Do you use mouthwash? Chances are, if you do it, it’s for that fresh blast of mint, that burning cold feeling that’s largely caused by alcohol and strange chemicals. Ask most dentists and they’ll tell you that using mouthwash isn’t all that important, and paired with a new study linking it to increased risk of oral cancer, you should have enough information to put the bottle down and consider an alternative.
Researchers with the University of Glasgow Dental School found that people who use mouthwash products more than three times a day have an increased chance of developing mouth and throat cancers.
“I would not advise routine use of mouthwash,” lead researcher and senior lecturer Dr. David Conway said.
Prof. Wolfgang Ahrens, Deputy Director of the BIPS, said: “These results are really important. Up until now, it was not really known if these dental risk factors were independent of the well known risks for mouth and throat cancers – smoking, alcohol and low socioeconomic status.”
Those with dental problems like bleeding gums, dentures, and poor oral health were at the greatest risk. Some of these things are already linked with an increased risk of cancer, so using a mouthwash only seems to amplify the existing dangers.
The researchers also pointed out that there is a link to excessive use of mouthwash by people hoping to cover the smell of smoke or alcohol. Smoking and alcoholism are also independent risk factors for oral cancer.
Dr Conway said: “I would not advise routine use of mouthwash, full stop. There are occasions and conditions for which a dentist could prescribe a mouthwash – it could be that a patient has a low salivary flow because of a particular condition or medicine they are taking. But for me, all that’s necessary in general is good regular brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing combined with regular check-ups by a dentist.”
The British Dental Association says the findings of the study are inconclusive.
For people genuinely concerned with oral health, mouthwashes are far from the best solution. Oil pulling, an ancient practice experiencing a surge in popularity, is a natural method of health and dental maintenance.
A similar study out of Australia in 2009 determined the increased risk associated with mouthwash was because cancer-causing substances were better able to penetrate the tissues of the mouth after rinsing.
As Anthony Gucciardi reported, coconut oil in particular can have profoundly positive effects on dental health when used in oil pulling.
Coconut oil is able to combat cavities, whiten teeth, and destroy candida albicans, a yeast that can lead to life-threatening infections.
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Oil pulling involves swishing with organic coconut oil on a daily basis for 15-20 minutes, or as long as you can. After rinsing with the oil, spit it out as it has drawn bacteria and contaminants from your mouth—things you don’t want to swallow.
Another alternative is brushing with a coconut oil blend. Many people make their own toothpastes out of coconut oil, baking soda, and a few drops of peppermint essential oil. While neither will provide that burning feeling that many have come to associate with “clean”, they will help maintain dental health, and isn’t that the ultimate goal?