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Can mouthwash actually protect against coronavirus?

A new report has found that mouthwash has the potential to protect against Covid-19 by killing the virus before it can infect human cells.

A team of international researchers say mouthwash could destroy the outermost layer or ‘envelope’ of the virus, preventing it from replicating in the mouth and throat.

The scientists say there is an urgent need to test the effectiveness of mouthwash in trials – but there is currently no clinical evidence that it would be successful. 

So, how seriously should we take this claim? Sunny Sihra, dentist and founder of The SimplyTeeth Clinic, doesn’t think it’s time to start bulk buying mouthwash.

‘While this news is exciting for many reasons, I don’t think people should start thinking that mouthwash alone will cure them of coronavirus, nor reduce spread of the virus,’ says Sunny.

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‘There are many reasons why mouthwash could help contribute towards reducing transmission, however I feel it’s still a largely grey area so it’s hard to say 100% if this is the case.

‘I think generally, it’s really important to ensure you are keeping on top of your oral health at this time, adopting a proper morning and evening routine with your teeth is imperative so you are not compromising your oral health.’

How might mouthwash work to reduce transmission?

Sunny says that most mouthwashes contain alcohol, which is the same ingredient found in hand sanitiser – which works to kill off any bad bacteria.

‘So this could mean that if you are using a mouthwash twice daily you are increasing your chances of killing any droplets which may be sitting in your mouth,’ says Sunny.

‘It should be highlighted however that this is largely speculation.

‘Yes, mouthwashes are a good final step to adopt in your dental routine to ensure that you have got rid of any lingering plaque and bacteria, but it’s highly unlikely that it will completely diminish your chances of catching Covid-19, especially because you can catch it through other facial orifices such as the nose and eyes.’

Sunny says that you should be ensuring, now more than ever, that you are looking after your oral health, brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and using a mouthwash.

‘You should be having a good amount of mouthwash, swilling it around the mouth a number of times, gargling it so it reaches the back of the throat and tonsils, and then after about a minute spit it out and wash out your mouth with fresh water, this will ensure it reaches all areas of the mouth,’ she says.

‘The ingredients of most dental mouthwashes include cetylpyridinium, Chlorhexidine, chloride, Hydrogen peroxide and povidone-iodine and all have the potential to prevent infection and kill bad bacteria, but of course more research needs to be done to be able to confirm this.’

So, really, mouthwash is a good thing to use for your general oral health – but it is unlikely that mouthwash alone can protect you from coronavirus, or cure you.

As Sunny says, the virus can enter the body through the mouth, nose and eyes, so the best way to protect yourself is by being sensible and clean.

Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, maintain social distance of two meters from other people, avoid public transport, wear a facial covering during essential journeys, and carry hand sanitiser with you.

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