Updated on February 22, 2024
4 min read

Why Does Mouthwash Burn?

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Key Takeaways

  • It’s common for mouthwash to cause a subtle and temporary burning sensation in the mouth.
  • However, severe burning might indicate a sensitivity to an ingredient like alcohol, chlorhexidine, or menthol. 
  • If you experience adverse reactions to a mouthwash, it’s recommended to discontinue use and speak with your dentist.
  • You can also test various products, such as alcohol-free and natural mouthwashes, to determine what works for you. 

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Should Mouthwash Burn?

Mouthwash, also known as oral rinse or mouth rinse, is a liquid-based dental hygiene product that:

  • Cleans the mouth 
  • Freshens breath
  • Eliminates bacteria on the tongue and between the teeth

It’s common for mouthwash to cause a subtle, temporary tingling or burning sensation. However, they shouldn’t cause severe pain or burning. 

Using a mouthwash that you’re sensitive to can irritate mouth tissue and lead to ulcers. It’s recommended to discontinue use if you use it as directed and still experience ongoing burning or discomfort. It might also be worth visiting your dentist to determine an alternative solution. 

3 Reasons Why Your Mouthwash Burns

Mouthwash can cause a burning sensation for the following reasons:

1. Alcohol

Alcohol, often the main ingredient in mouthwash formulas, contains antiseptic properties, killing bacteria and sanitizing your mouth.4 Some oral rinses contain over 25% alcohol. 

When you use mouthwash with alcohol, you might notice the burning feeling centralizes on your tongue. This is because taste buds on the tongue are more sensitive to alcohol than other areas in the mouth.

2. Chlorhexidine

Chlorhexidine helps reduce plaque and fight gum disease.1 However, it’s another common mouthwash ingredient that can result in a burning or tingling sensation. 

According to the Food and Drug Administration, some people have an uncommon but severe allergy to chlorhexidine.2

3. Menthol 

Menthol is derived from mint or peppermint and is commonly used to flavor mouthwash formulas. Some people are sensitive to menthol and experience severe burning instead of a pleasant tingling sensation. 

Other typical mouthwash ingredients that can cause a tingling sensation include:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Peppermint oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Thyme oil

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What to Do if a Mouthwash is Burning Your Mouth

If your mouthwash causes ongoing burning symptoms or discomfort, stop using it. Consider diluting the mouthwash or opting for an alcohol-free alternative.

If you switch to an alcohol-free mouthwash but still experience burning, you might be sensitive to one of the other active ingredients. If so, sample a few formulas to find a rinse that works for you.

Best ‘Burn-Free’ Mouthwash Alternatives

There are many natural alternative types of mouthwash advertised as burn-free. Here are some of the top-rated options available on Amazon:

Listerine Naturals Antiseptic Mouthwash

Best Overall Mouthwash (Editor’s Choice)
Listerine Naturals Antiseptic Mouthwash

Listerine is a popular mouthwash brand. This Naturals Antiseptic Mouthwash is a budget-friendly and natural option that reduces bad breath and removes plaque and bacteria. 

Listerine labels the mouthwash as ‘99% natural.’ However, it contains alcohol, making the formula unsuitable for some people.

Contains the active ingredients:

  • ​Peppermint
  • Eucalyptus
  • Thyme 

Hello Naturally Healthy Antigingivitis Mouthwash

Best Overall: Runner Up
Hello Naturally Healthy Antigingivitis Mouthwash

The Hello Naturally Healthy Antigingivitis Mouthwash is both fluoride and alcohol-free. It also uses aloe vera, which may reduce plaque and bacteria.

This product is available on Amazon and at your local drugstore in three different flavors:

  • Mint 
  • Watermelon
  • Peppermint (menthol-based)

Tom’s of Maine Refreshing Mint Sea Salt Mouthwash

Best on a Budget
Toms of Maine Refreshing Mint Sea Salt Mouthwash

The Tom’s of Maine Refreshing Mint Sea Salt Mouthwash combines sea salt, aloe vera, and essential oils to clean your mouth and prevent plaque buildup. It also contains mint to freshen your breath and is alcohol-free.

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Is Mouthwash Good For Your Teeth? 

Using mouthwash as part of your daily oral hygiene routine has various benefits, which can help address a particular issue and maintain proper oral hygiene.

The benefits of using mouthwash include:

1. Gum Disease Prevention

Using mouthwash helps reduce the bacteria in your mouth, decreasing the amount of plaque that forms. Mouthwashes with strong antimicrobial properties also help prevent gum disease and tooth decay.

2. Bad Breath Prevention

Alcohol-based mouth rinses also reduce bacteria that cause bad breath (halitosis). 

3. Teeth Whitening

Mouthwash designed to whiten teeth often contains bleaching or whitening ingredients like hydrogen peroxide. Some contain other ingredients like coconut oil or activated charcoal.

4. Teeth Strengthening

Mouthwash designed to prevent cavities usually contains fluoride, which strengthens tooth enamel

Do Dentists Prescribe Mouthwash?

Dentists prescribe therapeutic mouthwashes to treat various oral health conditions. For example, chlorhexidine mouthwash is sometimes prescribed to treat the symptoms of gingivitis.

Therapeutic mouthwash is commonly prescribed to:

  • Clean a dry socket following tooth extraction
  • Manage side effects of cancer treatments, including oral mucositis 
  • Encourage saliva production if you have a dry mouth

Mouthwash shouldn’t be ingested in high amounts, especially by children. The American Dental Association (ADA) doesn’t recommend mouthwash for children under 6.3

If you have concerns about using a mouthwash, speak with a doctor or dentist first. 

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Last updated on February 22, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 22, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Richards, D. “Chlorhexidine mouthwash plaque levels and gingival health.” Evidence-based dentistry, 2017.
  2. FDA warns about rare but serious allergic reactions with the skin antiseptic chlorhexidine gluconate.” United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2017.
  3. Mouthwash.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association (ADA).
  4. Marchetti, et al. “Efficacy of essential oil mouthwash with and without alcohol: a 3-day plaque accumulation model.” Trials, 2011.
  5. Haghgoo, R., and Abbasi, F. “Evaluation of the use of a peppermint mouth rinse for halitosis by girls studying in Tehran high schools.” Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 2013.
  6. Ciancio, SG. “Mouthwashes: Rationale for use.” American journal of dentistry, 2015.
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