Combined effect of zinc ions and cationic antibacterial agents on intraoral volatile sulphur compounds (VSC)

Int Dent J. 2003 Aug;53(4):237-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1875-595x.2003.tb00751.x.


Objective: Volatile sulphur compounds (VSC) are major components of oral malodour. As both zinc ions and cationic antibacterial agents inhibit the formation of oral VSC, this study aimed to determine whether these agents combined have synergistic anti-VSC actions.

Methods: Baseline oral VSC measurements of mouth air from 10 volunteers following cysteine rinsing (6mM, pH 7.2) were obtained using gas chromatography (GC). Subjects rinsed for 1 min with 10ml of the test solutions, 0.3% zinc acetate (Zn), 0.025% chlorhexidine (CHX), 0.025% cetyl pyridinium (CPC), and the combinations Zn+CHX and Zn+CPC. Cysteine rinses were repeated at 1h, 2h and 3h and VSC measurements recorded. Three subjects rinsed with the Zn+CHX combination and fasted for 9h, undergoing cysteine rinses and VSC measurements at 3h intervals. 10 microl of the test solutions were also added to 1ml aliquots of human whole saliva (n=8). Following incubation at 37 degrees C for 24h VSC levels in the saliva headspace were measured by GC. Inhibition of VSC formation and the fractional inhibitory index indicating synergy were calculated.

Results: Zn+CHX mouthrinse had a synergistic anti-VSC effect, and was effective for at least 9h. Zn+CPC mouthrinse was less effective. Both combinations showed a synergistic inhibiting effect in-vitro.

Conclusions: Synergy between Zn and the antibacterial agents confirms different mechanisms of operation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / therapeutic use
  • Breath Tests
  • Cetylpyridinium / pharmacology*
  • Cetylpyridinium / therapeutic use
  • Chlorhexidine / pharmacology*
  • Chlorhexidine / therapeutic use
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Synergism
  • Female
  • Halitosis / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouthwashes / pharmacology*
  • Mouthwashes / therapeutic use
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Sulfur Compounds / analysis
  • Sulfur Compounds / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Zinc / administration & dosage*


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Drug Combinations
  • Mouthwashes
  • Sulfur Compounds
  • Cetylpyridinium
  • Zinc
  • Chlorhexidine