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The Great Mouthwash Debate

Coos Bay dentist

For many of Coos Bay dentist Dr. Lori Lemire’s patients, finishing off their daily oral hygiene routine comes with a vigorous swish of mouthwash. Many people really enjoy the refreshing sensation that comes from rinsing after they’ve finished brushing. Not only do they appreciate the minty fresh breath, they also feel like they’re helping to wash away any lingering debris that remains in the mouth after eating.

Patients who use mouthwash as part of their oral hygiene do have a better chance of lowering their risk of gum disease when compared to patients that don’t use an oral rinse after brushing. Our mouths are full of hard-to-clean areas that can be easily missed when brushing. Rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash helps to flush out food particles and bacteria from these areas, which reduces the impact oral bacteria can have on our teeth and gums.

Despite the benefits offered by the use of mouthwashes, daily use may actually prove to do more harm than good in the long run. Last year, a study emerged that suggested potential links between the use of mouthwash and an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.

Published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, the UK-based study found that some types of mouthwashes could raise an individual’s blood pressure by eliminating a certain type of healthy bacteria that typically thrives in the mouth. This type of bacteria works to generate nitric oxide in the body, which researchers know to play a vital role in protecting the cardiovascular system, including decreasing an individual’s blood pressure.

In the study, researchers focused on mouthwashes that contained a powerful antibacterial agent referred to as chlorhexidine, which typically requires a prescription to obtain in the U.S. Additionally, researchers limited their study to only 19 participants, which hardly encompasses a large enough pool to conclusively prove the study’s findings.

Since the 90s, studies have suggested that oral rinses containing alcohol could contribute to the development of oral cancers. A recent study conducted in 2014 only helped to reignite the debate over whether mouthwashes present a health hazard. However, experts that reviewed the study report finding a variety of flaws in its execution, and that the study focused on excessive mouthwash use – patients who swished three or more times a day.

If you frequently use mouthwash to improve the freshness of your breath, don’t worry. A variety of additional studies have found no links between mouthwash use and oral cancer. However, using a mouthwash that contains alcohol can cause dry mouth to develop, which can increase your risk of tooth decay. Using an alcohol-free mouthwash is often a better alternative whenever possible.

When it comes to the use of antibacterial or antiseptic mouthwashes, the picture becomes a little more complicated. Patients that suffer from gum disease or other types of harmful oral bacteria could benefit from the use of a mouthwash that eliminates bacteria. However, you should always consult with Coos Bay dentist Dr. Lori Lemire before starting to use any brand of mouthwash.

Dr. Lemire can confirm that your oral health is strong enough to begin using a mouthwash or recommend a brand that will help maintain and improve your oral health.


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