Today, let’s explore some of the information that everyone should know about mouth bacterias and the related mouthwash myth. For starters, inside your mouth are colonies of microorganisms. These are more commonly known as bacteria. At any one time, you may have between 30 and 70 varieties of mouth bacteria.
Though unpleasant to think about, most of the bacteria inside your mouth is perfectly harmless. In fact, some strains, called probiotics, can actually be good for us. These assist the breakdown and digestion of food. Studies have shown that other strains can also protect our teeth and strengthen our gums.
However, some species of bacteria do the opposite. The unwanted types of bacteria may cause bad breath, tooth decay, and disease. For example, streptococcus mutans thrives on the sugars and starches in your diet. When the bacteria consumes these macronutrients, it produces acids that erode your tooth enamel. This leaves your teeth extremely vulnerable to decay. Another bad oral bacteria is porphyromonas gingivalis. Research has linked this bacteria to periodontitis, which may ultimately lead to oral pain and loss of adult teeth.
“There are two things in life that a sage must preserve at every sacrifice, the coats of his stomach
and the enamel of his teeth.” ~Henry Lytton Bulwe
Many people look to mouthwash to eliminate the harmful strains of bacteria. While it is true that most over-the-counter mouthwashes can kill oral bacteria, this benefit does not come without significant harm. One major problem is that mouthwash cannot discriminate between good and bad bacteria. When you swish, both types are eliminated, compromising the bacterial balance inside your mouth. This can leave your mouth unprotected and lead to periodontal disease.
Another big problem with conventional mouthwash is the number of chemicals involved. One ingredient commonly found in mouthwash is chlorhexidine, which research published in the Journal of Free Radical Biology and Medicine links to increased blood pressure through the destruction of nitrate-reducing bacteria, which normally encourages blood vessels to relax. Over time, this can also lead to oral infections, heart disease, and even stroke. It is for this reason that Mayo Health describes oral health as “a window to your overall health."
Most mouthwashes also contain alcohol, which not only dries out your mouth but is also linked to oral cancer, according to a comprehensive study in the Australian Dental Journal. A third problem with mouthwash is that it typically contains parabens, which can mimic estrogen in a way that contributes to the growth of breast cancer tumors (Journal of Applied Toxicology, 2012).
Clearly, mouthwashes are not as harmless as we tend to assume. A safer approach to good oral care is to foster good bacteria while keeping the unwanted colonies at bay. This can be done with a healthy diet (rich in vegetables and low in sugars or simple carbohydrates) and good hygiene (regular flossing and brushing 2-3 times a day). Bi-annual dental visits can also help you establish and maintain a healthy balance within your mouth. This natural approach is far better for your long-term oral health.
What To Remember:Good bacteria protects your teeth.
Bad bacteria can lead to foul breath and bigger problems.
Mouthwash can cause more harm than it is worth.
A good diet and helpful hygiene habits can prevent decay and disease.
Oral health is closely linked to overall health.
For More on Mouth Bacterias And The Mouthwash Myth, watch our related video.
- Barr, e. a. (2012, January 12). Measurement of Paraben Concentrations in Human Breast Tissue at Serial Locations Across the Breast from Axilla to Sternum. Retrieved from Journal of Applied Toxicology.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, April 30). Oral Health: A Window to Your Overall Health. Retrieved from Mayo Health.
MJ McCullough, C. F. (2008, November 27). The role of alcohol in oral carcinogenesis with particular reference to alcohol-containing mouthwashes. Retrieved from Australian Dental Journal.
Vikas Kapil, e. a. (2013, February). Physiological role for nitrate-reducing oral bacteria in blood pressure control. Retrieved from National Center For Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
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