General Dentistry Question: Should I Use Mouthwash That Has Alcohol?

When you visit an office of general dentistry, your dentist likely recommends that you use mouthwash. It is a good way to remove bacteria and freshen your breath. However, should you use mouthwash with or without alcohol? That is one of the most common questions that dentists get, and in order to understand the answer, you need to look at various factors.

Bacteria-fighting agents

People use mouthwash to kill bacteria that cause tooth decay and bad breath. Few realize that mouths contain good and bad bacteria, and killing good bacteria can cause issues. Unfortunately, mouthwash with alcohol kills almost all bacteria, including the good.

What happens when mouthwash kills good bacteria?

When mouthwash kills good bacteria, a bacteria imbalance is created. This can lead to bad breath.

Alcohol-free mouthwash targets bad bacteria, so people do not have to worry about dealing with an imbalance when they use it. That is one reason that professionals at an office of general dentistry often recommend alcohol-free mouthwash.

Dry mouth

Alcohol is a drying agent, meaning it dries up saliva, which leads to a dry mouth. Saliva cleans and protects teeth, so a dry mouth can cause tooth decay. Those who suffer from dry mouth often have bad breath as well.

Alcohol-free mouthwash does not cause dry mouth.

Ability to use the mouthwash

Alcohol-free mouthwash can be used by anyone, but people need to be careful with who uses a mouthwash containing alcohol. It can cause problems for various groups of people.

People who should not use mouthwash with alcohol

Children tend to accidentally swallow mouthwash, so they need to avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Also, people who have canker sores or other issues should avoid it since it burns.

Alcoholics also need to avoid using mouthwash with alcohol. Alcohol-free mouthwash is a much better alternative.


Many people think that an alcohol-based mouthwash is more effective because it burns. However, both types of mouthwashes are equally effective. Both eliminate bacteria, even though a non-alcohol mouthwash does not burn when used.

Oral issues

Some preliminary research shows that alcohol-based mouthwashes could lead to sores in the mouth and even cause oral cancer. However, it has yet to be determined if this research is accurate.

Possible cause of oral issues

It is possible that correlation does not equal causation in this instance. Some believe that smokers and heavy drinkers use more mouthwash than other people, and that could be why some mouthwash users have a higher level of oral cancer. There is a need for additional research to determine the truth behind this claim.

Choosing a mouthwash

Non-alcohol-based mouthwashes are the better choice for most people. These rinses maintain the proper balance of bacteria, do not cause dry mouth and can be used by anyone. However, both are effective, so use the one that feels right for you. Then, go to an office of general dentistry for an exam to make sure your oral hygiene habits are working.

Request an appointment here: or call Twiss Dental at (720) 710-0629 for an appointment in our Highlands Ranch office.

Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: General Dentistry Services.

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