Some of us have developed an oral hygiene routine that involves brushing and gurgling mouthwash afterward. Mouthwash, also called oral rinse, is a liquid dental hygiene product, which kills bacteria between your teeth and on your tongue, freshens your breath, and cleans the mouth.
However, you may notice that you feel a burning or tingling sensation on your tongue, gums, or cheeks after using mouthwash. Why does mouthwash burn? And is it supposed to?
Before diving into that, there are two different types of mouthwashes with different purposes.
Cosmetic Mouthwash or Rinse
These are mainly supposed to help you deal with bad breath, especially because of the pleasant smell and taste they leave in the mouth after using. They also help remove any food particles and debris that may be stuck between and on your teeth, reducing the risk of cavities and tooth decay.
They are referred to as cosmetic because while they help fight bad breath, they do not kill the bacteria that cause the bad breath. They use their good smell to counter bad breath.
Therapeutic Mouthwash/ Rinse
These are the types of mouthwashes that many of us use after brushing. You can get them from a dentist's office or over the counter. They help control many oral diseases and issues like gingivitis, plaque, tooth decay, and bad breath.
Unlike cosmetic mouthwashes, therapeutic mouthwashes kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. Depending on what oral issues they focus on, they can also be called antiseptics, anti-gingivitis, anti-plaque, or anti-cavity.
You can get most anti-cavity and anti-plaques mouthwashes over the counter, but some need a prescription if they need to have extra fluoride or anti-bacterial properties.
Why Does Mouthwash Burn?
This is one of the major reasons you feel that burning and stinging sensation after using your mouthwash. According to what they are supposed to do, the ingredients in mouthwashes differ from one manufacturer to the next and according to what they are supposed to do.
However, some basic ingredients are supposed to be in a mouthwash, according to the ADA (American Dental Association), and they all have a purpose.
While these are the main ingredients, some mouthwashes have alcohol and menthol as additional ingredients. These are two of the main ingredients that contribute to the burning of mouthwashes.
Menthol is extracted from peppermint and is also found in chewing gums and toothpaste. It is responsible for the minty flavor that makes the mouth cold and tingly.
It is added to mouthwashes because of its antimicrobial properties, making it effective in killing bacteria in the mouth. However, mouthwashes with high levels of menthol are the ones said to sting and burn the most.
On the other hand, alcohol is an ingredient added to serve as a vehicle to other ingredients and to dry the mouth.
While alcohol is an antiseptic and kills bacteria in the mouth, mouthwash does not have to contain alcohol for it to kill germs. High levels of alcohol in the mouthwash (between 18 and 26%) have a burning sensation to the tongue, cheeks, and gums.
Chlorhexidine, one of the ingredients found in many prescription types of mouthwash, also contributes to the burning sensation.
The burning sensation is mostly felt on the tongue because of the taste buds that have more sensitivity to the ingredients than other parts of the mouth.
Dental Issues or Trauma to the Mouth
You may have accidentally bruised your mouth when brushing chewing or had an incident that caused you to have a sore or wound in the mouth. You may also have mouth ulcers or gingivitis. These incidents cause your mouthwash to burn even more than it would normally have.
While mouthwash is good at helping control gingivitis, using it, especially if it has alcohol, causes more pain than normal. Also, mouthwash could cause your mouth ulcers or other wounds you have to get worse.
If it has alcohol, the drying property of alcohol could delay its healing. If you have any bruises or sores in your mouth, you are advised to reduce your mouthwash usage or stop using it until the wounds and sores heal.
Alternatively, you could use a cosmetic mouthwash because they have lesser burning and stinging effects than the therapeutic ones.
Also, if you recently had a tooth removes or had any oral procedures, avoid using mouthwashes until the wounds are fully healed. You can also ask your dentist to recommend a mouthwash that will help kill bacteria in the mouth while not irritating the wounds.
Do All Mouthwashes Burn
No. Depending on the ingredients in the mouthwash, your sensitivity to the ingredients, and your mouth's health, you can find a mouthwash that will do what it should without burning.
While it may be hard to find one that does not burn, you need to always check the ingredients before buying the mouthwash. If it contains any ingredient that you are highly sensitive to, do not buy it.
What To Do If Your Mouthwash Burns
It is devastating when you are negatively affected by a product that is supposed to help you. However, there are ways you can avoid the burning and stinging sensation from your mouthwash.
When buying your mouthwash, look for the one that does not have alcohol or menthol. If you find one over the counter but it still burns, consult your dentist.
Your dentist will examine you and give you an alternative that will be best for your needs. They may recommend a mouthwash that has a lower alcohol and menthol percentage or one that does not contain those ingredients at all.
However, if your dentist prescribes a mouthwash and still burns, especially one that has chlorhexidine, contact them again and express your concerns. You might be reacting with the chlorhexidine or other ingredients of the mouthwash.
While some advertisers say that mouthwash is supposed to have a small burning sensation as it “works.” It is not abnormal to experience small amounts of stinging sensations. However, if the burning and stinging are at uncomfortable levels, discontinue the use of that mouthwash.
Using a mouthwash that has overly burning and stinging sensations for long will cause you more harm than good. It will cause you to have ulcers in your mouth, tongue, cheeks, and gums.
When used properly together with flossing and brushing, mouthwash has many benefits, which is why you should look for an alternative that fits you best.
Some of the benefits of mouthwash include;
When using mouthwash, be careful not to swallow any of it. Also, ensure that you thoroughly rinse your mouth and spit the water.
If you have children, don't let your child under six years use mouthwash because it may cause a burning sensation and irritation on their tender gums, cheeks, and tongue.