OraCare offers practitioners a healthy and versatile alternative to the controversial chlorhexidine. Learn more about it from OraCare Chief Clinical Officer Kristin Goodfellow, RDH.
In the dental office, especially in the hygiene department, you will find many products that do 1 job. Maybe we don’t like that product but keep using it anyway because we don’t have a good alternative. Chlorhexidine is that kind of product. It is a staple in the dental office, but in my many years in clinical practice working with clinicians and hygienists, no one is satisfied with it. We continue to look for alternative products that do many jobs well. I am thrilled to say that there is a better alternative: OraCare. I know that because I use it myself. I sat down with Kristin Goodfellow, RDH, chief clinical officer of OraCare and practicing registered dental hygienist, to find out the details on this award-winning product.
Lou Shuman, DMD, CAGS (LS): Chlorhexidine is a staple in dentistry and hygiene. What’s wrong with a product that has been used for so many years?
Kristin Goodfellow, RDH (KS): Chlorhexidine is for short-term use only, but many of our patients have long-term issues. It does kill bacteria, but it also causes staining and additional calculus buildup. Chlorhexidine [affects] the cells in the mouth that help rebuild tissue, causing complications with healing.
LS: Tell me how and why OraCare was created.
KG: OraCare was developed by 3 dentists, Dr Robert Martino, Dr Richard Downs, and Dr Berdj Kiladjian, who shared other dentists’ frustrations [about] the negative effects of chlorhexidine. Dr Downs recognized how effective and compatible chlorine dioxide, the active ingredient in OraCare, is for use in the mouth. Now thousands of dental professionals use and trust OraCare as an alternative to chlorhexidine. Even better, it can be used for many more applications, from simple issues [such as] bad breath to more complex problems [such as] periodontal disease, cancer care, [postoperative] healing, mouth sores, dry mouth, fungal infections, braces, bleeding gums, and general home care. It has so much function and applicability for day-to-day use.
LS: How does it work?
KG: OraCare uses a 2-bottle system to create activated chlorine dioxide, a unique gas that is the active ingredient. Chlorine dioxide is versatile; able to kill bacteria, viruses, [and] fungi; break up biofilm; and reduce volatile sulfur compounds. Compare that with chlorhexidine, [which] just kills bacteria. And although killing bacteria is important in dentistry, it’s not the only pathogen that we need to be concerned about. For example, we know that viruses play a role in issues [such as] implant failure and the progression of periodontal disease. OraCare has the ability to do more, something which is much needed in 2023.
LS: Tell me more about the science. Have there been any studies related to the use of OraCare?
KG: OraCare has many studies, and we are always working toward participating in more. The active ingredient in OraCare, chlorine dioxide, is a powerful yet versatile compound that has gained significant attention in the dental industry. Its study and application have long been applied in other disciplines, including chemistry, water treatment, and health care. This is one of many reasons it has become so popular with dental professionals. It is fantastic at breaking up biofilm but also kills bacteria, viruses, [and] fungi and reduces volatile sulfur compounds. The fact that it has all these qualities makes it ideal for use in the oral cavity when trying to find something to help a plethora of issues from everyday care to periodontal disease.
LS: How does OraCare handle the destruction of bacteria in the mouth differently from chlorhexidine?
KG: The chlorine dioxide in OraCare is a very selective antimicrobial. It doesn’t destroy the cells that rebuild tissue. There have been [findings from] many studies on chlorhexidine that show that it inhibits a particular type of cell called fibroblasts, which are key to rebuilding connective tissue. In the [management] of periodontal disease, when the doctor’s definition of success may be 1 mm of reattachment, you don’t want to have the patient use a product that completely contradicts your goal of rebuilding the tissue.
LS: You mentioned that chlorhexidine has a limited life span as far as usage. Can you give us more information on why that matters?
KG: One of the biggest challenges of chlorhexidine is that we often start using it when our patients really need help. Chlorhexidine can only be used for 2 weeks, and most dental issues can’t be resolved in that time. For example, after an extraction, it takes about a month for the tissue to heal, so the patient needs a product that they can use for at least that healing time to help keep the area clean and not cause any additional issues.
Also, if you want the patient to be [adherent] for a longer period, it has to be easy to use and taste good. Many patients complain about the taste of chlorhexidine, and some won’t use it after trying it. OraCare tastes good, doesn’t cause any stinging or discomfort, and leaves the mouth feeling super clean. Patients can feel a difference.
LS: I hear that OraCare has gotten involved in humanitarian efforts with patients [with] cancer. Tell me more about that aspect.
KG: We are incredibly proud of our humanitarian efforts. The OraCare Cares program, offered to offices that carry OraCare, donates a set of OraCare to a patient [with] cancer from that office. All the office has to do is go to our website and fill out the form for their patient. When we get the notification, we’ll send the patient the OraCare with a card that has a personalized message that the patient is receiving a gift from the office.
We had not at first realized how beneficial OraCare was to patients [with] cancer until a hygienist started offering our product to patients [with] cancer [experiencing] fungal infections and dry mouth. OraCare also helps with the mouth sores and burning mouth syndrome that often occur as a result of certain cancer [therapies]. We started getting testimonials from patients [with] cancer that OraCare helped them with their mouth sores from chemotherapy and radiation. Patients compared their first round of treatment when they were not using OraCare with their second round of treatment when they were using OraCare and found that their oral [adverse] effects were significantly reduced. Ultimately, we’re proud because we can provide some relief to patients during an uncomfortable time. We are so pleased that they are able to eat and drink more comfortably and keep their oral cavity healthy.
Dental professionals have an advantage in that they typically see a patient [with] cancer about a month before they start treatment, so they start on this product even before they start treatment to prevent problems [and] not deal with them as they pop up during treatment. They should start cancer [management] with the healthiest mouth possible and no active infection in the oral cavity.
LS: As a dedicated OraCare user, I have felt the amazing effects firsthand. From perio [and] dry mouth to cancer care [and] everyday maintenance, integrating OraCare into a patient’s hygiene routine can make a remarkable difference in oral health.