In these days of working to stop the spread of COVID-19, most dental offices are closed for everything except for urgent or emergency care. And when they do need to treat patients, more dentists are having them rinse with chlorhexidine before procedures as an extra precaution against the virus.
We’ve blogged a bit about chlorhexidine before – a powerful chemical that kills oral bacteria. According to new research in Scientific Reports, it may actually raise your risk of future dental problems, as well.
For one week, three dozen participants rinsed twice daily with a placebo rinse, then repeated the protocol another week using a chlorhexidine mouthwash. After each treatment, saliva and blood samples were taken so the researchers could assess the bacterial count and diversity, pH, and concentrations of lactate, glucose, nitrate, and nitrite.
As Dr Bicuspid reported,
Using chlorhexidine mouthwash for just seven days changes the oral microbiome, the researchers found. It significantly increases the number of lactate-producing bacteria, which lowers the pH level of saliva and creates a favorable environment for increased dental caries and other oral health diseases.
“Our results showing lower saliva pH after using [chlorhexidine mouthwash] are relevant, since decreased pH in saliva is associated with demineralization of tooth enamel and risk of caries, tooth loss, and other dental problems,” wrote the authors, led by Raul Bescos, PhD, of the University of Plymouth’s Institute of Health and Community in the U.K.
Additionally, systolic blood pressure was found to go up – a finding in line with research we blogged about a little over a year ago.
Still, it’s easy to understand why dentists are turning to the tools they know in hopes of improving infection control.
One lesser known tool that we use here in our own office is ozone – a kind of super-charged oxygen that’s a powerful, effective, and safe disinfectant. Not only do we use it to treat infection in our patients’ mouths; we use it in our water lines, as well, to keep them free of contamination. There are no significant side effects, just excellent infection control.
As a mercury-safe office, we’re also well-equipped to protect ourselves and our patients from aerosols, particulate, and debris that can be easily spattered during dental procedures. Unlike most regular dental offices, we have powerful air purifiers and special oral aerosol vacs that can help keep the breathing space clean. And we have respiratory grade masks and ample protective coverings for dental team and patients alike.
Safety matters – not just during a pandemic.
Image by John Loo