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Certain Mouthwash Products May Increase Risks for Heart Attack and Stroke

Jan 28, 2014

Scientists warn that certain types of mouthwash may increase risks for heart attack and stroke by killing off good bacteria.

It is the swilling of the mouthwash that kills the so-called “good” bacteria, which enable blood vessels to relax. This, in turn, increases blood pressure, according to The Daily Mail. In fact, when volunteers used the mouthwash, Corsodyl, which contains a strong antiseptic, blood pressure rates rose in a matter of hours.

Study lead, Professor Amrita Ahluwalia, said, “Killing off all these bugs each day is a disaster, when small rises in blood pressure have significant impact on morbidity and mortality from heart disease and stroke.” The research compared blood pressure levels in 19 healthy participants who used the mouthwash twice daily. Blood pressure rose between 2 and 3.5 minutes, according to The Daily Mail.

Writing in the journal, Free Radical Biology and Medicine, the researchers indicated that the increased blood pressure “appeared within one day” of using the mouthwash. What’s more, for every two-point blood pressure rise, the risk of heart disease death increased by seven percent, separate research found. The increase was also associated with an increased risk of stroke death by 10 percent.

“We are not telling people to stop using antiseptic mouthwashes if they have a gum or tooth infection—but we would ask why anyone else would want to,” said Professor Ahluwalia. Corsodyl contains 0.2 percent, by volume, chlorhexidine, an antiseptic; other antiseptic mouthwashes contain the same chemical in the same concentration. Chlorhexidine kills microbes that are necessary for the creation of nitrite, which is critical for proper blood vessel dilation, according to The Daily Mail. The mouthwash led to a decrease in oral nitrate production by 90 percent; blood nitrite levels fell by 25 percent.

GlaxoSmithKline makes Corsodyl for short-term use to stop plaque and prevent gum disease. Its daily use product, Corsodyl Daily, contains 0.06 percent chlorhexidine, wrote The Daily Mail.

Not all mouthwashes contain chlorhexidine, however, Professor Ahluwalia pointed out that “Other mouthwashes could still disrupt the healthy bacteria,” The Daily Mail reported. In the United States, chlorhexidine mouthwashes are available by prescription only

Clinical trials reveal that chlorhexidine, the active ingredient in prescription mouthwashes, has greater antibacterial properties than the ingredients in over-the-counter (OTC) mouthwash brands, according to RealSimple. These products are the only mouthwashes approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of gum disease, such as gingivitis and periodontitis.

Chlorhexidine may also stain teeth a dingy brown and mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine are prescription-only so that dentists are able to monitor for this staining, RealSimple wrote.

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