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Mouthwashes Raise Blood Pressure

This month, research showed that using a mouthwash that kills bacteria in your mouth raises blood pressure. Fifteen men and women (average age 65) who were on medications for high blood pressure were told to use an antibacterial mouthwash for three days. Their systolic blood pressure rose 2.3mm Hg, while their diastolic blood pressure did not change (Am J Hypertens, published online October 30, 2014).

How Mouthwash Can Raise Blood Pressure
The foods that you eat, particularly vegetables are loaded with chemicals called nitrates. Bacteria in your mouth convert nitrates to other chemicals called nitrites that are, in turn, converted to nitric oxide that relaxes and widens blood vessels to lower high blood pressure. Just three days of using an antibacterial mouthwash markedly reduces the amount of salivary and blood nitrite and raises salivary nitrate. The mouthwash prevented the bacteria from converting nitrates to nitrites which are converted to nitric oxide that lowers high blood pressure.

Other studies show that feeding nitrates to people with high blood pressure increases blood nitric oxide to lower high blood pressure. Many mouthwashes contain chlorhexidine that kills the nitrate-reducing bacteria in the mouth (Free Radic Biol Med, April 15, 2009;46(8):1068-75), preventing them from converting nitrates to nitrites (Nitric Oxide, 2008 Dec;19(4):333-7). Another study showed that antibacterial mouthwashes reduced nitrite production in the mouth by 90 percent and in blood by 25 percent, and raised systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 2-3.5 mm Hg in just one day (Free Radic Biol Med, 2013 Feb;55:93-100). Mouthwashes also reduce stomach secretions that help to protect the stomach from forming ulcers from the acids it produces (Free Radic Biol Med, 2009 Apr 15;46(8):1068-75).

What Does this Mean to You?
You have more bacteria in your body than you have cells. Some can harm you but others help you by improving your immunity, breaking down food so that you can meet your needs for energy and nutrients, and killing other bacteria that may be harmful. Using antibacterial mouthwashes can kill good bacteria in your mouth and this may harm people who have high blood pressure. Flossing and brushing your teeth removes food that fosters growth of the bacteria that cause cavities. Mouthwash can kill cavity-causing bacteria but they may also kill helpful bacteria.

Checked 9/23/15

November 23rd, 2014
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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