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Mouthwash Use can Increase Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Filed January 27th, 2014 Eric

People who use mouthwash on a regular basis may be unknowingly putting their bodies at risk of heart attacks and stroke, scientists warn.

The mouthwash Corsodyl, a brand containing a powerful antiseptic, is at the center of the controversy. According to researchers, when healthy volunteers used Corsodyl, their blood pressure rose within hours, the Daily Mail reported. It is believed that this happens because the swilling of the mouthwash kills off ‘good’ bacteria that help blood vessels relax. Blood pressure may increase as a result.

Lead researcher Professor Amrita Ahluwalia slammed the widespread use of antiseptic mouthwash. She told the Daily Mail, “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.”

Similar to the U.S., there is a major marketplace for mouthwash in the UK as more than half of British adults regularly use mouthwash.

For the study in the U.K., which appeared in the journal Free Radical Biology And Medicine, researchers compared blood pressure levels in 19 healthy volunteers who started using Corsodyl twice a day. They found that their blood pressure rose by between 2 and 3.5 units (mmgh), the Daily Mail reported. Researchers noted that the impact was nearly instant as the effects appeared within the first day of using the mouthwash.

The rise in blood pressure is significant, because for each two-point rise in blood pressure, the risk of dying from heart disease increases by seven percent, according to separate research. A two-point rise has also translates into a 10 percent increase in risk of dying from stroke by ten percent.

Corsodyl, made by GlaxoSmithKline, contains 0.2 percent by volume of the antiseptic chlorhexidine. Other antiseptic mouthwashes made by Boots and Superdrug contain the same concentration of the chemical, according to Daily Mail. The chemical has been found to kill microbes needed to help create nitrite, essential for blood vessels to dilate correctly. Thus mouthwash caused nitrite production in the mouth to fall by over 90 percent, and blood nitrite to fall by 25 percent, according to Daily Mail.

In the U.S., mouthwashes that contain the ingredient Chlorhexidine are prescription only.  Clinical trials have shown that chlorhexidine, the active ingredient in prescription mouthwashes, has much stronger antibacterial properties than the ingredients in over-the-counter brands, according to These mouthwashes are the only ones approved for treating gum disease by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Chlorhexidine has also been known to stain teeth a dingy brown. Mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine are prescription-only to ensure that a dentist monitors the staining.

While mouthwashes such as Listerine do not contain chlorhexidine, Prof Ahluwalia warned that they still might cause negative health effects. “Other mouthwashes could still disrupt the healthy bacteria,” Ahluwalia said wrote in his report.

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