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Are we overdoing the mouthwash?

There is a debate flying around at the moment on whether it is still safe to use mouthwash after brushing your teeth.

For years sales of mouthwash have been booming as we all becoming increasingly aware of how infection causes gum problems as well as tooth decay.  At the moment, according to the British Dental Health Foundation, around one in three adults use mouthwash regularly.

Now new reports are coming out that using mouthwash can increase blood pressure by killing off “good” bacteria in our mouths.

This information has come from serious research under the guidance of Amrita Ahluwalia who studied at Bath Spa University and is now a professor of Vascular Pharmacoloty and deputy director of the well respected William Harvey Research Institute at Barts and The London Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. 

Professor Amrita Ahluwalia and her team of researchers studied the effect of a chlorhexidine-based antiseptic mouthwash (Corsodyl) by measuring the blood pressure of a small group of health participants over a two week period.

Chlorhexidine is in a number of mouthwashes as well as Corsodyl and is an antiseptic used to treat gingivitis and other mouth and gum problems.  Chlorhexidine also kills certain microbes that are essential to help blood vessels dilate properly, and Professor Ahluwalia believed this plays an important aspect in determining plasma nitrate levels.

The 19 people involved in the study were involved in a seven day control period followed by a seven day treatment period when they used the antiseptic mouthwash regularly twice a day.

Nitrite levels and other information were recorded after reach study period.

The research showed that the mouthwash caused nitrite production in the mouth to fall by over 90 percent and blood nitrite levels to fall by 25 per cent.  

The research also showed that using mouthwash was indicated in the rise of the participants’ blood pressure of between 2 to 3.5 mmHg.  For each two-point rise in blood pressure, the risk of dying from heart disease rises by seen per cent and the risk of dying from stroke by 10 per cent.

Professor Ahluwalia said that when small rises in blood pressure have significant impact on morbidity and mortality from heart disease and stroke, killing off these bugs every day could be a disaster.

Interestingly Corsodyl makers GlaxoSmithKline said their own research had not highlighted any concerns. However, they did add that the product involved in the tests was for short-term use to stop plaque and prevent gum disease and that they make another product, Corsodyl Daily, which only contains 0.06 per cent chlorhexidine rather than the 0.2 per cent in most mouthwashes.

A scientific adviser to the British Dental Association has issued a word of warning on the study, saying that the research had limitations and caution must be exercised in drawing conclusions. He also added that only a small number of mouthwashes contain chlorhexidine.


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