Super Germs invading my mouth
November 20, 2009 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Super germs... in my mouth??

I can never seem to rinse with Listerine for the recommended amount of time of either 30 or 60 seconds. I get to about 10-15 seconds and think... ow ow ow... must stop the burning... spit and rinse. I was thinking about that hand sanitizer issue where it only kills 99.9% of the germs and that last bit that's leftover will divide and eventually we end up with super germs. Is that what's also going on in my mouth?

I don't want to switch to another brand that doesn't cause so much tingling because I very much enjoy the sensation of clean in my mouth after the whole rinsing ritual.
posted by jadegenie to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
While listerine kills germs effectively it also can dry out your mouth which is bad and can ultimately promote bacteria growth. Try one of the non alcohol mouthwashes -- I like the therabreath stuff.

As far as the superbug thing... I have wondered that too.. I don't have an answer.
posted by jockc at 9:59 PM on November 20, 2009

Are you really unable to stick through the full time? Maybe I've burnt the pain receptors out of my mouth or something by now, but it doesn't seem that bad. Isn't it just some minty stuff and 20% alcohol?
posted by floam at 10:09 PM on November 20, 2009

What helped me get used to it was drinking some water or at least swishing some around and leaving a tiny bit behind so it wasn't as strong. Over time I got used to it.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:19 PM on November 20, 2009

Have you ever tried a tongue brush? You might find you don't need such hard core mouthwashes at all to get the clean feeling in your mouth.
posted by padraigin at 10:24 PM on November 20, 2009

Getcha some non-alcoholic stuff, like ACT Total Care.
posted by spilon at 10:43 PM on November 20, 2009

For me, same thing. The burning decreases after the first 15 - 20 seconds.

Tom's of Maine makes some nice alcohol-free rinses that I like more than Listerine. I think they do a better job, too.
posted by zippy at 11:18 PM on November 20, 2009

Regarding the whole superbug thing, if your mouth evolves an alcohol-resistant bacteria, I am pretty sure that would be nobel-prize fodder. The stuff that bacteria build up resistances to is selected to be harmful to bacteria without killing you, for internal usage. The alcohol is much more poisonous and would kill you if you were exposed to the kind of levels the bacteria are proportionally getting, it is a completely different ballgame.
posted by idiopath at 12:53 AM on November 21, 2009

The CDC says there is cause for concern about using antibacterial products, on the other hand.

But I am pretty sure that the kind of alcohol in a mouthwash is not one of those things were are going to find bacteria mutating to be resistant to - it completely destroys cell walls.

Previous askme on the subject.
posted by idiopath at 1:04 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also... alcohol based mouth washes are considered to be causative of some oral cancers. Dentists have known this for a pretty long time and suggest you don't use them.. (the alcohol based ones).
posted by taff at 1:42 AM on November 21, 2009

The mechanism of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance isn't going to be much like that of a mouthwash. To make a human analogy, you can get vaccinated against polio and measles but there isn't really a good vaccine for bullet wounds or being run over by a bus.

I'd be more worried about killing off my commensal bacteria than creating supergerms.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:00 AM on November 21, 2009

As others are saying, there's not really any concern about bacterial resistance from alcohol-based mouthwashes, or alcohol-based hand-sanitizers for that matter. The concern is from products with "antibacterial" components, like triclosan, added.

Antibacterial agents each target and disrupt a very specific process in the bacteria, thereby causing it to die or at least preventing it from multiplying. For instance, one of the many enzymes necessary for fatty acid synthesis in bacteria can be blocked by triclosan, the antibacterial agent used in most antibacterial hand soaps you'll find at your local drug store. When that enzyme is blocked, the bacteria can't make the fatty acids it needs, so it dies. But if a couple of the bacteria on your hands have a mutation that gives them a slightly different form of that one enzyme, then the triclosan can't block the enzyme and those bacteria are not killed. Those are the bacteria that survive and multiply despite your antibacterial soap, until there are millions of these resistant guys on your skin.

Alcohol, on the other hand, does NOT target a specific process in the bacteria. Instead, it disrupts thousands of processes. To avoid being killed, a bacteria would have to have thousands of mutations that happen to counteract every single one of the ways alcohol can kill a bacteria. This is so unlikely as to be impossible. So when you use alcohol to kill the germs, there are none with genetic resistance who can survive and multiply to produce a resistant strain.

Of course alcohol-based mouthwashes and hand sanitizers don't kill 100% of germs, but that is because they don't get into every single nook and cranny in your hands or mouth with enough concentration to reach every last germ. The germs that survive can't genetically pass on the luck of not having alcohol touch them, so the population does not become resistant even though a few lucky bacteria survive.

Think of it like this. Say you're in a room and somebody tries to kill you by pumping in a toxic gas. Most likely you die, but if you happen to have brought your gas mask along that day, you'll survive. Hooray, you can have children and they will all bring gas masks everywhere they go too! Now nobody can kill off your population by using toxic gas. This is how resistance develops to antibiotics.

Now say you're in a room and somebody's pumping in toxic gas, but also there are machine guns spraying bullets all over, and lightning arcing around the room, and oh hey you're actually treading water in a pool of sharks. Your gas mask isn't going to help you survive. That's what the alcohol treatment is like. Even if you manage to hide in a corner, have babies, and teach them to always wear their gas mask... in that room, they're still probably going to die.
posted by vytae at 10:53 AM on November 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

Vouching for Biotene. You lose some of the tingling (and all of the pain) but I find my mouth feels very clean in a way that Listerine couldn't produce.
posted by kitkatcathy at 6:59 PM on November 22, 2009

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