Oral antiseptics are used to stop or slow the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, and some viruses and fungi. Many of these microorganisms can be responsible for causing disease, making oral antiseptics a common part of health treatments and disease prevention. Oral antiseptics can range in strength from over-the-counter mouthwashes to prescription or clinical treatments.
Bad breath is one of the most common reasons why many people throughout the United States use antiseptics. Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is caused by a mixture of leftover rotting food in the crevices of the mouth and teeth, and the action of bacteria as they feed on this food. Using antiseptic mouthwash kills the bacteria, helping relieve the bad breath problem.
Mouth bacteria also is related to a more serious dental condition known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the gums that is caused by a substance known as plaque. According to the Mayo Clinic, plaque is a combination of sugar, starches and bacteria, which when left on the teeth can turn into tartar (calculus). Plaque and tarter irritate your gums, resulting in the inflammation seen in gingivitis. The use of antiseptics can help destroy the bacteria that lead to plaque, helping prevent gingivitis and other periodontal diseases.
Aphthous ulcers, more commonly known as canker sores, can also benefit from the use of oral antiseptics. Canker sores may be contributed to (not specifically caused by) a type of bacteria known as the hemolytic streptococcus bacteria. Antiseptics may kill of this bacteria, providing some relief to those who develop canker sores due to a sensitivity or immune reaction to the bacteria.
Pharyngitis, more commonly referred to as a sore throat, may also benefit from an antiseptic. According to the Mayo Clinic, your sore throat may be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection. Viral infections will not benefit from an antiseptic, but an antiseptic may slow the growth of bacteria related to a sore throat, such as with strep throat. Antiseptics are not a cure for pharyngitis, so it is important to see your doctor to obtain the appropriate treatment for your particular cause of sore throat.
About this Author
Chris Sherwood is a professional freelance journalist who specializes in health and fitness, diseases, medical and health research, and drug and alcohol effects research. Sherwood is currently finishing his degree in health care policy and administration with an emphasis on hospital administration.