Alcohol. Bleach. Learn them, live them, love them. Those are the two most effective antiseptics that work in pretty much every situation. When I was working in a biological research laboratory at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, our procedures for cleaning the equipment involved alcohol, bleach, and wipes. Antimicrobials were completely banned; you wouldn’t want the little beasties evolving resistance, of couse. This is why I find it so absurd that companies routinely put low doses of antimicrobials in everyday household soap, because all it’s doing is breeding resistance. If the beasties absolutely positively must die, there’s no better way than alcohol and/or bleach (and high heat, but that’s a topic for another blog post); it’s much harder to evolve resistance to substances that do their killing on the chemical level rather than the biological level.
Thankfully, mouthwash companies seem to have figured this out, and their products have always been effective because of the high alcohol content in them (understandably, you don’t use bleach in situations that puts it in contact with skin). The color is just for looks, and the minty flavor is just for taste, but it’s the trusty alcohol that steals the show. Sure, it may sting a little bit, but if you’re not a total wuss, you can put up with the alcohol for a cleansing that bacteria won’t become resistant to. If you’re not a total wuss. Well, now Crest is marketing a mouthwash aimed specifically at the total wuss segment of the market. It’s called Crest Pro Health. Instead of using alcohol, it uses the antiseptic Cetylpyridinium chloride. At least it’s not an antimicrobial, so it won’t evolve resistance, but it has another problem: it turns your teeth brown and paralyzes your taste buds.
Is this really a good trade-off for the customer? Escape the temporary burn of the alcohol while the mouthwash is in your mouth, but pay for it with brown teeth and taste buds that are paralyzed for hours afterwards? How in the hell did this product ever make it to market? It almost seems like a lawsuit risk. Yet it’s not even the worst possible mouthwash imaginable. I fear for the day when another mouthwash is released that is targeted at the total wusses who don’t want their teeth stained brown market; it will contain full-on antimicrobials, which will be effective for all of a week before the bacteria in their mouth evolve resistance. And that’s the last thing we need: a bunch of frothing idiots running around spreading resistant bacteria from their frothing mouths.