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What Are the Most Common Mouthwash Side Effects?

By Madeleine A.
Updated May 21, 2024
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The most common mouthwash side effects include irritation of the oral mucus membranes and a burning feeling in the mouth. The taste of the mouthwash can linger for hours, making food taste metallic, bitter or spicy. To alleviate the burning mouth side effect, more subtle flavors of mouthwash can be used. Sometimes, ingesting large amounts of mouth wash can cause more severe side effects. These include nausea and vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, and dizziness.

Although accidentally swallowing minute amounts of mouthwash is generally not considered serious, deliberately drinking mouthwash can cause serious side effects and may even prove life threatening. The side effects of mouthwash may include loss of consciousness, seizures, and even cardiac arrest because of the high alcohol content present in certain mouthwashes. These side effects are similar to those experienced when drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages.

One of the most troubling mouthwash side effects is its potential to increase the risk of pharyngeal cancer and oral cancer. This, again, is due to the high alcohol content of certain mouthwashes. Although more proof may be needed to establish a definite link, it may be prudent to use a non-alcoholic mouthwash. Other mouthwash side effects include irritation and sloughing of oral tissues, which is uncomfortable and can set the stage for an oral infection or even gum disease.

Benefits of mouthwash include its ability to reduce oral bacteria that can lead to gum disease and tooth infections. Mouthwash can also help eliminate plaque and bad breath. People who use mouthwash or rinses that contain fluoride may be less at risk for developing cavities. Certain mouthwashes also may be able to to soothe a sore throat. Gargling with mouthwash may help relieve a sore throat caused by an infection, however, gargling too frequently with an alcohol-based mouthwash may contribute to the soreness.

A dental professional should be consulted when mouthwash side effects occur. He can evaluate oral tissue damage and discuss oral hygiene using non-alcoholic mouthwashes. Some dental professionals, however, do not recommended the use of mouthwash at all, instead recommending a good oral hygiene program that includes brushing the teeth at least twice a day and flossing between meals.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1000364 — On Sep 04, 2018

About 1 month after starting to use Listerine Total Care I started having serious episodes of dizziness, disorientation, confusion. In the worst episode I was hallucinating before collapsing in a shopping center.

After lots of experimentation to try to discover the cause, I finally made a positive association between these episodes and using the mouthwash. I made several more trials of not using mouthwash for several days (without incident) then using the mouthwash one time and experiencing a dizziness episode.

At this time there is no longer any doubt that the mouthwash is the cause and I dumped what was left of it.

By anon950085 — On May 08, 2014

Chronic severe alcoholics suffer from cognitive impairment. People say that it's up to a person with drinking problems to make the decision, but at this stage intervention is required.

By Markerrag — On Mar 11, 2014

Who on earth goes around drinking mouthwash? Yes, Listerine is about 27 percent alcohol (the original formula is, at least) and one could get pretty sloshed guzzling the stuff, but how many people could actually suck down enough Listerine -- or keep it down -- to get the least bit buzzed off of it? Someone would have to have a strong stomach for that.

There have been reports of Listerine abuse, but how credible are they? If they are true, one has to wonder why anyone of legal drinking age would subject themselves to the pain that comes with guzzling a bottle of Listerine.

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