Why Does Mouthwash Burn?

Why Does Mouthwash Burn?

Why does mouthwash burn so bad? Does the burn mean it’s working? What else can I use? We’ve got answers to all your "burning" questions right here.  

Ouch! Why does mouthwash burn? We’ve all heard the expression "no pain, no gain," but when it comes to mouthwash, is fresh breath really worth that awful burning sensation?

We say no! And if you feel the same, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to discover which mouthwash ingredient is responsible for the burn and the EASY switch to fix it!

Why Does Mouthwash Burn When I Swish?

It’s all about the hard stuff – alcohol. Because mouthwash with alcohol is always front-and-center in the dental aisle, it’s natural to assume that it’s a smart, effective choice for our oral care. And many people mistakenly believe that the burn means it's working. In reality, it means it's irritating your mouth. Alcohol will burn even worse if you have issues like canker sores or burning mouth syndrome.

Mouthwash with alcohol: how much is too much?

Mouthwash with alcohol often has an extremely high alcohol content: 18 to 26.9% (54 proof). By comparison, a beer is around 3–7% alcohol and wine around 12%. No wonder swishing that much alcohol around in our mouths for a full 60 seconds really burns!

Beyond the Burn: Why You Should Avoid Mouthwash With Alcohol

As if that burning sensation weren’t torture enough, mouthwash with alcohol can mess with our smiles in other ways, the big one being ...it can make our breath worse!

You have got to be joking!

It’s true. Alcohol causes the mouth to dry out. (Anyone who’s ever had one too many martinis at Happy Hour can attest to this.) And a dry mouth is all but guaranteed to give you bad breath.

How mouthwash with alcohol makes your breath worse

  • You swish, putting up with the burn in hopes of lasting fresh breath.
  • Alcohol draws out moisture from your mouth tissues and slows down the flow of saliva.
  • A dry mouth creates a breeding ground for stinky sulfur compounds to grow and multiply.
  • Fresh breath dreams are dashed, leading you to reach for the mouthwash again. A true vicious cycle.

Question of Taste: "Mint to Be" or Burning Your Mouth?

The question of "Why does my mouthwash burn?" goes beyond alcohol. When the alcohol is paired with menthol, the burn can get even worse. Menthol is a compound that can be made synthetically or obtained from peppermint or other mint oils.

Peppermint contains 40% menthol (that’s a lot!),while spearmint has just 0.5%. Many people are sensitive to peppermint. Instead of a cooling, tingly sensation in their mouths, they get a burning sensation. Combined with alcohol, you can see why it creates a perfect (burning) storm for many smiles.

Don't forget to look at your toothpaste!

Is your toothpaste burning your mouth? Just like heavy-on-the-menthol mouthwashes, many toothpastes can be harsh and "spicy" because of too much menthol. Additionally, most toothpastes contain the foaming detergent sodium lauryl sulfate (sls), which can cause a burning sensation for some people. That’s why breaking from the norm and trying a new toothpaste is a smart idea. Not sure where to start? Give Oxyfresh Lemon Mint Toothpaste a try. It’s SLS free, guaranteed for all-day fresh breath, and features a just-right blend of 7 refreshing essential oils.

Should We Give Up Mouthwash Altogether?

Mouthwash use is on the rise, with 19.56 million Americans having tried it in 2020. (The year is significant, as wearing masks clued many people into the fact that maybe their breath wasn’t so fresh ... cue the dreaded "mask mouth!") This also led many people to wonder, why does mouthwash burn? Fortunately, you can reap the benefits of mouthwash without suffering the burn. Simply switch to an alcohol free mouthwash. Not only will it feel better when you swish, but it can even improve your overall smile.

Benefits of switching to alcohol free mouthwash

  • Fights Dry-Mouth Bad Breath: Remember – alcohol is a drying agent and can cause your mouth to not make enough saliva, which is the body's natural way of fighting bad breath. Especially for those already struggling with dry mouth due to medications, cancer treatments, or older age, alcohol-free mouthwash is a must-have.
  • Helps Prevent Tissue Sloughing: When you swish with mouthwash with alcohol, are you noticing your tissue peeling away along your inner cheeks or lips, kind of like string cheese? That’s called tissue sloughing, and it’s definitely a disturbing experience. Alcohol is simply too harsh for many people’s delicate mouth tissue.
  • Protects Dental Work: Have you invested in your smile with composite fillings? Studies show that alcohol-free mouthwashes are superior to their boozy counterparts at protecting the color, strength and hardness of dental work.
  • Happier Gums: Love your gums? Then just say no to mouthwash with alcohol. Alcohol can kick up the production of harmful bacteria because of how it dries out the oral tissue, which can promote decay and gum disease. Mouthwash for gum health has got to be alcohol free!
  • Fresh Breath Without the Burn: Wanting a no-burn swish is a no-brainer. And beyond a healthier smile, it's reason enough to make the switch to alcohol-free mouthwash.

Most Popular Alcohol Free Mouthwash

If you're looking for the perfect swish for your smile, meet your soon-to-be favorite: Oxyfresh Fresh Breath Lemon Mint Mouthwash. This patented, 24-hour breath protection mouthwash features an enticing blend of 6 natural essential oils: lemon, orange, grapefruit, bergamot, lime and spearmint (the milder oil vs. menthol) for a hydrating, refreshing swish that will NEVER burn. Plus, it's infused with soothing aloe to really pamper your gum tissue. It's been our most popular mouthwash since 1984, and we're positive you'll love it too. (If not, you can have your old burning mouthwash back!)

Why Lemon Mint is the best mouthwash for gums & breath:

  • Triple bad breath protection: Oxyfresh Lemon Mint alcohol free mouthwash is so powerful at stopping bad breath, it's patented! Oxygene®, zinc & xylitol give you the ultimate protection against bad breath and plaque.
  • Infused with the best of nature: No harsh burn here! We ditched the junk like menthol, dyes and alcohol and kept the best nature has to offer, like hydrating essential oils and soothing & strengthening aloe vera.
  • Clinically proven: All about the numbers, Lemon Mint mouthwash for gums is clinically proven to improve gum health, freshen breath and reduce plaque buildup.
  • Dye-free, non-toxic & it works: If dental hygienists love it, then you know this mouthwash works wonders. That's actually how we got our start ... in dental practices. Lucky for you, Lemon Mint Mouthwash is now available to EVERYONE.

Mouthwash for Gums Study: Alcohol-Free Mouthwash Vs. Mouthwash With Alcohol

If you have gingivitis or periodontal disease and need a mouthwash for gums, you’ll want to read this:

In a clinical, double-blind study, Oxyfresh alcohol-free Lemon Mint Mouthwash – along with its trusty sidekick Lemon Mint Toothpaste – went up against a leading store brand toothpaste and mouthwash with alcohol. Oxyfresh did not sponsor the study.

In the study, 50 patients with periodontal disease were given a deep clean and then split into two groups. One group used Oxyfresh’s Lemon Mint duo for 12 months, the other group used the store brand products. Dare we say, the results were very impressive!

Results after 12 months

Oxyfresh Lemon Mint Alcohol Free Mouthwash & Toothpaste

  • 76% improvement Gingival Index (measures gum health)
  • 79% plaque reduction
  • 44% reduction harmful bacteria

Store Brand Alcohol Mouthwash & Toothpaste

  • 70% improvement Gingival Index (measures gum health)
  • 71% plaque reduction
  • 34% reduction harmful bacteria

Healthier gums, less plaque, and less bacteria means fresher breath and a better overall smile. We'll call that a win!

Works Wonders for Bad Breath. Shop Oxyfresh Fresh Breath Lemon Mint Mouthwash Now.

tom lunneborg oxyfresh coo

Meet the Author

Tom Lunneborg is the Co-Chief Operating Officer & Chief Sales Officer for Oxyfresh. His favorite part of the job is hearing customers share their amazing results. When he’s not leading the team in reaching big goals, like landing us in nationwide stores, you’ll likely find him pulling some pretty epic office pranks, like his signature surprise confetti cannon blasts. Tom also enjoys boating, camping, fishing, and hanging out with his wife, three beautiful daughters, fur-boy Brodi, and standoffish goldfish Moola. To connect, email TomL@Oxyfresh.com.