Mouthwash may be a great way to compensate when you forget to brush your teeth (what, just me?), but new research indicates that it may also be helpful in killing bacteria associated with certain oral STDs.
Scientists at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre studied around 60 gay and bisexual men with pharyngeal gonorrhea, and found that gargling mouthwash (specifically, Listerine) for one minute reduced gonorrhea bacteria by roughly fifty percent.
Pharyngeal gonorrhea occurs when gonococci, the bacteria which causes gonorrhea, is found in the throat. Many people who have pharyngeal gonorrhea are completely unaware that they carry the disease, as it is mostly asymptomatic. This is especially problematic as the disease can be spread from the mouth to genitals during sexual contact (although more research needs to be conducted on this particular kind of transmission, as it is infrequent).
The Melbourne researchers believe that these findings support the tentative notion that mouthwash may act as a treatment for pharyngeal gonorrhea.
“If daily use of mouthwash was shown to reduce the duration of untreated infection and/or reduce the probability of acquisition of N. gonorrhoeae then this readily available, condomless and low-cost intervention may have very significant public health implications in the control of gonorrhoea,” the authors of the study write.
However, it is important to note that the cultures in the study were only taken immediately following the one-minute mouthwash rinse, and are not yet conclusive when it comes to answering the question of whether or not Listerine “cures” or “prevents” gonorrhea.
As Jezebel reports:
Dr. Wenyuan Shi, professor and chair of oral biology at UCLA School of Dentistry, said in an email to Jezebel that he bought the study’s results, but urged caution: “With the active ingredients of alcohol and essential oils, the solution has the ability to kill a lot of bacteria. However, it is killing the gonorrhea-associated bacteria in the throat, not the STD gonorrhea.”
Essentially: just because the Listerine is killing bacteria related to the infection doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actually treating the infection. More research still needs to be done to affirm whether or not this simple, household product can actually be effective in treating the STD.
For now, though, maybe consider adding mouthwash to your daily routine (or gargle it following an “oral encounter”), if you haven’t already. There is compelling evidence that it may be preventative in the spread of gonorrhea — but even if this theory proves to be false, you’ll still have amazing breath.