Is your mouthwash harming your oral health? New study raises concerns

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Scientists are raising concerns about the potential risks of using alcohol-based mouthwash.

New research suggests that these popular mouthwashes might disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in your mouth, which could lead to various health problems.

The oral microbiome is the community of bacteria living in our mouths. These bacteria help us digest food and keep our mouths healthy.

Changes in the oral microbiome have been linked to gum diseases and even some types of cancer.

The recent study, published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, looked into how alcohol-based mouthwashes might affect this delicate balance.

Researchers from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, conducted this study as a follow-up to a larger investigation on using mouthwash to reduce sexually transmitted diseases in men who have sex with men.

They wanted to see if the mouthwash had any impact on the oral microbiome of the participants.

The findings were concerning. After three months of daily use of alcohol-based mouthwash, the researchers found a significant increase in two types of harmful bacteria: Fusobacterium nucleatum and Streptococcus anginosus.

These bacteria have been associated with gum disease, esophageal cancer, and colorectal cancer. Additionally, there was a decrease in Actinobacteria, a group of bacteria important for regulating blood pressure.

Dr. Jolein Laumen, the first author of the study, warned that while alcohol-based mouthwashes are commonly used to fight bad breath and prevent gum disease, their long-term use should ideally be supervised by healthcare professionals.

“People should be aware of the potential risks,” she said.

Professor Chris Kenyon, another author of the study, noted that up to half of men who have sex with men use mouthwash regularly for oral hygiene.

He emphasized that this study adds to the evidence that such usage might be negatively affecting their oral microbiomes.

Although the study links the daily use of alcohol-based mouthwash to changes in the oral microbiome, the researchers caution against drawing strong conclusions just yet.

They did not collect information on participants’ diets or smoking habits, which could also impact the results. Additionally, the small sample size means the findings might not apply to everyone.

Further research is needed to understand how these changes in the oral microbiome affect overall health, especially with larger and more diverse groups of people.

For now, it’s essential to be mindful of the potential risks of using alcohol-based mouthwash and to consult with healthcare providers for advice on maintaining oral health.

If you care about gum health, please read studies about an important causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and common tooth disease that may increase risks of dementia.

For more information about gum health, please see recent studies about mouthwash that may increase your tooth damage, and results showing this diet could help treat gum disease.