Why Does Even Alcohol-free Mouthwash Burn?

Mouthwash can be a great addition to a daily oral health regimen to accompany frequent brushing and flossing.  By using a mouthwash, you decrease the likelihood of developing cavities, fight gum disease, and can freshen your breath.  However, if you’ve ever used a mouthwash product, you may be familiar with the harsh burning sensation that comes with gargling this minty liquid.  Some types of mouthwash burn more than others depending on the specific ingredients each mouthwash brand contains.  What causes this burning sensation?

Most mouthwashes contain alcohol, because alcohol can effectively kill the germs and bacteria that lead to tooth decay and gum disease.  A build-up of bad bacteria can lead to swollen and bleeding gums, also known as gingivitis.  This is why many mouthwashes are advertised as treatment for gingivitis.  Although alcohol is effective, this ingredient is the reason popular mouthwashes like Listerine leave many of us thinking “ouch!” while we struggle to gargle for the full 60 seconds.

For some people with especially sensitive gums, harsh mouthwashes can cause painful mouth ulcers.  Another annoying side effect of frequent mouthwash use is a dry mouth.  Alcohol has drying properties and this can cause discomfort immediately after using the product in addition to leaving an unusual taste in the mouth.  Luckily, there are many mouthwashes that are advertised as being “alcohol-free” or “less intense” and these products are a lot less painful and do not have the characteristic burn of other mouthwashes.

Mouthwashes come in a huge range of flavors and can address a variety of oral health issues ranging from teeth whitening to plaque reduction.  Since most are relatively cheap, they can be easily incorporated into an oral health regimen.  However, mouthwash is not as effective as simply brushing your teeth.  “Mouthwashes should not be used as a substitute for toothbrushing,” says John Ictech-Cassis, DDS, DMD, a clinical professor at Boston University’s School of Dental Medicine.

Feel free to contact Drs. Ali & Ali and the caring team at Wellesley Dental Group if you have any thoughts or concerns; they will be happy to answer your questions! Contact us today at 781-237-9071or to set up an appointment and consultation.

Your little ones and teens are welcome to visit our pediatric dentist Dr. Kim or Dr.PradhanDr. Emad is happy to help with your orthodontic needs. For wisdom teeth extractions or any other oral surgery needs Dr. Ghazi would be more than willing to help.


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