Hyped Alcohol-based Mouthwashes Could be Harmful, Warn Health Experts

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Alcohol-based mouthwashes have an unpleasant taste and can dry the mouth, disrupting the oral microbiome. A new study reveals that these commonly used mouthwashes could negatively impact the oral microbiome—the community of bacteria in the mouth—potentially increasing the risk of periodontal diseases and certain cancers. The oral microbiome is crucial for digestion and maintaining oral health.

Dental surgeon Dr. Bibhakar Ranjan explained that both beneficial and harmful microorganisms exist in the oral cavity, and oral hygiene is vital for maintaining their balance. “Since alcohol-based mouthwashes target all kinds of microorganisms in the mouth, even those beneficial to our body are removed,” Dr. Ranjan said. Besides their unpleasant taste and mouth-drying effect, regular use of alcohol-based mouthwash can lead to increased plaque deposits, which are detrimental to gum health and can cause several oral diseases.

Fusobacterium nucleatum and Streptococcus anginosus are two kinds of opportunistic bacteria that were shown to have increased after three months of daily usage of mouthwash containing alcohol, according to a study done by the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Belgium.
These bacteria are associated with a higher risk of gum disease, as well as esophageal and colorectal cancers. Additionally, the researchers observed a decrease in Actinobacteria, a group of bacteria crucial for regulating blood pressure.

Regarding the link between alcohol-based mouthwashes and oral cancer, Dr. Ranjan noted that there is still insufficient evidence. “The alleged correlation between cancer and alcohol-based mouthwash doesn’t have enough scientific evidence. It would be completely unjustified to say that the use of alcohol-based mouthwash is the sole reason behind oral or oropharynx cancer,” he said.

Although daily use of mouthwash isn’t necessary, gargling with it twice a week can help prevent tooth decay.

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