Heavy use of mouthwashes may lead to higher risk of cancer

categories: Blog


An article published in the Daily Mail on Friday claims that “Heavy use of mouthwashes (more than three times a day) may lead to a higher risk of oral cancer.” A survey published in the same paper last summer claimed that 55% of the UK’s population now use mouthwash. However, there is no need to panic just yet as this research has proven inconclusive.

Where did this theory originally come from?

This stems from an Australian study conducted in 2009, which said there was ‘sufficient evidence’ that mouthwashes containing alcohol contribute to an increased risk of the disease, because they allow cancer-causing substances to penetrate the lining of the mouth more easily.

Who has brought this up again?

With Oral Cancer Awareness month taking place this April more research conducted by the University of Glasgow researchers and European colleagues suggested that people rinsing with mouthwash have a greater chance of developing mouth and throat cancer after assessing 1,962 cancer sufferers and 1,993 healthy people in 13 centres across nine countries.

Results also revealed that people diagnosed with poor oral hygiene are more than doubled that risk of getting cancers of the mouth, throat, vocal chords or oesophagus (including wearing dentures and bleeding gums.

Is there any truth that mouthwash causes Oral Cancer?

The survey also revealed that not many people used mouthwash this frequently, which decreases the reliability of this risk estimate. Therefore the survey was inconclusive to suggest that mouthwash “can give you cancer”.

Professor Damien Walmsley adviser to the British Dental Association revealed in his interview with The Daily Mail that the study was not ‘conclusive’.

‘It does, however, reaffirm that smoking together with heavy drinking and a poor diet over time are strong risk factors for developing cancers of the oral cavity and oesophagus,’ he said.

‘Unfortunately, these behaviours cannot be disassociated from people who neglect their oral hygiene and rarely, if ever, visit the dentist, as this study suggests.

‘It also highlights that people, who are at risk of developing these cancers, may be using alcohol-based mouthwashes inappropriately to disguise smoking or drinking alcohol.’

Am I ok to continue using mouthwash or is there a brand I should avoid?

Professor Damien Walmsley also said that ‘Mouthwashes should be used according to manufacturer’s directions.’

So there is no need to flush that mouthwash down the sink just yet as you can carry on using it as long as you use it properly and follow the instructions. Alternatively you can always swap your brand for an alcohol free mouthwash.

Or get in touch with our friendly team who will be able to provide you with information on all dental products.