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KRIENS, Switzerland: Dental professionals play an important role not only in oral health but in well-being in general. This gives dental care extra importance, especially during epidemics when cross-infection poses additional challenges. The good news is that the dentist can do something about it.
There are two fronts on which the battle against viral and bacterial infection in dental care is fought: one is in the dental office itself, and the other is in the patient’s mouth. Paying attention to both of these areas can go a long way towards helping patients stay healthy.
First of all, nothing can replace any of the primary measures for preventing cross-infection among staff and patients in dental practices, such as washing hands, wearing protective clothing and regularly disinfecting the office.
Secondly, as infections often start in the soft mucosal tissue of the mouth, keeping patients’ mouths healthy and well-protected can provide a good additional level of protection, especially in post-surgery situations and during epidemics.
How infections work
Very often, viruses and bacteria enter the body via the nose and mouth, contaminating the mucosal tissue. The infection then progresses further and infects organs in different parts of the body. If stopped early on, however, this spread of infection can be prevented. This is where the dentist can help.
Instructing patients on gargling with mouthwashes with the correct composition can provide patients with important additional protection from viral and bacterial infections. And although mouthwashes are not meant as the primary means of protection, they can be useful during high-risk situations such as surgery or epidemics.
How mouthwashes protect the mouth
Not all mouthwashes are created equal. Depending on the ingredients they contain, they may or may not help against viruses or bacteria.
For protection against viral and bacterial infections, there are four important ingredients that the dentist should look for in a mouthwash: chlorhexidine, cyclodextrins, Citrox and hyaluronic acid with polymers.
These ingredients work in the same way as a building is disinfected: a team arrives on the scene and sprays the interior with a solution that contains an antibacterial agent and polymers. The polymers create a thin protective film, while the active agents fight the harmful microbes and solubilisers help their effort.
In a mouthwash, the situation is similar, with every ingredient doing its part:
- chlorhexidine fights bacteria, binding to the mucosae and teeth;
- Citrox breaks down plaque and biofilm and attacks bacterial cell walls;
- cyclodextrins help deactivate viruses;
- polymers create a protective film to make the effects last longer; and
- hyaluronic acid humidifies mucosal tissue and supports mucosal tissue regeneration.
In the end, complex care of the mucosal tissue helps protect the patient from becoming infected. And with mouthrinse procedures being fast and easy to apply, it is believed that, in the future, they will become even more important for keeping patients healthy—especially in situations when the mucosae are exposed to physical stress, such as after surgical procedures or during viral epidemics.