“ Brand: Listerine / Type: Mouthwash „
One of the less welcome aspects of our vacation in Florida this Summer was that I suffered an attack of gingivitis. Although I have no proof (and therefore I will not be naming names) I have my suspicion that an unfamiliar make of toothpaste could have been responsible. We ran out of our regular brand and I used my daughter's 'trendy stuff' for a few days. Anyway I was condemned to painful, swollen and bleeding gums.
We made our way to a local branch of the drugstore, Walgreen's, in search of a remedy. I had used Listerine on a couple occasions in the past and I headed for the Dental Care shelves. Twelve months ago I picked Cool Citrus which was a newly introduced flavour both in the US and at home bringing the Listerine range to five. This time I discovered "New" Vanilla Mint, the sixth variety, and curiosity pricked I decided to give it a try.
THE LISTERINE BRAND
I am sure that most people are aware of Listerine if only by repute. You may though be surprised by how long a history the brand has. It has been promoted as a powerful adjunct to regular brushing and visits to the dentist to protect again plaque and bad breath. The name is derived from Joseph Lister (although he had nothing to do with the product) who introduced antiseptics into surgical practice in 1865. The first Listerine formula was made in 1879 as a surgical disinfectant and came into general use as a dental antiseptic in 1891. It became available for purchase over the counter without a prescription during the First World War.
Original Listerine has a reputation of being a powerful killer of the bacteria which reside in the mouth. Indeed the human oral cavity is a particularly unsavoury place harbouring many organisms (streptococci, lactobacilli, staphylococci, corynebacteria and anaerobes, such as bacteroides). Dental plaque consists of about 60% bacterial cells. A human bite wound is often infected and can be difficult to treat.
Listerine is also well known for its powerful chemical taste. Perhaps this is in keeping with the old pharmaceutical mantra that if a medicine tastes nasty then it must be doing you good! Over the years the addition of different flavours may well have been a marketing ploy to make the perceived taste more acceptable to a wider audience while maintaining the aura of effectiveness.
I brought the remaining half bottle of the American bought Vanilla Mint back with me to the UK and have compared it with Coolmint and Cool Citrus Listerine (both of which are available in the UK) in preparing this article. Listerine is a registered trade mark of Pfizer Consumer Health in the UK and of Warner-Lambert in the States. The most striking feature is that all varieties in both countries are housed in the patented plastic Listerine bottle which has a special 'pinch-and-twist' childproof cap. The labelling is also remarkably similar even down to the eight digit product codes (see below).
The active ingredients are Eucalyptus 0.092%; Menthol 0.042%; Methyl salicylate 0.06%; Thymol 0.064%. The bottle also contains 21.6% alcohol, preservatives, colourings and unidentified flavourings.
There are a number of 'Anglicization's' in the wording of the labels ("Milder Flavour - Same Powerful Listerine Action" (UK); "Less Intense Equally Effective" (US)) but the ingredients, indications and directions are virtually identical. The only difference I did find was that Vanilla Mint was recommended for the prevention of gingivitis whereas this was not mentioned on the UK brands.
A TASTE TEST
We carried out a small trial in the preparation of this review. Coolmint was one of the first alternatives to the Original Listerine but maintained the taste strength. Cool Citrus was the first 'milder' flavour. These were compared with Vanilla Mint. The trial is purely subjective and has no scientific basis. For each of the three flavours we recorded its smell, its 'one drop' taste and its 'mouthful sloosh' taste.
All three have a distinctly chemical smell (descriptions ranged from Dettol to toilet cleaner). Cool Citrus had a vague overtone of fruit, probably tangerine. There was a hint of sweet spice (my wife thought Coriander or Aniseed) about the Vanilla Mint.
The "one drop on the tongue" test did separate out the varieties. Cool Citrus did suggest the sourer fruits of grapefruit and again tangerine. Cool Mint was, well, minty. Vanilla Mint did taste of vanilla - and to my own palate was probably the most pleasant.
There was very little difference in taste between the three in the sloosh test. All had the overpowering burst in the mouth chemical effect which tended to cause tingling on the tongue and blunt the taste buds. They all left a rather cloying sweetness on the palate after the initial burst had dissipated and surprisingly the Cool Citrus left the strongest and longest-lasting 'sucked Polo' taste.
The instructions call for a 30 second mouthwash with 20mls of undiluted Listerine twice a day. I followed these instructions. Because of the initial inflammation I also took a five day course of ADVIL (an anti-inflammatory agent). I did stop using the offending brand of toothpaste. After that time, the pain and bleeding had stopped and the swelling was subsiding. I did not need to see my dentist.
Each bottle warns that Listerine should be spat out and not swallowed. It was also not recommended for children under the age of 12 years.
Since my return to the UK I have continued to use Listerine as a mouthwash morning and evening. I have had a tendency to plaque formation in the past (regular scale and polish visits). So far there has been little build up.
Listerine Vanilla Mint. (07-0713-18)
8.5 fluid ounces (250 ml) about $3 Walgreens and drugstore
Listerine Coolmint (07-0705-03) 250ml £ 1.95 Sainsbury
Listerine Cool Citrus (07-05-10) 250ml £ 2.35 Sainsbury
When it is released in the UK I would expect Vanilla Mint to be priced the same as Cool Citrus.
From the point of view of my recent painful episode, Vanilla Mint served its purpose admirably (5 star action). Would I buy it again? Well, yes. In our tests we could differentiate the three flavours by smell and by drop. It has to be stressed that this is not the reason for buying Listerine in the first place!! I am not convinced that there is the great difference in taste in use between flavours that is claimed by the company. I was also surprised by the tiny percentage of each of the active ingredients in the formulation and still wonder what contribution any of them make to the strength of the taste. The need to introduce new flavours has to be a marketing gimmick. (Hence the dropped star from my rating). Now, if they could introduce a 'non-chemical' variety, then that would be a breakthrough. Gin and tonic, perhaps .. ?
Vanilla Mint Listerine is not available yet in the UK (although you could order it over the internet) and this article is more of a preview. However if the experience of other flavours is anything to go by we should find it reaching the shelves of our chemists and supermarkets by the New Year. You can always say that you read about it first here!
Kills germs that cause gingivitisÕ, plaque and bad breath /