Study discovers that toothpaste-mouth rinse combination helps remove harmful bacteria

Research into mouth microbes discovered that antibacterial toothpaste combined with mouthwash which contains essential oils banishes bacteria which can lead to gum disease more effectively than when the two are used separately.

Researchers at the University of Groningen and University Medical Center in the Netherlands studied bacteria clinging to wires used in dental retainers which are bonded to the backs of teeth. These retainers are known to host bacterial colonies that can cause bleeding and receding gums as well as cavities.

Plaque and bacterial colonies called biofilms accumulate on retainer wires, and antibacterial products help but do not eliminate the harmful bacteria, Marije Jongsma and her team wrote in the International Journal of Oral Science.

Jongsma, the leader of the study, and her colleagues tested three types of toothpaste and a mouth rinse used both separately and together in order to understand their effects on the size and makeup of biofilms living on retainer wires in human volunteers.

The study involved 22 adults who had to wear either single-strand or multi-strand wired retainers, which were bonded to the mouth side of the top front teeth. They were required to brush their teeth for a minimum of twice a day with a manual toothbrush.

There were three focus groups: one group used toothpaste which had no antibacterial properties, another group used an antibacterial toothpaste containing stannous fluoride, and the third used antibacterial toothpaste which contained triclosan.

After using the assigned toothpastes for a week, the groups didn’t use for them for the next six weeks, and then used the toothpastes again for a week with a mouth rinse which contained essential oils. After each week when the assigned toothpastes were used, the volunteers’ retainer wires were removed, and the bacteria on the wires was analysed.

The study found that multi-strand wires accumulated more bacteria than single-strand wires, most likely because the microbes sheltered in the gaps between strands. However, when volunteers used toothpaste which did not have antimicrobial ingredients, more live bacteria remained on single-strand wires than on multi-strand wires, whether or not mouth rinse was used, as on single-strand wires the bacteria are better exposed to nutrients.

Overall, using antibacterial toothpaste alone did not affect the total number of bacteria on the wires significantly, but it did reduce the proportion of living microbes by a large amount. However, the antibacterial toothpaste, when combined with the mouth rinse, left the smallest number of bacteria and the lowest proportion of living bacteria, and thus was most effective.

This is thought to be a result of antibacterial toothpastes slightly altering the properties of the bacterial cell walls in a way that makes them more likely to cling to the oil-containing mouth rinse and be washed away.

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