Could good oral hygeine be the death of us?

Super drug-resistant strains of strep. Of Staph. Of many other viruses and bacteria. Gets me thinking as I brush my teeth.

Listerine says on the label :

For how much longer will it kill those germs? And, when the germs are resistant to what Listerine and other oral bacteriacides do, then what? Bacteria that flourishes in the mouth can impact coronary health. Cite 1, Cite 2, Cite 3.

At some point, will we wind up with super resistant bacteria throughout our bodies and suffer increased cardiac disease as the result of Listerine, et al ?


Do bacteria actually develop immunity to the antibacterials/antiseptic that are used in mouthwashes and toothpaste?

I don’t think they do in the same way that they can for antibiotics.

Anecdotal half-recall… back in the first year at Uni I took a cell biology course. One of our practicals involving throwing all sorts of antibiotics/antibacterials at petri-dish cultures and coming back next week to see what had happened. IIRC we had a couple of ‘name brand’ mouthwashes in, as well as the chloramphenicol and… er, whatever other supposedly powerful anti-biotics there were.

The results for the ‘listerine’-et-al type agents were rubbish, all the bacteria were happily thriving. Only some of the heavier duty anti-bios worked. Our supervisor put some perspective on it when he said, ‘well to be fair, you probably wouldn’t want to gargle chloramphenicol every day’!

The implication being, I guess, that the mouthwash antibiotics are much weaker than the biology-lab ‘nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure’-type antibiotics… but that this is a good thing, because, dude, it’s your MOUTH.

Of course, now I say that, I’ve just wikied chloramphenicol, and it’s used in goddamn eye-drops :eek: , and there are intravenous preparations :veined-forearm smiley: . But I do like the sound of ‘aplastic anaemia’ and ‘grey-baby syndrome’ :grey-baby smiley:.

Antiseptic and Antibacterial are not synonyms for Antibiotic.

I suspected as much :o . Ta for the clarification.

The active ingredient of most antiseptics is alcohol. Alcohol is poison.

If you’re worried about bacteria getting resistant to alcohol, just think about yeast. For millions of years they have been producing alcohol as a waste product, which ends up killing them when it gets too concentrated for them. If it were possible to develop resistance to alcohol, yeast would have developed it millions of years ago.

The delicate balancing act with antibiotics is to find something which is poison to bacteria (or whatever other microbial nasty you’re targetting), but not to humans. This means you have to rely on subtle nuances of the microbe’s biochemistry, and you’re living proof that it’s possible for a creature to have a biochemistry which is immune to it. So it’s possible for a germ to evolve resistance to an antibiotic.

But poisons like alcohol and bleach kill pretty much everything. Life as we know it can’t survive too much of those chemicals. So it’s very difficult or impossible for germs to evolve resistance to them. The downside is that such chemicals are poisonous to us, too, but that just means that you shouldn’t go around swallowing mouthwash. Eh, you can’t have everything.

Many antimicrobials these days contain triclosan (pdf), whose use can be problematic. (If you’re on a slow link and don’t want to load pdfs, just google triclosan and you’ll find other articles - that just seems to be a particularly good one).

I don’t know about that. I mean you definitely shouldn’t be swallowing mouthwash, but have there been any studies if the active ingredients in mouthwash actually do anything about bacteria when used as directed? On my mouthwash alcohol is listed as an inactive ingredient :confused: If 0.06% solution of thymol was an effective antiseptic you would see thymol in a lot more than just Listerine, no?

I tend to gargle with listerine or high proof liquor when I have a sore throat. It definitely has a soothing numbing effect after it stops burning. Is it killing anything? Well, let’s apply the scientific method :stuck_out_tongue: wine can go bad quickly, but port can just sit there and be Ok, so I’m thinking as long as it’s stronger than port it will at least inhibit bacterial growth in it. :stuck_out_tongue:

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