Will Germs Give Me Better-Smelling Breath?

Probiotics are said to be a cure all for just about everything... including your mouth.

Unless you’ve managed to avoid the internet in the past decade, there’s been one word you have most certainly become intimately familiar with: probiotics. According to the internet, probiotics are even more magical than avocados and bulletproof coffee combined—believers say there’s nothing they won’t fix. They’ll realign your gut, they’ll improve your immune system, they might even allow you to never step foot in a shower again—allegedly. But what are they? Probiotics are basically “good germs”—the World Health Organization classifies probiotics as any living microorganism that has a beneficial relationship with its host. That’s an extremely vague definition, but that’s partially because there are millions of types of bacteria in the world, and there’s still a lot left to be learned about them and their relationship with human bodies.

Two that we hear about most often, Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, are groups of bacteria that are most commonly used to help ease intestinal issues like IBS, but have possible effectiveness for treating everything from UTIs to allergies. Lactobacillus is present in practically all fermented foods—from yogurt to sauerkraut to sourdough bread, and, while eating more foods with probiotics can be good for you, doctors are still on the fence about whether these bacteria can survive the harsh acidic environment of your stomach long enough to have any actual benefits for your gut health.

But still, there’s real evidence behind a lot of these claims. The idea that “good germs” make you healthier and happier is a theory that’s existed since at least the early 1900s. Élie Metchnikoff, a Nobel laureate, theorized that the yogurt-loving peasants of Bulgaria were living longer because of their “dependence of the intestinal microbes on the food”. There have been suggestions that probiotics can even help with mental health, with studies showing an improvement on people’s moods.

But what can they do for your mouth?

It makes plenty of sense that so-called “good” bacteria can affect your intestinal health—your body already has a host of bacteria in the gut, so introducing new, healthy bacteria seems like a logical step in the right direction. But could bacteria, the thing that all dentists say is, like, the #1 cause of bad breath, actually cure it?

When I was told about a “probiotic mouthwash” by a friend, I was initially skeptical. But when I started seeing reviews pop up about a product that claimed to ban bad breath and improve overall oral health, well, I had to see for myself. The iClean Your Teeth from P2 Probiotic Power is a mouthwash and retainer/toothbrush rinse all in one. It’s made in the USA, it’s eco-friendly, it’s alcohol, allergen, and paraben-free, and it has a bunch of reviews by people who claim it’s changed their life. The product claims to clean away “biofilm plaque at the microscopic source” while providing “a layer of protection to balance your mouth’s microbiome, leaving teeth cleaner and fresher longer.” Plus, it helps to remove stains and improve general tooth and gum health. I ordered the product on Amazon and got started on my great, germ-y experiment.

Right away, I ran into a few issues. The bottle arrived in a box with adequate packing materials, yet it still was leaking everywhere. Annoying, but something I could deal with. Then, I read the instructions, which told me to add 1/4 of a teaspoon of mouthwash to 2 oz of water every time I wanted to rinse. Call me lazy (it’s OK—I am), but I wasn’t looking forward to becoming a mixologist during my oral hygiene routine. Still, this was something I could deal with. And then, human error entered the game. I dropped the bottle, shattering the cap with it’s easy to use dispenser. After pouring what remained into a mason jar, I began to feel as though fate was against my newfound squeaky clean mouth dreams.

Actually using the product (once you get over the shaking and the mixing and the cleaning up after yourself because you definitely spilled some) was painless. Because it’s alcohol-free, there’s no burning sensation like you typically get with traditional mouthwashes. It’s very gentle—even the minty flavor is very faint. It’s nothing complicated or revolutionary. After a few swooshes you spit it out and go about your life.

As for the effects of the mouthwash? My review is basically, “Meh.” Maybe I’ve been too reliant on the scorched earth feeling of clean I usually get with traditional mouthwashes, but I can’t say that my mouth feels any less coffee-breathy after my morning cup, or that I’ve noticed any truly astonishing results. I’d definitely recommend it as a toothbrush rinse or if you have retainers or mouth guards to clean. It’s still a great, all-natural tool to add to your arsenal.

A few more ways to enhance your gut health:


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