We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is the Connection between Mouthwash and Cancer?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

There are many things that can cause cancer and, while mouthwash is used daily by many people, some research teams and experiments have found a connection between mouthwash and cancer. The link between cancer and mouthwash is primarily a result of the high concentration of alcohol in most mouthwashes, but some researchers say even non-alcoholic mouthwash can be cancerous. One reason for this is that the alcohol decomposes and forms a cancer-causing substance known as acetaldehyde. Mouthwash often affects the gums and teeth, especially with alcohol-containing versions, this makes it easier for other cancer-causing substances to get into people. This primarily results in oral cancer, but other neck and head cancers also can occur.

Alcohol is known to cause cancer in high dosages, and mouthwash tends to have a very high concentration of alcohol. This is used to kill germs and sanitize the mouth, but it also exposes people to enough alcohol to be considered dangerous, especially because of mouthwash’s regular use. At the same time, some researchers say non-alcoholic mouthwash and cancer are connected, mostly as a result of the cleaning agents in non-alcoholic mouthwash.

When alcohol decomposes, it lets off a substance known as acetaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer. As a person uses mouthwash, small pools of mouthwash typically stay in the mouth, even if he or she rinses. This results in the alcohol decomposing directly in the mouth, around the gums and teeth, which can increase the danger of mouthwash and cancer.

The main reason why mouthwash and cancer are thought to be linked is because mouthwash can cause erosion in teeth and gums as a result of the acid and alcohol. As this erosion occurs, it makes it easier for the alcohol or cleaning agents to get deeper into the body. If the person uses other cancer-causing substances, such as cigarettes or alcoholic beverages, they also are able to reach deeper into the body. This may even cause the substances to be stuck under the gums, which can further increase one’s risk.

Many forms of cancer can manifest from mouthwash, but there are three typical versions. Oral cancer is the most common, because most of the mouthwash’s effect is directly in the mouth. Mouthwash accidentally may be swallowed and, because the alcohol and cleaning agents can leach through the mouth to other parts of the body, neck and head cancers also may be caused by using mouthwash.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
By kmg — On Aug 30, 2020

Baking soda mouthwash is safe and effective.

For more details, search for "Baking soda dentifrices and oral health". and follow the link to the Journal of the American Dental Association article..

By ysmina — On Aug 20, 2013

@turkay1-- I think I agree with you. It's best to avoid using mouthwash too much. But there is no point in kicking it out of our lives altogether because these studies are not conclusive yet.

By candyquilt — On Aug 20, 2013

@fBoyle-- Exposing the inside of the mouth to alcohol every single day might be harmful. But I don't think that using a mouthwash with alcohol several times a week, or using an alcohol-free mouthwash more frequently is dangerous.

If we're going to make claims about what's dangerous, then we should also think about the dangers of gingivitis. Gingivitis has been shown to cause heart disease and mouthwash prevents gingivitis. Does this mean that everyone should always use mouthwash to avoid heart disease? No. Similarly, I think it's wrong to assume that everyone who uses mouthwash is going to get oral cancer.

By fBoyle — On Aug 19, 2013

I found out about the link between mouthwash and cancer last week from a TV program and I've not used it since.

Apparently, the alcohol in the mouth slowly damages tissues and cells and increases the chances of cell mutation. This is in addition to the carcinogenic properties of mouthwash ingredients.

If I want to gargle now, I just use salt water.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.