The efficacy of antimicrobial mouth rinses in oral health care

Bull Tokyo Dent Coll. 1998 Feb;39(1):7-14.


There is growing public recognition of the importance of oral health, as symbolized by the theme. "Oral Health for a Healthy Life" proposed for the 1994 World Health Day. In this report, the efficacy of antimicrobial mouth rinses, mainly Listerine, was reviewed by three investigators who are working as a microbiologist, a microbiologist, a dentist, and a dental hygienist participating in oral health care. Listerine, an antimicrobial mouth rinse, completely killed microorganisms in 10 to 30 seconds; the microbes includes methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Helicobacter pylori, Candida albicans, Streptococcus mutans, Actinomyces viscosus, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Prevotella intermedia, and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans. Listerine was also weakly effective in inactivating human immunodeficiency viruses. Bacteria in samples collected from human dental plaque and saliva were completely killed within 30 seconds when exposed to Listerine. When saliva samples were collected from subjects who had rinsed their mouths with 20 ml of Listerine or 1:50 diluted povidone-iodine, levels of viable anaerobic bacteria in the samples were reduced to 1%. When Listerine was used for oral surgery such as tooth extraction and periodontal surgery, the agent was effective in relieving toothache. This was probably due to a decrease in oral bacteria by the antimicrobial action of Listerine, leading to lowering the inflammatory response of the host. The use of antimicrobial mouth rinse during dental treatments such as endodontic treatment proved effective for more reliable infection control. In Japan, there are an increasing number of elderly and medically compromised hosts who are potentially at risk for developing pneumonia due to silent aspiration of microbes in the oral cavity and throat. For the aged with such potential risk, using of antimicrobial mouth rinse may be effective in preventing dental plaque accumulation when used in addition to the mechanical control of plaque, since they tend to have difficulty in brushing teeth by themselves. Indeed, the use of antimicrobial mouth rinse in these elderly people proved useful not only in preventing bacterial pneumonia, but also in improving their quality of life by preserving their oral health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacology
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / therapeutic use
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / drug effects
  • Dental Care for Aged / methods
  • Drug Combinations
  • Humans
  • Mouthwashes / pharmacology
  • Mouthwashes / therapeutic use*
  • Nursing Homes
  • Oral Hygiene / methods
  • Salicylates / pharmacology
  • Salicylates / therapeutic use*
  • Terpenes / pharmacology
  • Terpenes / therapeutic use*
  • Toothache / therapy


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Drug Combinations
  • Mouthwashes
  • Salicylates
  • Terpenes
  • Listerine