Slipping endlessly through the crack between oral and respiratory medicine, the humble mouthwash has slowly won more respect among savvy practitioners and patients as a solution for specific indications. In Japan many millions of people gargle three times a day with povidone-iodine or other mouthwashes to ward off upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), and Japanese clinical studies have confirmed the value of this approach. Worldwide, in a less-than-systematic and sometimes downright casual manner, medical practitioners recommend gargling to patients; and many people on their own have decided that gargling makes sense, while millions use mouthwash to protect teeth and gums as well as against halitosis.
Still, for curious reasons, this formidable method of suppressing infections remains in medical limbo. Not because there is no need. The average American suffers 2.5 episodes of URTI per year, with high costs for treatment, lost days of work, and morbidity. URTIs also exacerbate asthma, and they can enter the lungs and prove fatal. Continue reading »