Alcohol-based mouthwash and health risks

Using alcohol-based mouthwash may increase the risk of developing health problems such as gum disease and certain cancers, including colorectal cancer. This conclusion comes from a study conducted at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, led by Jolein Lauman, a PhD student in the Department of Clinical Sciences.

The researchers found significant changes in the oral microbiome’s composition and bacterial count after participants used alcohol-based Listerine Cool Mint mouthwash. Specifically, the study noted an increase in two types of bacteria, Fusobacterium nucleatum and Streptococcus anginosus, which have been linked to gum disease, esophageal cancer, and colorectal cancer.

According to Alliance Dental, most mouthwashes available in pharmacies contain alcohol. This ingredient can cause a brief burning sensation, an unpleasant taste, and mouth dryness. More critically, alcohol kills almost all oral bacteria, both beneficial and harmful.

In contrast, alcohol-free mouthwash does not eliminate all bacteria but instead creates a new bacterial balance in the mouth.

The study reported that using Listerine’s alcohol-based mouthwash led to an increase in opportunistic bacteria associated with periodontal disease, esophageal and colorectal cancer, and other systemic diseases.

“We found that Listerine Cool Mint had an adverse effect on some beneficial bacteria,” said Chris Kenyon, PhD, a professor at the Institute of Tropical Medicine and one of the study’s authors. “For example, it decreases the abundance of the phylum Actinobacteria. Various Actinomyces species are part of the nitrate-reducing oral bacteria, which convert salivary nitrate to nitrite for further generation of the potent vasodilator nitric oxide, important for maintaining blood pressure. The nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway is a crucial mechanism linking the oral microbiome to cardiovascular health.”

The authors advise that regular use of Listerine and similar alcohol-based mouthwashes should be approached with caution and careful consideration.

Source: Medical News Today