As a dentist for families in Eugene, Dr. Rita Feldmanis was deeply sadden when the pandemic required that we shut down our office for all non-emergency dental care treatments. Caring for the oral health needs of our community is an important job, and Dr. Feldmanis and the rest of her team feel deeply humbled and remain committed to our role in protecting the health and smiles of our friends and neighbors.
The ongoing pandemic has created a number of significant obstacles in not just how patients receive their health care but how they live their daily lives. Trips to the store now come with a sense of risk and potential danger. Even as a vaccine becomes available to the public, many people want to take every possible precaution to reduce their risk for contracting COVID-19.
When searching for effective remedies that will help to lower your risk for the coronavirus, it’s important to keep facts separated from fiction. Many false statements about supposed cures and protective measures circulate on social media, and you need to know how to determine which to trust and which to ignore.
Recently, you may have heard that mouthwash can kill COVID-19, and while that may seem potentially helpful and even beneficial, the facts behind that story may not live up to your overall expectations.
Can Mouthwash Really Kill COVID-19?
Recently, researchers at Cardiff University conducted a study that found mouthwashes can destroy the virus within 30 seconds of exposure. Since breathing in the coronavirus is one of the ways an individual can contract COVID-19, using mouthwash to create a hostile environment for the virus in the mouth can seem like a solution for lowering our risk of contagion.
The Cardiff study offers a perfect example of how the results of real science can become twisted into misinformation. Yes, mouthwash can kill the coronavirus within a few seconds after exposure, but studies have also shown that certain types of disinfectants and even baby shampoo can also kill the virus on contact. Unlike these other types of products, the fact that mouthwash can kill the virus sounds like more valuable information because it’s something people can actually use, which is why you start hearing about it on social media.
However, killing the virus on contact isn’t the same thing as preventing exposure. By the time the coronavirus enters your mouth, some the virus particles you’ve inhaled have already moved to the lungs. Even if you were somehow able to immediately rinse your mouth with a mouthwash after being exposed to the virus, it wouldn’t have any real effect. As a respiratory illness, COVID-19 develops in the lungs after the virus has taken root there, not in your mouth.
Just like how an umbrella will keep you from getting wet doesn’t matter if you don’t plan on going outside when it’s raining, the fact that mouthwash can kill the virus does little to keep you safe. That doesn’t mean mouthwash still can’t play a role in helping to lower the spread of the disease.
What can Mouthwash do to Help?
That mouthwash can kill the virus does have some benefit to the public health. While not an effective option for preventing the contraction of the virus, it could help to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Infected individuals spread the virus by emitting respiratory droplets from their mouths and noses. Using a daily mouthwash, along with regular brushing and flossing, can help to eliminate and kill virus particles in infected patients that buildup in the mouth. Considering that many people contract the virus without ever experiencing any symptoms, yet still remain highly contagious, mouthwash use may help to contribute to fewer transmissions between asymptomatic patients with COVID-19 and those within their communities.
In fact, the researchers involved in the Cardiff study recommend that people start using mouthwash as part of their daily oral hygiene routine. The research team states clearly in their findings that mouthwash shouldn’t be consider an option for lowing your risk for the virus, but it could help to prevent you from spreading the virus should you contract COVID-19 and not show any symptoms.
Further research is still needed to determine just how effective mouthwash may be at reducing the spread of the virus, but every small step we take as a community can make a big difference. Since the daily use of mouthwash can only benefit the oral health of our community, any additional benefits when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19 is simply icing on the cake.
As a dentist for families in Eugene, Dr. Rita Feldmanis doesn’t want to see a future where patients once again must delay receiving the non-essential dental care their oral health requires. Infection rates are expected to soar this winter until a vaccine can become widely distributed. To prevent another shutdown, we must all do what we can to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. If we can get better smelling breath as a result, well that certainly seems worth the try.
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