Why Does Mouthwash Burn?

While brushing your teeth and flossing regularly are the twin towers of oral hygiene, there is a distant relative that is often used in conjunction. For many of you, using mouthwash may be a common occurrence in your daily routines.

On a bottle of mouthwash, a recommendation may instruct its user to use the product twice daily. Among the different varieties of mouthwash, there are two different purposes that arise to the surface. These two purposes consist of a cosmetic value and a therapeutic value.

When someone uses a mouthwash for cosmetic purposes, he is primarily concerned with how it will make his breath smell. When one uses a mouthwash for therapeutic purposes, he is mostly concerned with how that particular mouthwash will protect his teeth.

Mouthwashes of different brands, different purposes, different colors, and different flavors clutter the shelves of supermarkets and department stores. However, what seems to be a common theme among the vast majority is that you had better be prepared for your mouth to burn after you use mouthwash.

So Why Does Mouthwash Burn Your Mouth When You Use It?

Also, is there a way to get around what for many is an annoyance that leads to its non-use?

Alcohol Causing a Burn

Why Does Mouthwash Burn?

The primary culprit in mouthwash that leads to the burning sensation that you feel when you use it is alcohol. Alcohol is used in most mouthwashes. Some of you may not even know that mouthwash can be purchased without this active ingredient.

The reason for the inclusion of alcohol in mouthwash is that alcohol has strong capabilities for killing the harmful bacteria that form or collect in the mouth. To go along with this fact, alcohol also works well as a stabilizer for the different flavors that are included in mouthwashes.

While the majority of the differing mouthwashes out there are alcohol-based mouthwashes, there are still other reliable options on the shelf that do not contain alcohol. Nevertheless, some of them still burn.

A common misconception is that if you remove the alcohol, you will remove the burn. It is possible that this will be the case, but there is more to it than that.

Flavors Causing a Burn

Why Does Mouthwash Burn?

Alcohol may be the primary culprit for those of you who have moved from alcohol-based mouthwashes to ones that lack alcohol, but you may have still noticed a burn. However, you probably would notice that the nonalcoholic products would burn less than those that contain alcohol.

I would imagine that many of you still have not found a perfect solution but rather have settled into a state of, “Well, this is just the way it is.” While this settling with a mouthwash that burns may be the norm, it does not need to be the case.

Often what is causing the burning sensation in nonalcoholic mouthwashes is the flavor itself. Try checking your bottle to see if the mouthwash is a mint-flavored mouthwash. If it is, most likely it is the mint within your mouthwash that is causing the pain.

Other powerful flavors such as mint may have a similar affect. So if you have moved from alcohol to a nonalcoholic mouthwash and still feel the burn, check the flavor. If you notice that you are using a flavor like mint, try out a different flavor. If still you are experiencing a burn, note the following.

Irregular Use Causing a Burn

Why Does Mouthwash Burn?

Oftentimes the burn itself can come on heavy for people when they first start to use mouthwash. The mouthwash is abnormal to the gums, tongue, and roof of your mouth. The mouth is also a very sensitive part of the body.

Something that may help reduce the burn is choosing a non-alcoholic mouthwash or choosing a mild-flavored mouthwash or non-flavored mouthwash, then sticking with it. Keep at it for a week or two. This may be all you need to push through the initial stages of abnormality that your mouth experiences.

Allergies or Preexisting Conditions Causing a Burn

Why Does Mouthwash Burn?

There are times in which it may not necessarily be the mouthwash causing the burn. It is quite possible that you may be allergic to the chemicals in the mouthwash, or it may be possible that your tongue is already inflamed.

Along with these situations, something as simple as a cut or soar in the mouth can bring about sensations that resemble a burning feeling. While this may be a minor occurrence, it is something to be mindful of nonetheless.

Chlorhexidine Causing a Burn

Why Does Mouthwash Burn?

This last point may be a moot point for many. Very few of you would run into this situation, but, be that as it may, others would find this important. What I am building up to is this: In some prescription mouthwashes, there is a particular chemical that will cause your mouth to burn.

Chlorhexidine is not sold in over-the-counter commercial brand mouthwashes. However, if you are using a prescription mouthwash take note of whether or not chlorhexidine is an active ingredient. This chemical can cause a strong burn reminiscent of alcohol.


Some of you may not be concerned with the burning sensation of mouthwash but rather may enjoy it. I know for many, it can be a feeling that the mouthwash is working. That is not necessarily what it means, but nevertheless it can be comforting.

However, for those of you who can’t stand the burn, take note of the following:

  • Use an alcohol-free product.
  • Use mild or non-flavored mouthwash.
  • Use mouthwash regularly and give your mouth time to adjust.
  • Check for allergies or preexisting conditions.
  • Use chlorhexidine-free mouthwash.

Hopefully implementing one or more of these habits into your routine will prove to be effective.


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