What Happens if You Swallow Mouthwash?

Swallowed Some Mouthwash? Here’s What You Should Know!

Mouthwashes are common oral hygiene aids prescribed by dentists to treat certain conditions, including malodor and inflammation of the gums. They may be diluted with water before use or used undiluted. Also known as oral rinses, they are intended to be placed in the mouth and swished around for a couple of seconds, after which the solution is spat out. It is not uncommon to swallow a small amount of mouthwash during the process, and reports of the effects of accidentally ingesting large amounts of mouthwash have also been documented. 


What Does A Mouthwash Contain?

Different types of mouthwashes are formulated, keeping the purpose of their use in mind. The U.S Food And Drug Authority (FDA) has generally categorized mouthwashes as either:

1. Cosmetic (which essentially means that they whiten or brighten your teeth), or

2. Therapeutic (meaning they will treat a particular problem, such as gum inflammation or bad breath). 

Active ingredients include cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorhexidine, essential oils, fluoride, and hydrogen peroxide. 

Each ingredient is intended to target a specific oral health issue. For example, fluoride may help strengthen the teeth and prevent tooth decay. Hydrogen Peroxide is a bleaching agent used to give you a whiter smile. 


What is Mouthwash Overdose?

Mouthwash overdose can be generally defined as ingesting more than the recommended amount of mouthwash. Much like how you can overdose on any drug or medicine, a mouthwash overdose can potentially cause fatal effects. 


The Effects of Swallowing a Small Amount of Mouthwash

Accidentally swallowing mouthwash is very common. A small amount of mouthwash may travel down your throat to your stomach, perhaps slightly irritate it, and cause some diarrhea, but that is about it. You might even feel somewhat nauseous, but it should not be a cause for concern. This may be due to the fluoride component of the solution; however, no significant health issues have been documented from ingesting small quantities. 

Ingesting a large amount of mouthwash, however, is a different story.


The Effects of Overdosing on Mouthwash

Ingesting a more considerable amount of mouthwash warrants immediately contacting emergency services. You may experience the following symptoms:

1. Difficulty in breathing

2. Nausea and vomiting 

3. Convulsions

4. Dizziness 

5. Throat pain

6. Drowsiness 

7. Slurred Speech

8. Rapid Heart Rate

9. A recent study has even reported that a large amount of mouthwash can lead to multiple organ failure (MOF) and, eventually, death.


Which Ingredients of Mouthwash Are Poisonous? 

The National Library of Medicine lists the following ingredients that contribute to the harmful effects following a mouthwash overdose:

1. Chlorhexidine gluconate

2. Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) 

3. Hydrogen peroxide

4. Methyl salicylate


Treating a Mouthwash Overdose

Emergency services are usually well equipped to treat individuals who accidentally swallow too much mouthwash. The treatment usually proceeds the following way:

1. Fluids via the intravenous route (i.e., your veins) will be administered, which will dilute the concentration of the ingested mouthwash. 

2. In case the patient is experiencing breathing difficulties, adequate breathing support will be given.

3. Any appropriate medication will be administered that best treats the presenting symptoms.

Admission to the hospital depends on the quantity and concentration of swallowed mouthwash; however, a long hospital stay is usually not expected, provided timely treatment has taken place. 


Alternative to Using a Mouthwash: The Water Flosser

Parents are usually apprehensive about allowing their child to use a mouthwash unsupervised for fear that their child may unintentionally drink the rinse. Hence, they frequently wonder if using an oral rinse is necessary. 

A key advantage of using an oral rinse is that it is in a liquid form. Liquid formulations are better able to reach small spaces and crevices around teeth that an ordinary toothbrush may find challenging to locate. 

If you are concerned about accidentally consuming mouthwash, you may be interested in switching to a water flosser




A dental water flosser uses a stream of water to flush out tooth debris and reduce the chance of decay, keeping your oral cavity clean and fresh. The water can reach all the areas that mouthwash can; hence, it is a helpful alternative. 


The Takeaway 

You have nothing to worry about if you inadvertently swallow a small amount of mouthwash during your oral hygiene maintenance routine. 

However, a large amount of mouthwash can cause a potentially fatal mouthwash overdose, which must be reported to emergency services as soon as possible. 

If you wish to prevent such an emergency from occurring, Oclean’s water flosser may be a valuable alternative for you.


*Cover image from Freepik@wayhomestudio, we will delete it if constitutes infringement *


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