If at some point during the coronavirus pandemic, you heard that Listerine is not approved for treating COVID-19, you might have thought, "Well, duh." But if you knew a bit about Listerine's various historical uses, you'd realize that such a warning might be necessary, after all.
Named after Joseph Lister, the British antiseptic surgery pioneer, Listerine originated as a surgical antiseptic solution and germicide. It was invented by St. Louis doctor Joseph Lawrence in 1879 and licensed to pharmacist Jordan Lambert. Over the next few decades, the Lambert Pharmacal Company sold Listerine (in its distilled form) not just as an oral antiseptic, but as a floor cleaner, an aftershave, and a treatment for conditions including dandruff and gonorrhea.
But even with all of those purported uses, Listerine wasn't a massive seller until the 1920s. It took Jordan Lambert's son, Jerry, to link Listerine to halitosis – a scary-sounding "medical" term for bad breath – and convince generations of consumers that they needed Listerine to avoid social (and romantic) embarrassment. Thanks to some clever marketing, the mouthwash bottles began flying off the shelves, as they continue to do today.
About that bad breath:
- Bad breath caused by food, such as garlic, can linger despite brushing and gargling, as long as it remains in the bloodstream.
- Brushing your teeth can help prevent bad breath because it kills the bacteria that causes it.
- Streptococcus salivarius is a bacteria in your saliva that actually combats bad breath.