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Mouthwash Controversy

Mouthwash has caused some controversy in several ways.

Oral Cancer risk

Over the past few years some media reports have linked mouthwash with an increased risk of cancer. This link is very misleading. And as some of the more accurate accounts point out it only the mouthwashes with alcohol that appear to cause this problem.

Some commercial mouthwashes contain up to 30% alcohol. Using these three times a day, for 30 seconds each time, will expose the mouth more alcohol than is recommended. This appears to raise the risk of oral cancer, and can certainly cause a dry mouth, which leads to decay, bad breath and gum problems. Of course this defeats the point of using a mouthwash.

Using mouthwash once per day is more realistic. 30 seconds of gargling is reasonable.

Mouthwashes without alcohol do not appear to have any link to cancer. And they will add some extra benefit to teeth and gums when teeth are also being brushed at least twice daily.

The highest risk of cancer in the mouth was found in smokers. The second highest risk group was people who neglected to brush their teeth. People using mouthwash with alcohol were in a lower cancer risk category that either group. Mouthwash without alcohol actually reduced the risk of oral cancer, while also helping to protect against decay and infection.

We recommend alcohol free mouthwash once or twice per day.

Mouthwash and Gut bacteria

Many people with bad breath try to combat the problem with mouthwash, only to find the problem does not improve, or grows worse.

Our mouth and digestive system have both good and bad bacteria. The good bacteria are necessary for digestion and general health. The bad bacteria cause tooth and gum decay. We want to fight the bad bacteria while retaining the good, healthy bacteria. But some mouthwashes will simply kill both.

Mouthwashes with Hydrogen Peroxide or Chlorhexidine cause problems by killing the good and bad bacteria. Furthermore, Chlorhexidine can also discolour teeth, alter taste perception and increase tartar (calculus) formation on teeth. These mouthwashes may actually aggravate bad breath problems.

Avoid Mouthwash with Alcohol, Hydrogen Peroxide or Chlorhexidine.

We do recommend:

  • Green tea will help with bad breath. Some mouthwashes are based on green tea.
  • Cashews will fight some forms of bad bacteria (specifically gram positive bacteria) while leaving good bacteria unharmed.
  • Oral probiotics will benefit the healthy bacteria in the mouth, and help remove bad breath, plaque and gum problems.
  • Breathe through the nose and not the mouth, especially at night. A dry mouth from mouth breathing causes all sorts of dental problems, including poor breath.
  • Drinking plenty of water will help bad breath, bacteria problems and improve general health.
  • Mouthwashes that have no alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or Chlorhexidine appear to be fine. Use once or twice per day.

Dentist Sydney

Talk to the dentist if you have bad breath, night breathing issues or any question about mouthwash.