If you’re on TikTok, there is a good chance you’ve seen people questioning whether mouthwash is harmful. And they aren’t talking about alcohol.
We have written many blogs in the past about the importance of oral health for blood sugar, heart health and oral health. Early in the pandemic, there was one study that examined if mouthwash could be used as a tool to fight Covid. Clickbait headlines made it sound like it could act like a daily vaccine or a possible treatment.
When we hear health claims on TikTok, we always assume it’s clickbait before investigating. It could be accurate, but it’s more often than not misleading, false or even unsafe. Our advice with TikTok health suggestions is to treat them as “guilty until proven innocent.” A lot of dangerous things have circulated on that site! People seek to get famous and get “likes,” not necessarily share the best advice.
This new rumor is that mouthwash can raise blood pressure or hypertension. While that sounds sensationalist, there have actually been studies at least as far back as 2017 that back up the claim. The TikTok claim appears to be based on a study published in November 2019 by the National Library of Medicine.
The study found that “frequent regular use of over-the-counter mouthwash was associated with increased risk of hypertension, independent of major risk factors for hypertension and several other potential confounders.”
Chlorhexidine found in mouthwash kills bacteria. That can be good for bad breath. However, it kills “bad” and “good” bacteria indiscriminately. It kills bacteria that converts the nitrate you eat into nitric oxide needed to keep blood pressure stable.
The study looked at the blood pressure of 19 healthy people before and after they used antiseptic mouthwash. Within 24 hours of using the mouthwash, their blood pressure increased by two to 3.5 units. Every two-point increase in pressure raises your risk of dying from heart disease by seven percent and stroke by 10 percent.
“Most over-the-counter antiseptic mouthwashes are extremely acidic and can be dangerous for your health,” said Dr. Kami Hoss, co-founder of The Super Dentists. “Many contain potentially harmful ingredients, including artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and antimicrobial ingredients that can decimate your oral microbiome.”
If you like mouthwash and feel your oral hygiene routine isn’t complete without it, opt for one without chemicals. Many natural options that are not antibacterial will leave your breath fresh and your mouth rinsed. Mouthwash isn’t necessary, unlike brushing your teeth and flossing. But, if you enjoy it and find it helpful, there are plenty of great, gentle options. Just as you want to protect your gut’s microbiome, your mouth’s ecosystem is essential for good health!