We’re all familiar with the bright color and minty tingle of mouthwash. It’s been recommended for generations as a way to improve our dental health. There’s one surprising benefit of using mouthwash after exercise.
Sure, mouthwash is great for dental hygiene. It kills some of the bacteria and other microorganisms associated with tooth decay. But it does something else, particularly when used after exercise.
Scientists in the United Kingdom and Spain have discovered that mouthwash can help lower blood pressure if used after exercise.
The study had 23 healthy adults run on a treadmill for 30 minutes. Afterwards, they were instructed to rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash or mint placebo. Participants rinsed directly after completing exercise and also at intervals of 30, 60, and 90 minutes post-workout.
In addition, participants had their blood pressure recorded during the experiment and during the period that followed. The results showed that those who rinsed with the placebo had higher blood pressure, on average, compared to those who used the mouthwash. In fact, the group that used the mouthwash lowered their blood pressure by over 60 percent.
How did this happen? During exercise, your blood vessels expand, as nitric oxide is produced. As a result, blood flow is increased to the working muscles.
It was previously thought that this process only occurred during physical activity. The evidence, however, demonstrated a link between exercise and the way certain bacteria convert nitrate to nitric oxide.
Nitrate can be absorbed through the salivary glands, which means this conversion process can take place in the mouth, and not just in the working muscles. The nitric oxide that is produced helps to relax the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.
Although this study was small, it reveals an exciting and surprising connection between mouthwash, exercise, and overall health. It also reminds us that not all bacteria are bad. Some bacteria help us maintain healthy ecosystems, not just in our gut, but throughout our bodies.