How does mouthwash affect blood pressure?

It's important to many of us to present ourselves well and put our "best foot forward". For many people, mouthwash is part of that package. After all, it kills bacteria and makes our breath fresh. Who wouldn’t want that, right?

Well… I know that this might sound a bit weird, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

It’s not a well-known fact, but most brands of commercial mouthwash kill the good bacteria along with the bad bacteria. When this happens, our body’s ability to relax our blood vessels is diminished. When our body’s ability to relax our blood vessels is diminished, it’s more difficult for our blood pressure to normalize.

So, the good news is that our breath is fresher for a bit. The bad news is our blood pressure can take a hit.

For my fellow science geeks, let me explain this in a bit more depth.

There are good bacteria in our oral cavity that take the nitrate we eat from healthy foods (like beets etc.) as well as the nitrate that’s been sent to our salivary glands from our circulatory system, and they convert this nitrate into nitrite. This is the first step in a process that produces the vasodilator, Nitric Oxide (NO). Killing this good bacteria throws a wrench into this process. This has been shown in numerous studies, including one in 2012, in which both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were higher in the morning and systolic higher at night.

So we need that good bacteria in our mouth for a crucial step in the process of creating a natural vasodilator to relax our blood vessels and help normalize our blood pressure.

That being said, still keep up with all of your efforts to put your best foot forward in every other regard. Make sure your clothes are pressed. Check your hair on your way out the door. Maybe pop a mint or two when you have bad breath.

But in putting your best foot forward, make sure to keep your good bacteria!

Here’s to your health!

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