During a COVID-19 infection, saliva can contain high levels of the virus. In fact, researchers suspect that in some cases, virus particles in saliva could come from infected oral tissue . Infected oral tissues can even transmit the virus to other areas of the body, such as the lungs.
People with COVID-19 present in their saliva can also transmit the virus to others through sharing utensils or kissing. However, new research is showing that mouthwash can reduce the virus in saliva. What does this research mean for COVID-19 infection and prevention?
Using Mouthwash May Make Dental Visits Safer
Research shows that using mouthwash can decrease the viral load of the COVID-19 virus in saliva by up to 97% . Since it reduces the amount of virus in a person’s saliva, mouthwash may help reduce the chances of an infected individual passing the virus to someone else. As such, having patients use mouthwash prior to a dental appointment could potentially reduce the transmission of the virus even further.
Of course, as dentists are conducting active screening for patients, the protection would apply more for patients who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic—those without symptoms who pass the screening process and come in for their appointment.
Mouthwash May Improve Gum Disease, Which Has Been Linked to Severe COVID-19
Some mouthwashes are designed to help fight gum disease. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, has been linked to severe complications of COVID-19 . Using mouthwash to support healing from gum disease could potentially help reduce transmission of the virus and resulting complications from a COVID-19 infection.
Mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine (CHX) can help fight gum disease by controlling inflammation and plaque in the oral cavity, which may help support healing . If you suspect you have gum disease, working with your dentist to treat the condition is paramount, especially since it can increase your risk for COVID-19 complications.
Should You Start Using Mouthwash?
Although mouthwash can help reduce detectable levels of virus in the saliva, there isn’t enough research to support using mouthwash as a preventative tool for COVID-19 or to fight the COVID-19 virus once a person has contracted it .
Methods in place to reduce virus transmission, including mask wearing, social distancing, and quarantining, are still the best ways to reduce the chance of infection. At best, mouthwash can reduce viral loads in saliva, fight gum disease to potentially reduce complications of the virus, and make in-office dental visits safer for patients, doctors, and staff.
As more large-scale studies become available on COVID-19 and mouthwash use, it’s possible that we’ll know more about the role of mouthwash in the potential prevention and transmission of the virus.