Maintaining good oral hygiene has been linked to reduced risk of gum infections and conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer's. A recent research has provided more evidence for the link, with findings suggesting that the use of antiseptic mouthwash in some diabetic patients may contribute to improved blood sugar levels.

Periodontitis is a gum infection that damages the soft tissue around teeth which is linked to conditions such as diabetes, dementia, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory tract infections.

In the latest study, researchers found that when individuals with type 2 diabetes gargled with an antiseptic mouthwash, there was a notable reduction in the number of bacteria associated with periodontitis. Furthermore, when there were reduced bacterial levels, there was better control over blood sugar levels in some diabetic patients, according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

"There are three highly virulent bacterial species that are linked to periodontitis, or diseases of the tissues surrounding the teeth. We decided to see if we could reduce these three species—Porphyromonas gingivalis, Treponema denticola, and Tannerella forsythia—in patients with type 2 diabetes using a mouthwash containing the antiseptic chlorhexidine gluconate," said Saaya Matayoshi, lead author of the study.

The findings were based on a year-long study involving 173 patients. To determine the effectiveness of gargling with mouthwash, the participants were asked to use water to gargle in the first six months and switch to antiseptic mouthwash in the next six months. The researchers then collected monthly or bimonthly saliva and blood samples. The saliva samples helped identify three bacterial species linked to periodontitis, while blood samples measured HbA1c levels indicating blood sugar control.

"We were unsurprised to see that gargling with water had no effects on bacterial species or HbA1c levels. However, there was an overall reduction in bacterial species when the patients switched to mouthwash, as long as they were gargling at least twice a day," Kazuhiko Nakano, senior author of the study, explained.

Although there were no overall changes in HbA1c levels when patients gargled with the antiseptic mouthwash, the researchers noted there were large variations in individual responses. When the participants were split into younger and older patients, younger patients had greater reductions in bacterial species and significant improvement in blood-sugar control when using the mouthwash compared to water.

Researchers believe that if patients who are likely to respond well to antiseptic mouthwash could be identified, it would be an easy-to-use treatment for people with periodontic-linked diseases.