Do you have a love/hate relationship with your mouthwash? The minty fresh breath that you get as soon as you gargle and rinse is satisfying and refreshing, but, what if your minty fresh mouth starts to burn?
These mouthwash basics will help you choose what works best for you and your grin!
Types of mouthwashes:
- Cosmetic mouth rinses or mouthwashes may control bad breath and leave behind a pleasant taste, but they have no chemical or biological function beyond their temporary benefit. They do help dislodge food debris stuck in teeth if you swish it around, which can help reduce the risk of tooth decay. If a product doesn’t kill bacteria associated with bad breath though, then its benefit is considered to be solely cosmetic.
- Therapeutic mouthwashes or rinses are available over the counter and by prescription depending on the formulation. These can help reduce or control plaque, gingivitis, bad breath, and can help prevent tooth decay. They may be called antiseptic, anti-plaque, anti-gingivitis, or anti-cavity depending on their focus. Most anti-plaque and anti-cavity mouth rinses can usually be purchased over the counter but some prescription strength fluoride, anti-cavity rinses or anti-bacterial products like chlorhexidine, require a prescription.
Now that you understand the basics of mouthwash, we can dive deeper into what causes them to burn.
Blame one or more of these culprits:
Menthol is in toothpaste, gum — and of course — mouthwash, and is sourced as an oil primarily from peppermint. This gives it a strong, minty flavor and makes your mouth tingly and cold. Rinses with high levels of menthol are likely to sting the most. Menthol is used in dental products because it is an antimicrobial, meaning it kills bacteria and stops their growth.
Alcohol is a common component in commercial rinses. Alcohol has the ability to kill germs, but mouthwash doesn’t contain enough alcohol for that to happen. Instead, alcohol is there to act as a vehicle for other ingredients. It can also dry out the mouth. Some mouth rinses contain high levels of alcohol — ranging from 18% to 26%. This may produce a burning sensation in the cheeks, teeth, and gums.
Burning can also come from consistent mouthwash use, which causes irritated mouth tissue and can lead to mouth sores.
Dental Issues and Mouthwash
The mouthwash ingredients mentioned above can cause added pain for those with mouth ulcers, gingivitis, or bad breath.
- Mouth ulcers, for example, will become worse with rinses containing menthol and alcohol. The menthol irritates the wounds and alcohol’s drying properties delay the healing process.
- Gingivitis and plaque can be reduced by using mouthwash combined with daily brushing and flossing. Mouthwash does a great job removing plaque, but with gingivitis, the alcohol can cause added pain in your mouth.
If you experience an adverse reaction to a mouth rinse, stop using it and talk to your dentist right away. Some non-alcohol mouth rinses are available as alternatives. Ask your dentist.
So, how can you solve the mouthwash burn? Get back to basics — creating a consistent brushing and flossing routine can work wonders for your oral health. If you prefer the whole suite of smile tools, look for a therapeutic, alcohol-free mouthwash with low amounts of menthol.