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Is Rinsing with Mouthwash Ruining Your Exercise Routine?

Is Rinsing with Mouthwash Ruining Your Exercise Routine?

Visiting a Denver dentistry, you might expect to hear about the benefits brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash have on your oral health. While those habits can go a long way towards preventing dental decay and disease, one of them may be inadvertently ruining your workout.

Surprising new research has found that antibacterial mouthwash can actually limit the cardiovascular benefits typically offered by exercising. The effect mouthwash has on oral bacteria interferes with a complex molecular mechanism that usually sustains the blood pressure-reducing effects provided by exercise.

The results of this study continues to call into question whether the use of mouthwash actually has a beneficial role in helping to protect our health, and whether patients to our Denver dentistry should stick to just brushing and flossing instead.

The Role of Oral Bacteria

The bacteria that grows naturally in our mouths play a vital role in determining our overall health. One analysis of oral microbes collected from tens of thousands of study participants found an association between the bacteria that contributes to the development of gum disease and a higher risk for throat cancer.

Other such studies have revealed the mechanism by which oral bacterium can increase the growth rate of colorectal tumors and shown how oral bacteria can impact our respiratory health. Additionally, research has even linked the oral bacteria responsible for gum disease to an increased risk for dementia.

All of this to say, we have long known the effects oral bacteria can have on our health. However, new research has now sought to focus on the unexpected role oral bacteria plays in positively helping to improve our health – such as how they help us get the most out of cardiovascular exercise.

This is an area where researchers from the University of Plymouth, United Kingdom decided to examine. In their most recent study, researchers discovered how oral bacteria control the blood pressure-reducing effects of exercise and how the use of an antimicrobial mouthwash can interfere with this process.

A Complicated Connection

By now, it’s well established that blood vessels open up during exercise, as the body’s production of nitric oxide increases the diameter of the blood vessel, thereby increasing blood flow to active muscles in the body.

However, what’s remains a mystery is how blood circulation remains higher following exercise, which then triggers a blood pressure-reducing effect known as postexercise hypotension.

Nitric oxide breaks down into nitrate, explains researchers. This marks the beginning of a circular molecular reaction, which, at the end, results in the sustained blood pressure-reducing effects associated with exercise.

“Research over the last decade has shown that nitrate can be absorbed by the salivary glands and then excreted with saliva in the mouth,” writes the research team. “Some types of oral bacteria can use nitrate and convert them into nitrite, an important molecule that enhances the production of nitric oxide in the body.”

When we swallow the nitrates in our saliva, part of the nitrite is quickly absorbed into the circulatory system where it’s turned back into nitric oxide. This helps to maintain a widening of blood vessels, which in turn leads to a sustained lowering of blood pressure following exercise.

As part of their study, researchers wanted to examine whether blocking nitrate’s ability to convert into nitrite by destroying oral bacteria, with the use of mouthwash, would have any impact on postexercise hypotension.

Mouthwash’s Impact on Exercise

In their study, researchers asked 23 healthy adults to participate in two exercise routines. For each of these routines, the participants ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes, while the researchers monitored the participants’ blood pressure for two hours after the completion of the routine.

At the 1, 30, 60, and 90-minute mark following the run, participants rinsed their mouths with either an antibacterial mouthwash or a controlled substance, which was water flavored with mint. Researchers also collected saliva and blood samples from the participants just prior to exercise and two hours after.

Researchers discovered that giving the participants the placebo resulted in an average reduction of 5.2 milligrams of mercury (mm Hg) in systolic blood pressure at one hour postexercise. Conversely, rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash resulted in a reduction of only 2.0 mm Hg.

These results suggest that mouthwash lowered the blood pressure-reducing effects of exercise by over 60 percent in the first hour following the routine and cancelled any benefits entirely after two hours.

The results of this study indicate that oral bacteria provide the main source of circulating nitrite, at least during the recovery period following exercise.


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