There's a good chance your mouthwash is nothing more than a minty, booze-based breath-freshener. And if that's the case, you could be missing out on a whole host of health benefits. Although many mouthwashes can safely claim to "help fight plaque and gingivitis," researchers are starting to find a very real connection between the use of certain rinses and a reduced risk for some fairly serious health conditions. In other words, oral health – and rinsing in particular – has a lot more to do with our overall health than we'd previously thought. Over the past few years, for instance, scads of studies have shown a link between periodontal disease and conditions like coronary artery disease and high blood pressure. Last September, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's dental school even found that pregnant women who used an anti-microbial mouthwash were less likely to give birth prematurely. I know what you're thinking: How can mouthwash and good oral hygiene possibly do a BODY (and not just your mouth) good? Well, it turns out any oral infection can easily travel to other parts of your body through the soft tissues lining your mouth, and gum disease makes it easier for bacteria in your mouth to get into your bloodstream. Although the body normally clears your blood of harmful bacteria, it's not 100% effective. Anti-bacterial mouthwashes may help reduce the risk of bacteremia (the medical term for bacteria getting into your bloodstream) by killing the bacteria in your mouth before it can spread through your bod. Not all mouthwashes can promise this anti-bacterial effect, of course, and Health Canada requires rigorous clinical trials before a brand can plaster the claim to "significantly reduce oral bacteria that enter the bloodstream from the mouth" on its packaging. And, by this autumn, we'll see the first of these hit the Canadian market in the form of certain Listerine formulas, including Listerine Total Care: [caption id="attachment_1811" align="aligncenter" width="133" caption="Listerine Total Care"] [/caption] Persnickety skeptic that I am, I took my sneak peek Listerine sample down to the lab to check out pre- and post-rinse bacteria counts from my own kisser. Oh, and if the thought of seeing what's lurking inside my mouth offends you, please turn back now... * * * * * * Still here? Here's the bug-count BEFORE rinsing with antibacterial Listerine Total Care for 30 seconds: [caption id="attachment_1812" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="BEFORE"] [/caption] ...And here's the bacteria count immediately AFTER rinsing with Listerine Total Care. [caption id="attachment_1813" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="AFTER!"] [/caption] Exterminate, much? At the risk of sounding like that little old lady from Poltergeist, "This mouth is clean." My question for you is, "Is mouthwash part of your daily oral care routine?"