Dental, News & Features — 29 May 2021 at 3:53 pm

Antibacterial Mouthwash May Impair Exercise Recovery

Dr Burjor Langdana / Expedition Dentist / UK

Dr Burjor Langdana explains why routine use of antibacterial mouthwash, such as 0.2% chlorhexidine may reduce the beneficial effects of training; especially in the recovery phase.

Image of Antibacterial Mouthwash

Newsflash – Routine use of antibacterial mouthwash like 0.2% chlorhexidine may reduce the beneficial effects of training especially is the post-training phase 1.

Mechanism – Oral bacteria play a key role in the cardiovascular effects of exercise, specifically the vasodilation and low blood pressure seen after exercise. When you exercise, cells in your blood vessels and muscles produce nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels and increases blood flow to working muscles. The nitrate formed during exercise is then absorbed by the salivary glands and secreted in the mouth during the recovery period after exercise 1. After nitrate is secreted into the mouth, oral bacteria reduce this to nitrite which is then swallowed. After swallowing, a small portion of nitrite is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and forms new nitric oxide; helping to sustain optimal blood supply to active tissues. This causes a blood pressure lowering response termed ‘post-exercise hypotension’.

Bottom Line – Antibacterial mouthwashes such as Corsodyl (active ingredient: chlorhexidine) may be detrimental to recovery. By killing the ‘good’ oral bacteria, less nitrates are converted into nitrites and thus less nitric oxide is available to widen the diameter of blood vessels after exercise. Therefore, tissue perfusion is reduced as well as post-exercise hypotension.


  1. Post-exercise hypotension and skeletal muscle oxygenation is regulated by nitrate-reducing activity of oral bacteria. C Cutler et al. Free Radical and Biology Medicine. 2019. 1;143:252-259. Accessed at: