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Beware! Mouthwash May Cause Cancer

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Just when you thought it was safe to brush your teeth, a report is released that it's not. Is anything safe anymore?

woman using mouthwash

According to a recent study published in the Australian Dental Journal, there is "sufficient evidence'' that "alcohol-containing mouthwashes contribute to the increased risk of [the] development of oral cancer."

Some mouthwash contains as much as 26% alcohol and, according to the study, the ethanol in mouthwash is thought to allow cancer-causing substances to permeate the lining of the mouth more easily and cause harm.

Acetaldehyde, a toxic by-product of alcohol that may accumulate in the oral cavity when swished around the mouth, is also believed to be carcinogenic.

The study's author, Professor Michael McCullough, told The Sunday Telegraph that alcohol-containing mouthwash should be reclassified as prescription-only and carry written health warnings.

"We see people with oral cancer who have no other risk factors than the use of alcohol-containing mouthwash, so what we've done in this study is review all the evidence that's out there,'' he said.

We spoke to momlogic pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson to find out what she has to say about this recent study. What are the implications for us and for our children?

"It makes sense to me that alcohol in mouthwash and oral cancers seem to be related according to these researchers, but I would like to see the study repeated," she says.

"That said, I have never been a fan of mouthwashes for kids," Dr. Natterson continues. "Dentists teach that proper oral hygiene involves brushing and flossing -- they almost never mention mouthwash. I would take this as a good reminder to get back to health basics: do what you know is good for you. Adding a little something on top may not help and, in some cases, it could even hurt."

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