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Does Mouthwash Kill Viruses?

December 1, 2020

It turns out that practicing good oral hygiene may also help you in the fight against coronavirus. Two studies found that rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash regularly may decrease the risk of contracting the coronavirus that causes the common cold. That’s because the bacteria-killing properties of the mouthwash may reduce the effectiveness of the virus.

The major method of transmission of SARS‐CoV‐2 is through respiratory droplets that are projected into the air via talking, sneezing or coughing. While there is a potential for other mechanisms, this is considered to be one of the most probable means of transmission and spread. The study’s authors wanted to know if mouthwash containing properties to kill the germs that can cause bad breath would also work against the germs that cause coronaviruses.

So, let’s take a look at what researchers hoped to discover and what they found in each study.

What The Studies Looked At

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine conducted the first study, which you’ll find in the Journal of Medical Virology. It looked only at a coronavirus called 229E that causes common colds — not the new coronavirus, which goes by the formal name of SARS-CoV-2. So, not only did the study not investigate COVID-19, but it also did not test whether mouthwash affects how viruses spread from person to person.

In the second study, which appears in The Journal of Infectious Diseases German researchers did study the effectiveness of mouthwash on SARS-CoV-2 — the coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic. It was conducted at Department for Molecular and Medical Virology, Ruhr University Bochum, in Bochum, Germany.

What The Studies Found

The Penn State study found that several nasal/sinus and oral rinses had potent virucidal properties and could have the potential to inactivate human coronaviruses and decrease viral load. The authors say their findings suggest that nasal rinses and mouthwashes, which directly treat the major sites of reception and transmission of human coronavirus may provide an additional level of protection, but more clinical trials will be necessary to confirm the virucidal potential of these products.

The results of the Ruhr University study found that a few commercially available oral rinses “significantly reduced viral infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 to undetectable levels” after an exposure time of 30 seconds in a laboratory setting.

Researchers say assuming that the throat functions as a major site of viral replication during early stages (even before the onset of symptom), oral antisepsis could lower the number of infectious aerosolized virus particles. They too are advocating for more clinical trials to compare their results.

Future studies may include a continued investigation of products that inactive human coronaviruses and what specific ingredients in the solutions tested inactivate the virus.

What’s The Takeaway?

It’s important to remember that the experiments were in lab dishes, not people. And the Penn State scientists used cousins of the pandemic coronavirus because the real thing can only be studied in labs with extra biosecurity.

But as long as you're practicing good, all-around hygiene that includes washing your hands and wearing a mask, you can take comfort in knowing that you’re decreasing your risk of contracting coronavirus and other communicable diseases that may be out there, including influenza.

Until there is a vaccine for SARS‐CoV‐2, your best defense is to keep washing your hands regularly with soap and water, or by using hand sanitizer if you’re not near a sink. Also, keep disinfecting surface areas in your home, especially those where the virus can live longer.

If you’d like to learn more about the similarities and differences between the flu and COVID-19, take some time to explore our interactive webpage. It is filled with very useful information that can help you decrease your risk even more.

Annual Exams-Dr. Stevens

You can also learn more about ways to decrease your risk of getting the flu, our guide “How To Get Rid Of The Flu or Not Get It At All” can help. Download it today to learn the most effective ways to avoid the flu.

Flu vs Coronavirus