Mouthwash Containing Alcohol Could Increase Cancer Risk


Brushing, flossing, rinsing with mouthwash…which one could be hazardous to your health?

Rinse quickly if your mouthwash contains alcohol say dental researchers in the latest edition of independent journal Australian Prescriber.

Experts warn the risk of oral cancer increased five times if users drank alcohol, nine times if they smoked, and just under five times if they were non-drinkers.  Distressing news if you have a favorite brand and the alcohol content is not listed on the bottle.

Other alarming conditions such as gingivitis, petechiae (flat red spots), and detachment of cells lining the mouth could occur if you use mouthwash that exceeds 20 percent alcohol.

“Although many popular mouthwashes may help to control dental plaque and gingivitis, they should only be used for a short time and only as an adjunct to other oral hygiene measures such as brushing and flossing,” researchers wrote. “Long-term use of ethanol-containing mouthwashes should be discouraged, given recent evidence of a possible link with oral cancer.”

Earlier this year university researchers aired their concerns regarding this same topic.

Listerine is a popular brand in both Australia and the United States.  The original medicinal tasting liquid contains 26.9 percent alcohol and their other flavors have 21.6 percent, according to a representative at Johnson & Johnson’s Consumer Care Center, makers of Listerine. The alcohol is an inactive ingredient—a solubilizer—used to bind together the active ingredients said the representative.

All product information is clearly displayed on the bottle’s label along with specific warnings pertaining to children.  No one under the age of 12 is to use Listerine since their product safety board has not studied the long-term effects for this age group. The company recommends Smart Rinse, a non-alcohol liquid created specifically for children.

It is doubtful if any mouthwash maker will voluntarily mention the link between alcohol content in their rinse and oral cancer without a mandate from the Food and Drug Administration.  Perhaps more studies are needed but until one refutes the Australian research….brush, floss, and quickly rinse… if you must use a mouthwash.