Why does Listerine burn?

"Feel the burn" might apply to exercise, but not to mouthwash – the burning sensation you get is not improving your dental health, but actually making it worse.

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Why does Listerine burn? - Sholom C.

A: Listerine contains various ingredients called isomers like eucalyptol, menthol, thymol and methyl salicylate which can be mild irritants to your skin but they are the ones who kill the germs. Listerine has around 26% ethanol weight per volume (less now due to oral cancer fears), which means it cannot actually kill all mouth bacteria completely. What it does is it dissolves these ingredients into your gums, teeth and tongue. A burning sensation can be felt whenever these active ingredients come in contact with your mouth and gum tissues.

Don’t use this mouthwash, it’s bad for your oral health and really accomplishes nothing it claims it does.

Hope this helps.

Blog Notes: About Mark Burhenne DDS

Welcome! My name is Dr. Mark Burhenne, or Dr. B for short. When did we start seeing the mouth as separate from the rest of the human body?

The mouth doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is intimately connected to the health of the rest of the body.

In fact, the bacteria and entire environment inside the mouth are connected to the rest of your body so intimately that the state of your oral health can predict whether you’ll have heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.

In my 30 years of practice as a dentist, I’ve seen a lot of misinformation and people who have fallen through the cracks due to our healthcare system’s failure to understand the oral-body connection.

I created this blog to empower people to understand how your mouth is a window into the health of the rest of your body.

It is my sincere hope that the knowledge and tools on this blog will lead to greater health and well-being for you and those you love.

Throughout this website you’ll find high-quality articles and free resources for getting and staying healthy. It’s the info I use to keep myself and my family healthy, and how I treat my patients.

I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.S. in Biochemistry and B.A. in History of Art and had the privilege of attending the University of the Pacific Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, consistently ranked among the best in the US.

I am an active member of several continuing education groups and study clubs in prosthetics and periodontology that perform actual clinical work on patients. I have worked as an expert witness in legal dental cases. I’ve also volunteered as a dental surgeon in Jos, Nigeria.

I raised three daughters without cavities (all without ingestion of fluoride). I enjoy downhill skiing, alpine touring, mountain biking, photography, and listening to jazz and classical records (you know, those flat analog 12-inch vinyl discs).

I am passionate about restoring teeth to their original function and beauty – and as someone who studied art history and is a hobbyist photographer, the intersection of art and the opportunity to help people makes dentistry my dream profession.

I welcome your comments and questions and encourage you to like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter to get the latest on oral and dental health.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Read Next: Is Mouthwash Bad for You? Examining the Top Mouthwash Risks and Alternatives

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  1. Why do my gums hurt when I’m sleeping I think it’s my teeth not sure but I do sleep hard and squeeze me teeth hard…thank you for your time and patience due to this problem I’ve been having some pain in my gum or teeth what would be the best thing to do DOC..thank you

    Freddy Soto

  2. I am a dentist from NC. It may be due to you gritting your teeth too hard during the day or it also may be the mouthwash you use. Some mouthwashes such as Listerine contain alcohol and will deplete gum tissue and decay teeth faster. Try to use a non alcohol based solution to reduce or eliminate the pain. For the gritting part you may want to buy a mouth cushion to put in the back of your mouth during the day. You can’t feel it once you put it on and you won’t be able to see either. See your dentist to find one for your size.

    • Doesn’t blood going to your brain when you lay down have something to do with it?

  3. Thanks for sharing. Your post is a useful coribtnution.

  4. Hi I used a mouthwash for 1 week I kinda use the top as a glass I put half with water I kinda use it 3 times a day or after eating some food a week later I don’t use it anymore I just use lukewarm with salt then some red patches on my cheeks came out but painless and on my toungue some sores little paining I have the feeling before this happen kinda dry mouth like feels of burn and my lips also dries now I have this sores

  5. Oh man. Just read the end of your post.
    I need a molar root canal (have to see an endodonist (sp) ) but he put me antibiotics and told me to do listerine rinses. He is also a professer at Pitt Dental..
    I normally use Colgate mouth wash or Act, whichever is on sale (don’t judge me, LOL!).. they don’t burn my mouth.

    Here is the thing: I never had a cavity until I hit 32. I got put on medications and ignored the warning signs when my teeth would hurt (I was in denial) so when I went to dentist 4 years later (I scaled my own gums and brush obsessively) I got cavities all at the gum lines.

    anyhow, is it supposed to burn the sides of your mouth? I have a special brush for the sides of my mouth.

  6. I used dr tessier mouth wash did not know you couldn’t use it straight not my mouth is hurting likes it burnt really bad

  7. I recently started using Listerine for about 1 month now. When I first started to use I could feel a burning sensation when I swished the liquid in my mouth. Now I have a pain in my right jaw when I chew and my tongue is sensitive on the tip and swollen. Do you think this is from using Listerine ? If so what would you recommend I do ?

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