Are Chlorine Dioxide Mouth Washes Safe?

My ten year-old son has very bad breath. Rinses work well for limited time periods but I am confused about their ingredients. Our dentist recommends a chlorine dioxide rinse. Is this safe to use for bad breath?


Chlorine dioxide is a common ingredient in mouthrinses for bad breath (i.e. halitosis). There are two types of chlorine dioxide rinses: stabilized and active. Both types can help reduce halitosis for short time periods by destroying the sulfur-containing molecules that cause bad breath.

Chlorine dioxide is not very stable in solutions with normal pH--especially if it is stored for long periods of time between use. This is why most manufacturers use stabilized chlorine dioxide. Activated chlorine dioxide smells like ozone or chlorine while stabilized chlorine dioxide does not have a distinct odor. ProFresh Breath Care System's Oral Rinse contains activated chlorine dioxide. This is a new product as of January 1998.

Be cautious of any rinse that contains both chlorine dioxide and a flavoring agent like peppermint or spearmint. Chlorine dioxide will react with organic compounds, including flavoring agents. This limits the effectiveness because the deodorizing action of the chlorine dioxide compound is spent reacting with the flavoring agent instead of fighting halitosis!

Mouthrinses are safe to use against bad breath provided that the instructions are followed carefully. You should also note that some types of halitosis are not dental-related. For example, there are many conditions that may cause bad breath including gastrointestinal disorders. You and your dentist must definitively diagnose the cause of your son's bad breath before beginning a treatment program.

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