As scientists continue to research the SARS-CoV-2 virus, more potential cures and preventative measures are being suggested every day. Of course all of these potential tools in the fight against COVID-19 should be taken with a grain of salt. If a potential “cure” is being touted by anyone other than an accredited scientist, do not try what they are saying. One preventative measure that’s being discussed by experts has to do with dental care, and we’d like to address it briefly. It has been suggested that mouthwash may reduce the spread of COVID-19. But how real is this theory and how might it impact your daily oral health regiment?
According to a variety of outlets, mouthwash may reduce the spread of the new Coronavirus. Notice the “may” in this study. As with everything, you can only assume a scientific proposal is true if it has been extensively studied and peer reviewed. As of today, the effect of mouthwash on COVID-19 has not been thoroughly studied. But we can draw a few conclusions based on what scientists are learning. First, it is a fact that the virus replicates aggressively in the throat and mouth. In addition, scientists have shown that alcohol can kill the virus as long as it is present in high enough concentrations. So will mouthwash protect you from potential infection?
It can be exciting to think there may be a preventative measure for COVID-19 present right there in the oral health aisle. But the reality is mouthwash is not a viable tool to prevent the infection or spread of this virus. While yes mouthwash may kill instances of the virus in the mouth temporarily, this has no impact on how contagious an individual is. They can still sneeze or cough and spread the virus to others around them. Remember the virus grows in your throat as well, and mouthwash cannot reach your throat. NEVER drink mouthwash as it is dangerous. If anyone drinks mouthwash, please contact poison control immediately.
When it comes to infection prevention, again mouthwash can only do so much. If you still come in contact with an infected surface and touch your eyes, mouthwash can do nothing to prevent this source of infection. Don’t count on mouthwash as anything more than a compliment to your brushing and flossing routine.
There are inherent risks in recommending an untested cure for COVID-19 are many. This is serious business, and a wrongfully touted cure costs lives when people heed untested advice. While mouthwash itself is not dangerous if used properly, there are some risks to note, especially if people are using it as a preventative measure. First, you should only use mouthwash twice a day at most. So the idea of swishing mouthwash every half hour or so to keep COVID at bay could cause long term harm to your teeth.
In fact, many dentists caution against using mouthwash that contains alcohol. It can cause xerostomia (dry mouth) which inhibits saliva production and makes your teeth more vulnerable to cavities. Those with sensitive teeth or other irritation in their mouth can experience pain and discomfort when using alcohol mouthwash as well. Generally most patients will see better benefits with alcohol-free mouthwashes vs. those with alcohol ingredients like ethanol.
To close our article, there is one area where research around mouthwash and COVID-19 infection may make a sizable impact. This comes with a mouthwash rinse before your next dental cleaning. Given that mouthwash may temporarily kill viruses in the mouth, rinsing before your dental hygienist begins a cleaning could make the process safer for you and the dental staff by reducing the potential of COVID spread in asymptomatic patients. Ask about the process next time you schedule an appointment in our clean, safe Lakewood, CO dental clinic.