Q: I read an article the other day about recent research that links the use of alcohol-based mouthwashes to oral cancer. Is this true?
A: Yes, it is true. A study published in the December 2008, Australian Dental Journal concluded that: “There is now sufficient evidence to accept the proposition that developing oral cancer is increased or contributed to by the use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes.”
The lead author of the review and chair of the Australian Dental Associations (ADA) therapeutics committee, Professor Michael McCullough, told the Sunday Telegraph that alcohol-containing mouthwash should be reclassified as prescription-only and carry written health warnings. Professor McCullough, who is on the faculty of the Department of Oral Medicine at the University of Melbourne, further called on the ADA to “… urgently re-assess its seal of approval on mouthwashes containing alcohol.”
Professor McCullough further commented, “If it was a facial cream that had the effect of reducing acne but had a four- to five-fold increased risk of skin cancer, no one would be recommending it.”
The #1 brand in the mouthwash category contains 26.9% alcohol and carries the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
Over the years, there have been some studies that have been funded by leading-brand, alcohol-based mouthwash manufacturers. These studies basically conclude that, if the mouthwash is used no more than twice a day for less than 60 seconds, there is no link to a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Even if one were to completely ignore the recent independent Australian study and, instead, assume the past, leading-brand studies to be true, a significant public health problem still exists – because the actual use by consumers regularly exceeds the recommended usage disclosed on the product.
In reality, there are approximately 30 million Americans suffering from serious halitosis (bad breath). There are many millions more who are concerned about the possibility of being breath offensive. Depending on their ability to withstand extreme discomfort that alcohol-based mouthwashes cause, most of these people will rinse more than the recommended dosage of 2 times a day and hold the liquid within their mouths longer than the recommended 30-60 seconds. People who suffer with such serious halitosis have reported rinsing up to 20 times a day and resist spitting out for up to 5 minutes. They will do anything to stop or solve their odor problem.
Here are some frightening statistics every American should be aware of:
- One American dies each hour of oral cancer.
- The death rate for all cancers has reduced over the last 40 years – the rate for oral cancer has increased 5.5% and the death rate increased 1.5%.
- The death rate for oral cancer is higher than cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, brain, liver, testes, kidney, or ovarian cancer.
- 27% of oral cancer victims do not use tobacco or consume alcohol.
- More than 30,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. In 5 years, fewer than half will still be alive.
- More than 8,000 Americans will die each year of oral cancer.
It seems extremely reasonable to increase research into this association between alcohol-containing mouthwashes and oral cancer – but, at the same time, the intelligent and cautious consumer should avoid using alcohol-containing mouthwashes altogether.
SmartMouth Mouthwash is alcohol free and has been proven to eliminate and prevent bad breath for at least 12 hours in a double-blind clinical study published by the Journal of Clinical Dentistry. The result is fresh breath that lasts 12 times longer than all leading mouthwashes.