Why Does Mouthwash Burn? The Answer Isn’t The Alcohol

Mouthwash is what turns a good oral hygiene routine into a great one. But you might be familiar with the typical burning sensation that comes after swishing mouthwash for a while. For some people, this may be unpleasant enough for them never to want to use mouthwash. But why does mouthwash burn?
In this post, we’ll explore what’s inside your mouthwash and how it works to keep your teeth and gums healthy and clean. Next, we’ll look at some of the reasons that mouthwash can cause a burning sensation. You may think it’s alcohol causing the burn, but that’s not the correct answer. Read on to find out more.

Mouthwash: What’s Inside?

Using a potent liquid as an oral rinse is an idea that has endured history. Thus, older formulations included all sorts of essences, oils, and active ingredients purported to be solutions to several ailments. From freshening the breath and keeping the mouth clean to treating mouth ulcers and sore throats, experimenters found many ways to use and produce mouthwash.
It wasn’t until the late ’60s that the antiseptic chlorhexidine was definitively demonstrated to be effective in preventing dental plaque buildup. Since then, many types of mouthwash have competed in the market. Now, there are many varieties of mouthwash that claim to be effective for different purposes.

Why Does Mouthwash Burn? Ingredients and Their Effects

Contrary to what seems to be a widespread assumption, alcohol is not the culprit. Even though it does contribute to the burning, alcohol is merely an antiseptic solvent that acts as a carrier. This means that it can dissolve and carry the active ingredients to every corner of the mouth.
Some mouthwashes don’t have alcohol at all, as it can irritate the mouth’s soft tissue and dry it out. This irritation is mild, but it can make the inside of your mouth more susceptible to sensations of pain from other irritating compounds, which we’ll discuss below.
Apart from antiseptics, mouthwashes can have essential oils, astringents, antimicrobials, antifibrinolytics, antifungals, and antibiotics. They can also contain flavoring agents, saliva substitutes, and salts, depending on their intended use.
Interestingly, some highly-concentrated compounds are the cause of the burning feeling. If your mouthwash has eucalyptus, wintergreen, peppermint oils, or menthol, note that they have very powerful antiseptic properties. Even inhaling a little bit of these compounds can make your eyes water. And it’s the same story with hydrogen peroxide; a powerful bleaching agent used to whiten your teeth that also causes a burning sensation.
It’s pretty logical then that when in an alcohol solution, your mouth is even more sensitized to the irritation caused by these essential oils.

The Bottom Line: Choose What’s Right For You

It’s essential to choose a mouthwash that is right for your specific oral hygiene needs. What issues would you like to address? It’ll contain suitable compounds that won’t damage your oral tissues. If you pick the right product, it’ll help more than hinder the maintenance of your oral health.
Luckily, our expert team at Katy Cypress Oral Surgery can guide you about the best solution to address your oral health priorities. Give us a call with any questions at (281) 667-0607, and we’d love to help you.

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