Why Does Mouthwash Burn?

Although it can not replace brushing or flossing, using a mouthwash can be an effective part of your daily oral hygiene routine. Besides giving you fresh breath, mouthwashes are available to help prevent gum disease, fight tooth decay, help with xerostomia (dry mouth), and whiten your teeth. Unfortunately, you may experience a burning sensation when using your favorite mouthwash. Continue reading to learn more about why does mouthwash burn, the causes and whether you should be concerned and discontinue or switch to a different mouthwash.

Trident Dental is committed to helping you maintain a bright smile and fresh breath. Schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive oral evaluation to learn more about our preventive services.

The Reasons Mouthwashes Can Burn

Although you may assume that the burning sensation you get when using your favorite mouthwash means it is working, this probably is not the case. Instead, there are several reasons for the burning sensation, such as:

  • Alcohol. Many types of mouthwash contain alcohol, which can irritate and burn your mouth’s soft tissues. While alcohol can kill bacteria, its concentration in mouthwash is not enough to accomplish this goal. That is why it is listed as an inactive ingredient that serves other purposes, such as helping dissolve and deliver the other ingredients that reduce bacteria and plaque.

  • Menthol. Menthol is an essential oil added to some brands of mouthwash. It is derived from peppermint and gives you a fresh breath sensation after rinsing with a mouthwash. While it does provide a desirable mint flavor, in higher concentrations, menthol can burn or sting your mouth.

  • Hydrogen peroxide. Although hydrogen peroxide is an effective antiseptic and bleaching agent used in several types of mouthwash, it can irritate and burn when used too frequently.

  • Chlorhexidine. Reducing plaque to help prevent gum disease is a primary reason many people use a mouthwash. If you are being treated for gum disease, your dentist may prescribe a mouth rinse containing chlorhexidine gluconate. This chemical effectively kills the bacteria responsible for gum disease. However, it sometimes causes burning, altered taste, or teeth discoloration. Additionally, the FDA warns of an uncommon but severe allergy in some patients.

  • Essential oils. Some mouthwash manufacturers now add essential oils other than menthol to their products. These oils include thymol, eucalyptol, and methyl salicylate. The purpose of adding these is to “penetrate plaque biofilm” and kill the bacteria that cause gum disease. Although not as strong of a sensation as that produced by alcohol, essential oils can cause a burning or tingling sensation for some people.

  • Mouth sores. Sometimes a mouthwash burns because you have inflamed gums or a mouth sore. These oral sores include: 

    • Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers.

    • Cold sores or herpes labialis.

    • Traumatic mouth ulcers.

    • Periodontitis or advanced gum disease.

    • Lichen planus.

    • Oral candidiasis or thrush.

You should contact your dentist as soon as possible if you notice any swelling or discoloration in your oral soft tissues.

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Contact us at Trident Dental to learn more about effectively adding mouthwash to your home oral care. We have multiple services to help you brighten your smile prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and halitosis.

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