Can Mouthwashes containing Alcohol cause Oral Cancer?

At DentArtisans every patient is screened for oral cancer at their dental check up appointments. It is well known that excessive alcohol consumption combined with smoking will increase the risk of oral cancer. The recent publicity of alcohol-containing mouthwashes and oral cancer was sparked when Associate Professor Michael McCullough from Melbourne University, published findings in his study in the Australian Dental Journal. Professor McCullough mentioned that some mouthwashes were more dangerous than wine or beer because they contained higher concentrations of alcohol - as high as 26 per cent.

The study published by Professor McCullough however did not show conclusive results. At least ten epidemiological studies published over the last three decades strongly suggested that the use of alcohol-containing rinses did not increase the risk of oral cancer.

The ethanol in mouthwash is thought to allow cancer-causing substances (such as nicotine) to permeate the lining of the mouth more easily and potentially cause harm. Acetaldehyde is a carcinogenic chemical which results in the toxic breakdown of alcohol.

On the contrary, the head of the University of Queensland's School of Dentistry, Professor Laurence Walsh claims that mouthwashes are more likely to help prevent cancer as they impair the production of molecules that have cancer-causing effects like acetaldehyde.

From our perspective, we caution our patients against using a powerful alcoholic-based mouthwash on a daily basis especially those who use mouthwash to mask the smell of cigarette smoke. At DentArtisans our policy on mouthwashes has always followed current literature and guidelines. We recommended mouthwashes only for specific situations, such as before and after surgical procedures, to aid with the healing of gums after gum therapy, and as a pre-rinse prior to dental procedures. The use of such mouthwashes has been prescribed for period of two weeks only and not for prolonged use. For prolonged use, we have an alcohol free mouthwash called Curasept.

If you have any concerns about the mouthwash that you are currently using or that we have prescribed for you please do not hesitate to contact us at DentArtisans ph: 9518 7832 or email: