Ah, Listerine®… mouth-burning banisher of bad-breath and, now, gonorrhoea. Yes, gonorrhoea.
Way back in 1879, the mouthwash-makers were already claiming Listerine® would clean your floors, cleanse your mouth and stop the transmission of oral gonorrhoea. Turns out they weren’t necessarily wrong – whether they actually knew it at the time or not.
A research journal published earlier this year collates the findings of many studies over the last 20 years and seems to have proven some of the brand’s 140-year-old claims. Studies found that particular mouthwashes could effectively inhibit the growth of gonorrhoea bacteria in the mouth and throat if used correctly and regularly. Passionate kissing is also a pretty common (and potentially underestimated) pathway for oral gonorrhoea too, so a good gargling could be a great way to combat this mode of transmission – not just for oral sex.
With gonorrhoea back on the rise in Aotearoa – data shows that 149 men per 100,000 had been diagnosed with gonorrhoea in 2018 - Listerine® Cool Mint (with 21.6% alcohol) might be a new addition to regular testing and consistent condom-use in your sexual health toolkit. Other mouthwash types are being trialed too, but the list of names has not been released yet.
Obviously, gonorrhoea can also be rectal or genital and mouthwash is only dealing with the mouth and throat, but if we can even take one of these infection avenues out of the equation for some people - then that's a bit of a win.
It wasn’t conclusive whether it was more effective to simply make sure you use mouthwash every day in the morning and evening as you normally would, versus using it straight after a sexual encounter. Although, it was suggested that a full mouth rinse and gargle (to ensure the mouthwash can get right to the back of your throat) for at least 60 seconds, at least once a day was likely the best way to go.
If you test positive for gonorrhoea, you should definitely still receive medical treatment – think of these findings as something to keep in mind for your regular self-care regime, as it may help reduce the risk of transmission.
Keeping in mind the risk of other STIs, as well as HIV, is an important part of owning your sexual health - plus, the mouthwash thing is pretty neat.