good for people with sensitive teeth.

The biggest problem with JASON’s vegan mouthwash is the taste. While some call it “unusual,” there are a lot of people who seem to find it revolting. If you’re a fan of sweeter minty flavors in your oral care products, you might want to steer clear of this one.

WHAT WE LIKE:

✅ Contains natural tea tree oil and aloe vera

✅ Helps with bad breath

✅ May have other benefits like cavity reduction

WHAT WE DISLIKE:

❌ Menthol can aggravate sensitive teeth

❌ A lot of people don’t like the taste

Natural Dentist Healthy Gums Antigingivitis Mouthwash

This natural mouthwash seems to be pretty effective, but you’ll have to get past the somewhat explicit motto blasted across the bottle: “For when you see pink in your sink.” (Ew!)

Tagline aside, Natural Dentist Healthy Gums Mouthwash contains 20% aloe vera and seems to assuage some common oral complaints. Happy customers say it helps reduce plaque build-up, eliminate bad taste, and – as the label suggests – heal bleeding gums.

The “peppermint twist” flavor is a little strong for some people, and some customers claim they can still taste the aloe through the mint. Though the aloe seems to work great at soothing gums, it may not be the best for freshening breath.

WHAT WE LIKE:

✅ Natural aloe vera heals bleeding gums

✅ Possible other benefits include reducing plaque build-up and bad taste

WHAT WE DISLIKE:

❌ Strong flavor

❌ May not be effective for freshening breath

Silver Tongue Oral Care All Natural Colloidal Silver Mouthwash

Before we get into a review of Silver Tongue Oral Care Mouthwash, we need to talk again about colloidal silver. As Dr. Brent A. Bauer with the Mayo Clinic writes: “Colloidal silver isn’t considered safe or effective for any of the health claims manufacturers make.”

Some of the health problems linked to excessive silver consumption include kidney damage and neurological problems. Granted, in that report, Dr. Bauer is discussing colloidal silver supplements taken by mouth, but it’s still rather worrying.

Silver does not leave your body. Over time, this build-up can cause argyria, a permanent blue-gray discoloration of your skin, nails, eyes, and gums. So, if you choose to use any colloidal silver mouthwash and want to remain your natural color, do not swallow it!

Now, back to Silver Tongue Oral Care. Customers of the Colloidal Silver Mouthwash report that it is effective as healing sores and leaves the mouth feeling clean. This is probably not due to silver in the formula, as the name suggests, but rather to sodium bicarbonate. The mouthwash is flavored with xylitol and has a pleasant taste to most people.

WHAT WE LIKE:

✅ Leaves mouth feeling clean

✅ Nice flavor

✅ Contains sodium bicarbonate for bacteria control

WHAT WE DISLIKE:

❌ Mayo Clinic and US Health and Human services strongly recommend avoiding any product containing colloidal silver, especially if introduced orally, due to the risk of kidney and brain damage, and the possibility that you will turn blue!

Oral Essentials Mouthwash

Oral Essentials Mouthwash is alcohol-free and includes a nice hit of minerals from natural Dead Sea salt. Oral Essentials also claims that their mouthwash is “double pasteurized” to ensure freshness without preservatives. Like some other natural mouthwashes, it also contains essential oils and xylitol for flavor.

People who use this aloe vera mouthwash love its gentle cleaning power. It takes care of bad breath without the sting of alcohol-based mouthwashes. Most people like the taste, but a slight saltiness to the flavor was an issue for some.

The most persistent complaint about Oral Essentials Mouthwash was the size of the bottle relative to recommended use. Many customers say that the largest available bottle size will last less than two weeks if they follow the instructions. Constantly reordering can be a hassle.

WHAT WE LIKE:

✅ Active ingredient is aloe vera

✅ Effective for oral cleaning and bad breath

✅ Preservative free

WHAT WE DISLIKE:

❌ Small bottle means a lot of re-ordering

❌ Tastes salty to some people

So which is the best vegan mouthwash?

One awesome thing about natural mouthwash is that different brands have different purposes, unlike like their mass-market alcohol-laden counterparts. Some vegan mouthwashes are most effective at healing oral sores, while others are great for fighting plaque or bad breath.

If you’re looking for a good all-around vegan mouthwash, we recommend VITA-MYR All Natural Zinc-Plus Mouthwash. This mouthwash is completely all-natural and effective with just five simple ingredients. VITA-MYR is cleansing, anti-inflammatory, and good for controlling bad breath.

VITA-MYR also does not contain any of the suspect ingredients found in some organic mouthwashes. It is free of sodium benzoate, chlorine dioxide, and colloidal silver. It also does not contain xylitol. Though xylitol is perfectly safe for humans, it is toxic to many animals, so some pet owners avoid bringing xylitol products into their homes.

The taste of VITA-MYR Zinc-Plus Mouthwash may take some getting used to, but this seems to be the case with a lot of vegan mouthwashes. The oral rinses may not have the super-sweet mouthwash flavors that we’re accustomed to, but they also don’t come with a harsh burn or chemical load. Most importantly, they are cruelty-free, meaning you can fight your occasional bad breath with a clean conscious.

Get gargling!

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