Rethinking Oral Hygiene: The Truth About Alcohol-Based Mouthwashes And Why You Must Stay Away From Them

Rethinking Oral Hygiene: The Truth About Alcohol-Based Mouthwashes And Why You Must Stay Away From Them

Rethinking Oral Hygiene: The Truth About Alcohol-Based Mouthwashes And Why You Must Stay Away From Them

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New study reveals surprising effects of common mouthwash on oral health and beyond.

5 June 2024

By Payoshi Bisht 

In the quest for fresh breath and a sparkling smile, many of us turn to a trusty bottle of mouthwash. It’s a staple in bathroom cabinets around the world, promising to banish bad breath and keep our mouths feeling clean and healthy. But could your favourite mouthwash be doing more harm than good?

A groundbreaking study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology has shed light on the potential risks of commonly used alcohol-based mouthwashes. Led by researchers from the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp, Belgium, the study focused on a group of men who have sex with men, a demographic known for their regular use of mouthwash as a method to reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

What they found was startling. Over the course of three months, daily use of alcohol-based mouthwash led to an increase in the levels of two species of opportunistic bacteria: Fusobacterium nucleatum and Streptococcus anginosus. These bacteria, notorious for their association with gum disease, as well as esophageal and colorectal cancers, posed a significant risk to the oral health of the participants.

But the implications did not stop there. The researchers also observed a decrease in a crucial bacteria group called Actinobacteria, which plays a vital role in regulating blood pressure. This unexpected finding suggests that the effects of alcohol-based mouthwash extend beyond the confines of the mouth, potentially impacting systemic health as well.

Dr. Jolein Laumen, from ITM’s Unit of Sexually Transmitted Infections, sounded a cautionary note, emphasising the need for awareness among the public. “Alcohol-based mouthwashes are widely available,” she warned. “While they may be used daily to tackle bad breath or prevent periodontitis, individuals should be aware of the potential implications. Ideally, long-term usage should be guided by healthcare professionals.”

This revelation raises important questions about the products we use to maintain our oral hygiene. Are we sacrificing our overall health for the sake of fresh breath? Should we reconsider our reliance on alcohol-based mouthwashes in favour of alternatives that pose less risk to our microbiomes?

As the debate continues, one thing is clear: the era of mindlessly swishing mouthwash may be coming to an end. With larger studies needed to fully understand the risks, consumers are urged to approach oral healthcare with caution and seek guidance from healthcare professionals.