Study finds mouthwash helps fight plaque and gingivitis. (iStockphoto/iStockphoto)
Dental Health
Antiseptic mouthwash might help
fight plaque and gum inflammation

THE QUESTION Might regular use of a germ-killing mouthwash add to the dental health benefits expected from brushing and flossing?

THIS STUDY involved 139 generally healthy adults (average age 31) with mild to moderate plaque and gingivitis (inflamed gums). They were randomly assigned to brush their teeth twice a day and to rinse for 30 seconds, morning and night, with an antiseptic mouthwash or a placebo mouthwash, and to clean between teeth with floss or other devices as needed. Everyone used the same type of toothbrush and toothpaste. After six months, both plaque and gingivitis had declined more among people using the germ-killing mouthwash than among the others. The same was true for bleeding from their gums. Plaque had declined 26 percent more for those using the antiseptic mouthwash than for the placebo users. Among teeth that had plaque problems at the start of the study, 51 percent of those cleaned with the antiseptic mouthwash had less plaque at the end of the study vs. 12 percent of those cleaned with the placebo. A measurable improvement in gingivitis was found for 98 percent of those in the antiseptic mouthwash group vs. only 30 percent of the others.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Adults, who are urged to brush their teeth two to three times a day and to floss at least once a day to prevent the buildup of plaque, which, in essence, is bacteria that mass together and stick to the teeth. If not removed, plaque can cause tooth decay as well as gingivitis and more serious gum disease.

CAVEATS Whether the findings would apply to children and teens remains unclear. Participants in the real mouthwash group rinsed with a Listerine mouthwash; whether other mouthwashes would have the same effect was not tested. Two of the study’s four authors work for Johnson & Johnson, which makes Listerine.

FIND THIS STUDY January/February issue of General Dentistry (

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The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-
reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.