What Is the Connection between Mouthwash and Cancer?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 15 December 2018
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There are many things that can cause cancer and, while mouthwash is used daily by many people, some research teams and experiments have found a connection between mouthwash and cancer. The link between cancer and mouthwash is primarily a result of the high concentration of alcohol in most mouthwashes, but some researchers say even non-alcoholic mouthwash can be cancerous. One reason for this is that the alcohol decomposes and forms a cancer-causing substance known as acetaldehyde. Mouthwash often affects the gums and teeth, especially with alcohol-containing versions, this makes it easier for other cancer-causing substances to get into people. This primarily results in oral cancer, but other neck and head cancers also can occur.

Alcohol is known to cause cancer in high dosages, and mouthwash tends to have a very high concentration of alcohol. This is used to kill germs and sanitize the mouth, but it also exposes people to enough alcohol to be considered dangerous, especially because of mouthwash’s regular use. At the same time, some researchers say non-alcoholic mouthwash and cancer are connected, mostly as a result of the cleaning agents in non-alcoholic mouthwash.

When alcohol decomposes, it lets off a substance known as acetaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer. As a person uses mouthwash, small pools of mouthwash typically stay in the mouth, even if he or she rinses. This results in the alcohol decomposing directly in the mouth, around the gums and teeth, which can increase the danger of mouthwash and cancer.


The main reason why mouthwash and cancer are thought to be linked is because mouthwash can cause erosion in teeth and gums as a result of the acid and alcohol. As this erosion occurs, it makes it easier for the alcohol or cleaning agents to get deeper into the body. If the person uses other cancer-causing substances, such as cigarettes or alcoholic beverages, they also are able to reach deeper into the body. This may even cause the substances to be stuck under the gums, which can further increase one’s risk.

Many forms of cancer can manifest from mouthwash, but there are three typical versions. Oral cancer is the most common, because most of the mouthwash’s effect is directly in the mouth. Mouthwash accidentally may be swallowed and, because the alcohol and cleaning agents can leach through the mouth to other parts of the body, neck and head cancers also may be caused by using mouthwash.


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Post 3

@turkay1-- I think I agree with you. It's best to avoid using mouthwash too much. But there is no point in kicking it out of our lives altogether because these studies are not conclusive yet.

Post 2

@fBoyle-- Exposing the inside of the mouth to alcohol every single day might be harmful. But I don't think that using a mouthwash with alcohol several times a week, or using an alcohol-free mouthwash more frequently is dangerous.

If we're going to make claims about what's dangerous, then we should also think about the dangers of gingivitis. Gingivitis has been shown to cause heart disease and mouthwash prevents gingivitis. Does this mean that everyone should always use mouthwash to avoid heart disease? No. Similarly, I think it's wrong to assume that everyone who uses mouthwash is going to get oral cancer.

Post 1

I found out about the link between mouthwash and cancer last week from a TV program and I've not used it since.

Apparently, the alcohol in the mouth slowly damages tissues and cells and increases the chances of cell mutation. This is in addition to the carcinogenic properties of mouthwash ingredients.

If I want to gargle now, I just use salt water.

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