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Using Mouthwash May Increase Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes


A Harvard study finds using a mouthwash regularly carries an unexpected health risk. People who swished twice or more daily had a “significantly” higher likelihood of developing prediabetes and diabetes than those who swished less frequently.

What does mouthwash have to do with diabetes? The mouth contains more than 700 strains of bacteria, many of which cause bad breath, gingivitis and tooth decay. However, some strains are “friendly” or good bacteria because they help the body to make nitric oxide. This chemical is linked to blood flow, and it plays a key role in regulating blood pressure, as well as insulin sensitivity and epithelial function, which is the action of cells that line the blood vessels.

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Mouthwash products contain antibacterial agents that eliminate a broad scope of bacterial strains, including the beneficial ones, explained the researchers. Since the friendly strains enhance sugar metabolism, the reduction in them may lead to diabetes, particularly in high-risk individuals.

Swishing Twice Daily Linked to 55-Percent Higher Risk of Diabetes

In the study, the researchers followed 945 overweight or obese adults between the age of 40 and 65 who didn’t have diabetes or major cardiovascular disease at the onset. The team recorded the individuals’ use of over-the-counter mouthwash and noted their incidence of blood sugar disorders.

During the monitoring period, 17 percent of the adults developed diabetes or prediabetes. Among those who used a mouthwash once per day, the incidence was 20 percent; while among those who used a mouthwash twice per day, the incidence was 30 percent.

After three years, the individuals who used a mouthwash at least twice daily had a 55-percent higher risk of developing prediabetes or diabetes. When the results were adjusted for contributing factors, such as diet, fasting glucose levels and medication use, the findings persisted.

Listerine, the first commercial mouthwash was developed in the late 19th century. Today’s market is flooded with mouthwash products that contain powerful antibacterial agents such as chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride or triclosan.

Swishing May Do More Harm than Good

“The indiscriminate routine use of antibacterial mouthwash products may cause more harm than good, in light of recent studies, and further supported by findings from this study,” the researchers concluded.

“Mouthwash use may also have a detrimental impact on diabetes control and possible complications, as these share some common NO-mediated pathways with blood pressure and diabetes.”

The study was published in the journal Nitric Oxide.

Natural Alternative to Mouthwash

Oil pulling is an Ayurveda healing technique that involves swirling a tablespoon of sesame, olive or coconut oil in the mouth for 5 to 20 minutes. The oil is then spit out, and the mouth is rinsed and the teeth are brushed. While the practice isn’t endorsed by the American Dental Association, a few studies indicate it may have value for oral health. In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, oil pulling reduced bad breath as much as chlorhexidine. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry also showed oil pulling worked as well as chlorhexidine for alleviating bad breath. To learn more about oil pulling, check out our article Can You Really Improve Your Oral Health by Oil Pulling?


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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