The Science of Smiles® | 200 S. El Molino Avenue Suite #6 Pasadena, CA 91101
Request an Appointment or Call Us: (626) 624-4043

Does Your Mouthwash Burn? Here’s Why

It’s no secret that many people rely on mouthwash for fresher breath and to get squeaky-clean teeth. Some people even use mouthwash in place of toothbrushing (a real “no-no”!).

But no matter what or how you use mouthwash, when it starts to burn, it can be cause for concern.

Types of Mouthwash

Basically, there are two types of mouthwash:

  • Cosmetic mouthwash: These control bad breath and leave behind a nice taste, but they have no chemical or biological function beyond their temporary benefit. They do help to dislodge food stuck in the teeth, which helps reduce the risk of tooth decay. If a product doesn’t kill bacteria associated with bad breath, then its benefit is considered to be solely cosmetic.
  • Therapeutic mouthwash: These are available over the counter and by prescription. These help reduce or control plaque, gingivitis, bad breath, and prevent tooth decay. They may be called antiseptic, anti-plaque, anti-gingivitis, or anti-cavity, depending on their focus.

(RELATED: What to Look For in a Teeth Whitening Mouthwash)

Why a Mouthwash Would Burn

There are a couple factors at play when a mouthwash starts to burn inside the mouth. Here’s a look at each.

  • Menthol is used in mouthwash, giving 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 antimicrobial, meaning it kills bacteria and stops their growth.
  • Alcohol is also a common component in mouthwash. Alcohol has the ability to kill germs, but mouthwash doesn’t contain enough alcohol for that to happen. Instead, it’s there to act as a vehicle for other ingredients. It can also dry out your mouth. Some mouth rinses contain high levels of alcohol—ranging from 18 to 26%. This may cause a burning sensation in the cheeks, teeth, and gums.

Burning can also come from overuse of mouthwash, which creates irritated mouth tissue and can lead to mouth sores!

(RELATED: The Scoop on Scope and Other Mouthwash — Should You Use Them?)

It should be also noted that if you suffer from mouth ulcers, alcohol-based rinses will irritate the wounds and delay the healing process. The alcohol in mouthwash may also cause pain in the your mouth if you have gingivitis.

If you experience a bad reaction to a mouth rinse, stop using it and talk to us right away. You may need to switch to a non-alcohol mouthwash.

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.


THE SCIENCE OF SMILES® offers affordable cosmetic and laser dentistry and gentle, compassionate general dental care in Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At THE SCIENCE OF SMILES®, we provide most dental services, from basic preventative care and general dentistry to specialized procedures, complete dental reconstruction and TMJ/Headache management. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable dental care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping those smiles healthy, beautiful, and bright. Discover affordable up-to-date dentistry and a team who truly cares at THE SCIENCE OF SMILES®.