Could mouthwash put you at risk of having diabetes?

A swig of mouthwash twice daily forms a part of our oral hygiene routine for many of us. But this apparently beneficial procedure, according to new studies, could pose a surprising health danger: the use of mouthwash may increase the risk of diabetes.

A girl using mouthwash
Researchers suggest that frequent mouthwash use could increase the risk of diabetes.

Researchers suggest that using mouthwash at least twice every day destroys “ friendly ” oral bacteria, that can, in turn, alter blood sugar metabolism and promote diabetes, particularly for people who are already at high risk for the situation.

Study co-author Rakesh P. Patel of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pathology and the Center for Free Radical Biology and colleagues published their findings in the journal Nitric Oxide.

Around 30,3 million people in the United States are estimated to have diabetes, which is a condition defined by high blood glucose levels.

In the United States, another 84.1 million people have prediabetes, where blood glucose levels are higher than average but not sufficiently high to warrant diabetes diagnosis.

One of the main risk factors for diabetes is being overweight. The simple practice of using mouthwash, according to the new report, could exacerbate this risk.

Diabetes risk increased by 55 percent

By examining the data of 1,206 overweight or obese adults aged 40-65, the scientists arrived at their intriguing findings. Both participants were part of the Prospective San Juan Overweight Adults Study and were free from diabetes and major cardiovascular diseases at the baseline of the study.

Participants were asked, as part of the analysis, how much they used mouthwash. A total of 43% of subjects said they used mouthwash at least once per day, while 22% said they used it at least twice per day.

The team tracked the progression of pre-diabetes or diabetes among the participants over an average of 3 years of follow-up. The final study comprised 945 subjects in total.

Those who reported using mouthwash at least twice daily were 55 percent more likely to develop prediabetes or diabetes over 3 years, compared to participants who did not use mouthwash.

The researchers note that there was no correlation between the use of mouthwash less than twice a day and the risk of prediabetes or diabetes.

After accounting for a variety of potential explanatory variables, including diet, oral hygiene, sleep disorders, use of medications, fasting glucose levels, income, and levels of education, these results remained.

Patel and colleagues comment on their observations and write:

“Frequent regular use of over-the-counter mouthwash was associated with increased risk of developing prediabetes/diabetes in this population.”

Mouthwash may destroy ‘ good ‘oral bacteria

In order to help prevent gingivitis, tooth decay, and other oral health problems, many mouthwashes contain antibacterial compounds such as chlorhexidine that kill bacteria.

Patel and colleagues believe that these compounds often kill “good” bacteria in the mouth that are necessary for the production of nitric oxide, a chemical compound that helps control insulin , the hormone that regulates the amount of blood sugar.

The death of this beneficial bacteria could therefore promote the growth of diabetes.

These new results may be a cause for concern, considering that more than 200 million people in the U.S. use mouthwash. It is important to remember, however, that the analysis is strictly observational.

In order to decide whether a seemingly harmless oral hygiene product is really a risk factor for diabetes, Patel and colleagues suggest that more research is required.

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