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Could Some Mouthwashes Cause Diabetes?

A recent study published in the scientific journal Nitric Oxide has uncovered an alarming link between the mouthwash millions of Americans use every day and the disease diabetes. The study was conducted by the Department of Pathology and Center for Free Radical Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.


"The researchers found that when you use mouthwash twice a day, you are not just killing the bad bacteria in your mouth, you’re taking some of the good bacteria, too," says Dr. Michele Simpson, a dentist from Wilmington, North Carolina. "When you do that, you aren’t harming your mouth all that much, but there is a potential to throw off your blood sugar metabolism."

And therein lies the problem, because that sugar metabolism is what helps promote diabetes. 

"For a healthy adult, the risk is pretty low, but for an adult who is already obese or overweight, or who is pre-diabetic, that change in blood sugar metabolism can be extremely dangerous," Simpson says.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that there are over 30 million American adults living with diabetes and an additional estimated 7.2 million who are currently undiagnosed. The institute also estimates an astronomical 84.1 million more adults are pre-diabetic, a condition in which the blood glucose is elevated but not enough to cause diabetes.

Simpson says for patients who know they are prediabetic or who are overweight or obese, it is important to make changes to daily habits.

"Start by cutting out extra sugar and carbohydrates. Drink more water. Move more," she says.

As for whether you should give up the mouthwash, Simpson says the study found no increase in diabetes for patients who only use the rinse once a day.

"Don’t stop using mouthwash altogether, but if you’re at a high risk for diabetes, or you don’t want to take any risk at all, cut your mouthwash use back to once a day," Simpson says.

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Michele Simpson DDS

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