Date Published: 13 January 2009
Australian study linking use of mouthwash to oral cancer
The review published recently in the Dental Journal of Australia raises an interesting proposition that deserves further investigation. One of the recommendations made by the review authors is that alcohol-containing mouthwashes be restricted to "short-term" medical use.
The Ministry of Health advises against the use of mouthwashes long-term without advice from a dentist. The Ministry also advises those who are using an alcohol-containing mouthwash and are concerned about the alcohol in it to discuss its use with their dentist or doctor.
We do know that excessive drinking and smoking increase the risk of developing oral cancer. But it has yet to be established whether the use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes is a risk factor for oral cancer.
A literature review published in an American dental journal in 2003 also looked at this question and concluded that, based on most available studies, it was unlikely that using mouthwashes containing alcohol would increase the risk of oral cancer.
Drinking alcohol and using it as a mouthwash means the alcohol is used differently–alcohol that is consumed flows over the lining of the mouth many times over a repeated time frame. Mouthwashes are used for relatively short periods, perhaps once or twice a day. We do not know whether these differences are important. Previous reviews have also raised concerns about whether the alcohol consumption and smoking patterns of people in studies of mouthwashes are known.