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Mouth Diseases

Burning Caused by Mouthwash

07/20/2010

Question:

The skin inside my mouth feels coarse and wrinkled but no pain until I use Listerine mouth wash. This burns like fire but leaves no ill affects.

Answer:

I am not sure of the question you are posing, I would presume that you are using Listerine mouthwash and not only is it irritating your oral mucosal lining but it may be responsible for the alteration in “mouth feel” as described by “coarse and wrinkled”.

Alcohol based mouth washes can leave your mouth “minty fresh” and transiently disrupt the oral microbial populations that inhabit the oral chamber. They can also dehydrate he oral mucosal lining, discolor teeth (Peridex and Viadent), and cause mucosal irritation and allergic reactions (cinnamon based products are known to be related to adverse mucosal reactions know as “lichenoid drug reactions”). The burning is the result of the alcohol (21.6%), and their “active ingredients of Eucalyptol (0.092%), Menthol (0.042%), Methyl salicylate (0.60%), and Thymol (0.064%). All are irritants, and can produce a burning or painful sensation on ulcerative mucosal surfaces.

The oral mucosa is a very unique protective covering, even more protective than GI or vaginal mucosa, it provides a protective barrier (Epithelial Barrier Function, that is comprised of terminally differentiating squamous epithelium; the cell “flatten out as the get closer to the surface and provide a barrier to prevent insult from the external environment, and water/fluid loss). The salivary glands lubricate and also protect the surface epithelium and provide lubricity and antimicrobial protection to the mucosa (among other things).

When the surface is disrupted; pizza burns, hot coffer, biting your cheek, chewing tobacco, cutting your cheek with chips etc, using an alcohol based rinse burns just like when you pour it on a cut on your hand. The alcohol also acts a desiccant and also dries the mucosa and thus you get the coarse wrinkly feeling.

My advice is find another mouth wash with no alcohol or use a salt water or baking soda rinse (1 tsp salt or baking soda in 8 oz. warm water)

Hope this helps.

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Response by:

Richard J Jurevic, DDS, PhD Richard J Jurevic, DDS, PhD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
School of Dental Medicine
Case Western Reserve University