By: Dr John Andersen, DBA - The Periogen Company.
Recently the Wall Street Journal had an article on the potential of mouthwash slowing the spread of Covid-19: https://www.wsj.com/articles/gargling-could-slow-covid-19-spread-mouthwash-makers-say-11607769000, I was happy to see oral care make the headlines in the WSJ and recognition that a healthy mouth can contribute to our overall well-being. This is so often overlooked to the detriment of many.
However, the implications to the reader from this story is that the cetylpyridinium chloride, or CPC containing mouthwash can have a substantiative impact on SARS-CoV-2 (Covid ) which in actual practice is only partly true. Use of antiseptic mouthwash in the prevention of respiratory illness as an “oral disinfectant” is not new and has been studied for some time as respiratory infection has always presented a major challenge in hospital settings resulting from hospital and community acquired respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, and SARS related pathogens.
While antimicrobial mouth washes do kill many bacteria and viruses (both good and bad) on contact, that would only hold true in a healthy mouth and its effects may be short lived as saliva quickly dilutes mouthwash and the act of coughing as stated in the article may re-infect the mouth. Therefore, the issue we must consider is that Covid, while existing in saliva, is also spread from infected lung tissue so the mouth is constantly subject to re-infection. Thus the gargling of mouthwash may only provide a very temporary benefit. Additionally, research shows that germ-killing mouthwash tends to be ineffective germ killers when plaque/tartar deposits are present on teeth. Tartar (calculus) is highly porous and can provide shelter for the virus thus protecting it from the anti-microbial rinse. It is therefore likely that those with plaque/tartar buildup, gingivitis and periodontal disease may see very little protection from anti-microbial mouthwash. Coupled with the fact that according to the CDC over 70% of adults over the age of 65 have periodontal disease! The irony here is that the 65 year and older adult that is most at risk from respiratory illness are the least likely to benefit from application of an oral disinfectant.
The REAL protection from Covid with regard to oral health actually stems from keeping ones mouth healthy by avoiding any tartar buildup and subsequent periodontal infection in your gums as a link has been established that people with underlying periodontal disease are much more prone to catching respiratory diseases. The reason is not completely understood but one theory is that oral infections provide a livable habitat for viruses in the infected areas and give them time to live and grow and ultimately find their way into the lungs.
Tartar is porous and can harbor most any pathogen – even protecting them from mouthwashes. The best use of oral care to protect oneself against Covid (and quite honestly a whole host of other illnesses as gum disease has been tied to heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other illnesses) is to keep your mouth healthy through regular brushing, use of anti-tartar rinses, and regular dental visits. By the way, the rinses noted in this article do not breakdown tartar – for that you need Periogen. It was developed over 10 years ago and remains the only mouth rinse clinically proven to prevent and progressively reduce dental tartar.