Mouthwash vs Covid-19
Can mouthwash really kill Covid-19? The (dubious) science explained
Dr Toby Edwards-Lunn and Dr Mike Heffernan are practising dentists with more than 50 years' combined experience. In this blog post, they delve beneath the dramatic headlines to investigate whether mouthwash really can help to combat Covid-19.
Why is mouthwash in the news?
There are several studies currently investigating whether conventional mouthwashes can reduce the risk of infection from saliva. Some headlines dramatically claim that ‘mouthwash can kill the virus in 30 seconds’. But the truth is a bit more complex.
What are the key findings?
These studies are primarily investigating whether giving mouthwash to a patient who has Covid-19 before a procedure lowers the chances of the patient infecting whoever will be operating on them. So, these studies aren’t examining the benefits of people using mouthwash in their day-to-day lives to combat Covid-19. But rather, when that patient is at the dentist or having a procedure, where their dentist or a doctor would be working close to their mouths and saliva.
So using mouthwash wouldn’t help someone suffering from Covid-19 combat the virus in their own body?
No. This is just one of the reasons why headlines saying that ‘mouthwash can kill the virus in 30 seconds’ are so misleading. A mouthwash might potentially reduce the amount of the Covid-19 virus found in someone’s saliva. But it can’t do anything about the virus in the nose, deep throat and lungs, which are three key areas of infection.
What else have these studies found?
Several recent studies, in association with mouthwash manufacturers (very interesting indeed...), have released some initial test results which suggest that rinsing for 30 seconds with mouthwashes containing a specific active ingredient reduces the amount of the virus in the saliva. But the final results of these studies are still unknown.
That sounds promising. Is there a catch?
Yes. Firstly, none of these studies have been peer reviewed or published in credible scientific journals. Studies that have not been peer reviewed can’t be completely relied upon. Secondly, these initial studies have only been conducted in lab conditions, and so the effectiveness of mouthwash has yet to be trialed with people who are actually suffering from Covid-19. This is another essential step that must be taken before any solid claims can be made about mouthwash’s potential usefulness in reducing the spread of Covid-19.
So I don’t need to rush out and buy mouthwash?
No, certainly not. Despite the dramatic media reports about ‘mouthwash killing Covid-19 in 30 seconds’, the fact remains that there is no scientific evidence that using mouthwash will reduce transmission of Covid-19 in everyday life. As practising dentists we would recommend you keep your money in your pocket – and your teeth and mouth clean in other ways.
Why other ways? What’s wrong with mouthwash?
Mouthwash can be beneficial to your teeth but only in specific situations. For instance, after certain types of oral surgery, to relieve oral ulcers and irritation, and for some patients whose teeth are at high risk of decay. In general, we advise against using mouthwash because it is no substitute for a thorough dental health regime focused on protection and prevention. A good analogy is washing a car. To do it properly, you need to scrub and clean the different parts of the car in a rigorous, methodical way. Simply throwing a bucket of water over it – which is the equivalent of briefly swilling and then spitting out some mouthwash – is nowhere near as effective as it needs to be.
So if not mouthwash, how should I be investing my time and money to keep my teeth clean and healthy?
The three main things to do every day are: brush your teeth in a thorough way to remove the plaque (including in between your teeth); always use a toothpaste containing fluoride; cut down on sugary snacks and drinks wherever possible. As an alternative to mouthwash, we’d recommend our own Dr. Heff’s Remarkable Mints, which we invented specifically to help people to take better care of their teeth throughout the day. Dr. Heff’s mints have been scientifically proven – both in lab tests and in patients’ mouths – to neutralise the harmful acids caused by the bacteria found in plaque.
Why are Dr. Heff’s mints the smart alternative to mouthwash?
First, they will reduce the harmful rise in acidity levels in your mouth caused by eating and drinking. This in turn helps your teeth to regenerate in a process called remineralisation. And because they are mints, they’re also much more convenient and easy to keep with you throughout the day than a cumbersome bottle of mouthwash. Dr. Heff’s mints are also made from natural ingredients, whereas some mouthwashes contain chemicals such as chlorhexidine which can irritate the mouth and discolour your teeth. So if you want to build on your twice-daily brushing regime with a dental health product that genuinely protects your teeth throughout the day, there really isn’t anything to rival Dr. Heff’s. That’s why they’re remarkable!