Why does Listerine burn?

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Hi, I’m Dr. B, practicing functional dentist for 35 years. I graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, CA in 1987 and am a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), Academy of General Dentistry (Chicago, IL), American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH), and Dental Board of California. I'm on a mission to empower people everywhere with the same evidence-based, easy-to-understand dental health advice that my patients get. Learn more about Dr. B

“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.

Q: 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.

Learn More: Is Mouthwash Bad for You? Examining the Top Mouthwash Risks and Alternatives