Check Your Mouthwash

Dental experts are warning that many brands of mouthwash available in supermarkets could contribute to oral cancer.

A review published in the Australian Dental Journal has linked mouthwash brands containing alcohol to an increased risk of developing the deadly disease.

The ethanol in mouthwash is thought to allow cancer-causing substances to permeate the lining of the mouth more easily and cause harm. Acetaldehyde, a toxic by-product of alcohol may also accumulate in the oral cavity when swished around the mouth.

The review author, Michael McCullough, is an Associate Professor in Oral Medicine at Melbourne University.

Professor McCullough says he is also concerned that most mouthwash products that are readily available in supermarkets are alcohol based.

"There are products out there that are being recommended that have high levels of alcohol," he said.

"The most common is up at about 26 per cent alcohol in mouthwashes which is about twice as much as in wine and is being recommended as a product to use more than once a day, over an extended period of time to benefit the oral cavity."

Smoking and alcohol consumption are well-established risk factors for oral cancer, but the use of alcohol-containing mouthwash is now also of concern.

Prof McCullough and co-author Dr Camile Farah, director of research at the University of Queensland's School of Dentistry, recommended mouthwash be restricted to ``short-term'' medical use or replaced by alcohol-free versions.

"We see people with oral cancer who have no other risk factors than the use of alcohol-containing mouthwash, so what we've done in this study is review all the evidence that's out there,'' he said.

"Since this article came out, further evidence has come out too. We believe there should be warnings.

"If it was a facial cream that had the effect of reducing acne but had a four- to five-fold increased risk of skin cancer, no one would be recommending it.''

"(We) further feel it is inadvisable for oral health-care professionals to recommend the long-term use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes,'' they concluded.

The review reported evidence from an international study of 3210 people which found daily mouthwash use was a "significant risk factor'' for head and neck cancer, irrespective of whether users also drank alcohol or smoked.

But the effects of mouthwash were worst in smokers, who had a nine-fold increased risk of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx and larynx.

Those who also drank alcohol had more than five times the risk - and even those who neither drank nor smoked still ran a four- to five-fold risk of contracting cancer.

A Brazilian study has also found regular mouthwash use is associated with oral cancer regardless of alcohol or tobacco consumption.

"Mouthwash products are in contact with the oral mucosa as much as alcoholic beverages, and may cause chemical aggression of the cells,'' researchers from the University of Sao Paulo said. They said the role of ethanol in causing DNA damage needed to be explored further.

A review in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology last year said it would be "prudent, precautionary public-health policy to generally refrain from using ethanol in (mouthwash) products'' because of "doubts about the safety of alcohol-containing oral products''.

This website strongly recommends that you change your brand of mouthwash to a safe brand. If you need help finding a safe mouthwash, contact us and we will tell you the brand we use.

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