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Is Alcohol-Free Mouthwash Really That Different?

Both alcohol-based mouthwash and alcohol-free mouthwash serve the same purpose: they remove harmful bacteria and food particles from the patient’s mouth. However, the presence of alcohol yields a variety of undesirable side-effects. In addition, many different types of alcohol-free mouthwashes can be geared towards addressing a specific issue, such as bad breath or sensitive gums. Our dental hygienist often recommends that our patients use alcohol-free mouthwashes for themselves and their families to avoid the drawbacks of alcohol-based mouthwashes.


Man with new dental implants

Alcohol-based mouthwashes can leave a burning sensation in the patient’s mouth. Patients with sensitive gums may end up with irritated gums or ulcers on the gums after using an alcohol-based mouthwash. Alcohol-based mouthwashes cause dry mouth, which causes a pH imbalance and allows surviving harmful bacteria to grow. Alcohol-based mouthwashes are not suitable for recovering alcoholics, children, and patients who are sensitive to alcohol. And whereas alcohol is known for killing harmful bacteria and other microscopic organisms, it also kills the beneficial bacteria in the mouth as well.


Alcohol-free mouthwashes do not have ethanol, the chemical responsible for the burning-mouth sensation after a rinse. Alcohol-free mouthwashes do not cause dry mouth, allowing saliva to perform its natural functions as a pH-balancer and antibacterial solution. Some types of alcohol-free mouthwash are recommended for patients with sensitive gums, as the mouthwashes are specifically designed to not aggravate the gums further.

Alcohol-free mouthwashes are more selective when it comes to killing bacteria, leaving many beneficial bacteria unharmed. Alcohol-free mouthwash is appropriate for a wider audience, including children. And accidentally swallowing an alcohol-free mouthwash is less damaging then swallowing an alcohol-based mouthwash.