MOUTHWASH is something most of us have in our bathrooms to keep our breaths minty fresh.
But some experts reckon that it may become an important part of our daily routine – after studies suggest it could kill coronavirus in just 30 seconds.
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Can mouthwash kill Covid?
Scientists have been carrying out trials to find out whether the over-the-counter dental product could combat Covid-19 since early in the outbreak.
A team from Cardiff University said urgent research was needed into the effectiveness of mouthwash on reducing the spread of Covid back in May.
At the time, they suggested the oral rinse had the potential to kill the outer layer – or "envelope" of the virus and prevent it from replicating in the mouth and throat at the early stages of infection.
But what wasn't known was whether existing mouthwashes are active against the lipid membrane of SARS-CoV-2, so they put it to the test.
What did the study find?
The preliminary report said that mouthwashes containing at least 0.07 per cent cetypyridinium chloride (CPC) showed "promising signs" of being able to combat Covid-19.
They found it could eradicate coronavirus within 30 seconds of being exposed to it in a laboratory.
Cardiff University researchers mimicked the conditions of a person's naso/oropharynx passage using mouthwash brands including Dentyl.
Their report, which is called The Virucidal Efficacy of Oral Rinse Components Against SARS-CoV-2 In Vitro, is yet to be peer reviewed.
But it supports another study published last week that found CPC-based mouthwashes are effective in reducing Covid's viral load.
However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) previously warned that gargling mouthwash could not protect you from infection.
In a statement earlier this year, the WHO said: “There is no evidence that using mouthwash will protect you from infection with the new coronavirus.
"Some brands of mouthwash can eliminate certain microbes for a few minutes in the saliva in your mouth.
"However, this does not mean they protect you from 2019-nCoV infection."
Will there be further trials?
A clinical trial will next examine how effective mouthwash is in reducing the viral load in the saliva of Covid-19 patients at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, with its results due to be published in the first part of 2021.
Dentyl is the only UK mouthwash brand to take part in the 12-week clinical trial.
Professor David Thomas, who is leading the study, said: "Whilst these mouthwashes very effectively eradicate the virus in the laboratory, we need to see if they work in patients and this is the point of our ongoing clinical study.
"It is important to point out the study won't give us any direct evidence on viral transmission between patients, that would require a different type of study on a much larger scale.
"The ongoing clinical study will, however, show us how long any effects last, following a single administration of the mouthwash in patients with Covid-19."
He added: "Although this in-vitro study is very encouraging and is a positive step, more clinical research is now clearly needed.
"We need to understand if the effect of over-the-counter mouthwashes on the Covid-19 virus achieved in the laboratory can be reproduced in patients, and we look forward to completing our clinical trial in early 2021."
Dr Nick Claydon, a specialist periodontologist, said he believed the research was "very valuable".
He said: "If these positive results are reflected in Cardiff University's clinical trial, CPC-based mouthwashes such as Dentyl used in the in-vitro study could become an important addition to people's routine, together with hand washing, physical distancing and wearing masks, both now and in the future."
What do other experts say?
Sunny Sihra, dentist and owner of The Simply Teeth Clinic in Essex, has warned against using mouthwash to protect them from Covid-19.
She said: "Whilst this news is exciting for many reasons, I don’t think people should start thinking that mouthwash will be able to safeguard them against contracting coronavirus.
"There are many reasons why mouthwash could help contribute towards reducing transmission, however I feel it’s still a largely grey area so it’s hard to say 100% if this is the case.
"I think generally it’s really important to ensure you are keeping on top of your oral health at this time, adopting a proper morning and evening routine with your teeth is imperative so you are not compromising your oral health.
"Most mouthwashes contain alcohol which is the same ingredient found in hand sanitiser which works to kill off any bad bacteria, so this could mean that if you are using a mouthwash twice daily you are increasing your chances of killing any droplets which may be sitting in your mouth.
"It should be highlighted however that this is largely speculation, yes mouthwashes are a good final step to adopt in your dental routine to ensure that you have got rid of any lingering plaque and bacteria, but it’s highly unlikely that it will completely diminish your chances of catching Covid-19, especially because you can catch it through other facial orifices such as the nose and eyes."
How can you protect yourself from Covid?
Until anything is clinically proven, experts advise against relying on mouthwash to protect yourself from Covid.
The best way is to keep your distance, wash your hands and only leave the house when you need to.
It's almost important to know the key Covid symptoms – a fever, a new and persistent cough or a loss of taste and smell.
If you have any symptoms, self-isolate and order a test to help reduce the spread of the virus.
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