Mouthwash widely recommended by dentists as an essential part of your oral health routine but recent studies hint that it may be doing more harm than good.
Studies show that the regular use of alcohol-based mouthwash may lead to mouth cancer, which can affect the tongue, the floor of the mouth, the gums and the cheeks (1).
48,000 Americans and more than 640,000 people across the world are diagnosed with the disease every year, so it’s certainly a good idea to forgo the liquid (2).
What’s in Mouthwash
While each company has their own unique mixture of ingredients, here are a few that often appear together on the labels of popular brands like Listerine and Colgate (3,4,5).
According to a study published in the Journal of International Academy of Periodontology, minimal exposure to his chemical can cause headaches, euphoria, giddiness, blurred vision, stomachache, and complete loss of taste for a minimum of 8 hours after ingestion (6).
The Free Radical Biology and Medicine Journal confirms that the chemical also kills off the good bacteria that helps blood vessels relax and maintain blood pressure. Hence, Chlorhexidine raises blood pressure and makes you more likely to suffer from a heart attack, heart failure, or stroke (7).
Using a mouthwash twice daily can increase blood pressure by up to 3.5 mmHg. To put it in perspective, a two-point rise in blood pressure can elevate the risk of dying from a stroke by ten percent, and of heart disease by seven percent.
“Killing off all these bugs each day is a disaster, when small rises in blood pressure have significant impact on morbidity and mortality from heart disease and stroke,”Professor Amrita Ahluwalia, who led the study, told the Daily Mail. “We are not telling people to stop using antiseptic mouthwashes if they have a gum or tooth infection — but we would ask why anyone else would want to.” (8).
Not all mouthwashes contain the chemical, but the study authors caution other mouthwashes could still produce the same effects as Corsodyl by damaging the mouth’s healthy bacteria.
Alcohol stresses out the liver and dries out the mucous membranes in your mouth. It also reduces saliva production and changes the pH of the mouth and throat, causing bad breath. The Dental Journal of Australia concluded in a review that “that alcohol-containing mouthwashes contribute to the increased risk of development of oral cancer,” And that “that it is inadvisable for oral healthcare professionals to recommend the long-term use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes.” (9).
3. Hexetidine (oraldene)
This chemical causes skin, eye, and respiratory irritations while also being cytotoxic. When present oral rinses, Hexetidine that interferes with cell division and vital metabolic processes. It’s also known to cause blood clots in the brain, unstable heartbeat, and allergic reactions (10).
4. Methyl Salicylate
Methyl Salicylate can cause an allergic reaction with symptoms like rash; hives; itching; shortness of breath; wheezing; cough; swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat; or any other signs. It should never come into contact with open wounds like cheek bites and flossing injuries (11). It takes very little quantities of the chemical to overdose and the consequences can be deadly.
Side effects include tinnitus, nausea, and vomiting, coma, convulsions, hyperventilation, and, more severely, pulmonary edema, hemorrhage, acute renal failure, or death (12). Swallowing mouthwash containing Methyl Salicylate can also cause gastric ulcers, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, and erosive gastritis.
Methylparaben is often found in mouthwash, cosmetics, and deodorants. It has potentially carcinogenic properties as it’s been found in breast cancer tissues and was discovered to increase chromosomal aberrations in ovary cells during lab testing. It’s also reported to produce an estrogenic response and affect sperm quality (13).
The Natural Solution
A big part of oral hygiene isn’t just about brushing your teeth and getting enough calcium and vitamin D. It also has a lot to do with what you eat.
Studies have shown that eating a diet rich in veggies, fruits and whole grains effectively reversed gum inflammation and reduced instances of periodontal disease (14). As they say, prevention is the best medicine!
If you have sensitive gums and you need a little extra help, take out your kettle! Researchers have found that rinsing your mouth with green tea inhibited the growth of plaque bacteria in less than 10 minutes. This is because green tea has antibacterial and anticariogenic properties that decrease the acidity of your saliva and kills plaque (15). Tea even works better than chlorhexidine in reducing plaque and is much safer to use (16).
How To Make Green Tea Mouthwash
- 1.5 liters of water
- 7 tablespoons of green tea
- A few tablespoons of dried peppermint (optional)
- A strainer
- A 2L glass bottle
- A large bowl
- Boil the water in a large saucepan.
- Measure out the tea and place it directly in the water. If you want your mouthwash to have a minty taste, add the peppermint leaves at the same time. For a strong mint flavor, mix equal part tea and mint.
- Let the mixture steep for one hour.
- As the tea steeps, wash out your bottle with hot water and vinegar and rinse well.
- Place the strainer above your bowl and pour the tea through it.
- Add 1/2 liter of water and pour into your bottle.
- Store in the refrigerator.
- To use, measure out an ounce (30 ml) of the mouthwash, swish around for ten minutes and spit it out.