Viadent usage and oral leukoplakia: a spurious association

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1999 Dec;30(3):182-96. doi: 10.1006/rtph.1999.1339.


Oral rinse and toothpaste products (Viadent) containing Sanguinaria extract have been shown through extensive clinical trials to be effective against plaque build-up and gingivitis. To establish safety, a comprehensive research program was conducted, including a series of clinical studies and a number of animal studies to evaluate acute, subchronic, and chronic toxicity, and the potential for irritation of mucosal tissues. In 1990 and 1993, an Expert Panel reported on reviews of these data and concluded that Viadent products are safe for their intended use. Despite the large database of information to support the safety of Viadent products, Damm et al. (1999) recently raised the possibility that their usage may be causally associated with development of oral leukoplakia. However, a critique of this recent report shows that it does not fulfil criteria for establishing causation. In particular, the study does not show that exposure to Viadent preceded the onset of leukoplakia, it does not demonstrate dose-response or biological plausibility, and it suffers from selection and information bias and from potential confounding. Furthermore, upon critical evaluation, the Damm et al. (1999) report on a case-series is inconsistent with the weight of available clinical evidence showing that Sanguinaria extract-containing oral health care products cause no cytotoxic or significant irritant effects in the oral mucosa in human studies of up to 6 months duration. The animal data similarly do not support a causal association between Viadent usage and oral leukoplakia in humans. These data demonstrate that Sanguinaria extract and whole Viadent formulations are without significant irritation potential and have no effects on the oral mucosa, even in studies with life-long dietary exposure to Sanguinaria extract. The mutagenicity and genotoxicity data do not indicate that Sanguinaria extract or its components are genotoxic in vivo. The results of 2 GLP-compliant rat oncogenicity studies provide no evidence of any carcinogenic effect of Sanguinaria extract. In conclusion, the available clinical and animal data provide no support for and in fact argue strongly against the hypothesis that the use of Viadent toothpaste and/or oral rinse products may be causally associated with the development of leukoplakia in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / adverse effects*
  • Alkaloids / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / toxicity
  • Benzophenanthridines
  • Humans
  • Isoquinolines
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / chemically induced*
  • Mouthwashes / adverse effects*
  • Mouthwashes / toxicity
  • Toothpastes / adverse effects*
  • Toothpastes / toxicity


  • Alkaloids
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Benzophenanthridines
  • Isoquinolines
  • Mouthwashes
  • Toothpastes
  • sanguinarine