What happens if you swallow mouthwash? Side effects and Symptoms

What happens if you swallow mouthwash?

The short answer to the question “What happens if I swallow mouthwash?”  Is, it depends. Results differ depending on how much you swallow, the content of the product, and your personal sensitivities.

All mouthwashes are different. Some contain high concentrations of alcohol. Alcohol is used to kill bacteria, preserve the product, and keep all of the ingredients dissolved. Unfortunately, the high alcohol content means that some people misuse mouthwashes to get drunk.

Other mouthwashes contain preservatives, antimicrobials, or other chemicals to help with oral problems such as tooth decay or gum disease, and which affect the expiration date of the mouthwash . These products can be very harmful if overdosed.

But even natural mouthwashes contain ingredients that can be harmful if swallowed in large quantities .

This article looks at:

  • What happens if you accidentally swallow a small amount of mouthwash
  • What to do if you swallow a large amount of mouthwash
  • Side effects of mouthwash
  • Drink mouthwash to get drunk
  • summary

Can we drink mouthwash?

Mouthwash is designed, as the name suggests, to go into the mouth. This means that there is a risk of the mouthwash being accidentally swallowed.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines rules for the use of chemicals and for safety testing .

But the mouthwash is specifically designed to be spat out, not swallowed. It is therefore absolutely not safe to drink.

And some possible ingredients are more dangerous than others. We’ll take a look at them later, for now here are some tips to follow if you’ve swallowed a mouthwash .

What to do if you swallow a small amount of mouthwash

If you accidentally swallow some mouthwash, it is unlikely to hurt you.

You might feel mildly sick or have diarrhea. Usually this will go away within a few hours.

To avoid accidentally swallowing a mouthwash, we recommend that you take the following steps:

  • Buy mouthwashes with child-resistant caps .
  • Watch children when they use mouthwash to make sure they spit it out.
  • The children under 6 should not use mouthwash as they may have trouble controlling the swallowing reflex.
  • Avoid distractions when using mouthwash. Set aside time for your oral health routine so that you can pay close attention to it.

What happens if you swallow a large amount of mouthwash?

If you swallow a large amount of mouthwash, there could be a health problem. This is because mouthwashes can contain ingredients that are harmful in high doses. These ingredients are detailed in the next section.

Here we give you some general advice to follow if you have ingested a large amount of mouthwash.

  • Do not try to throw up or make the person who overdosed on the mouthwash vomit.
  • Check the mouthwash label against the list of harmful ingredients and side effects in our next section.
  • Contact your doctor or call the emergency room. Provide details of the ingredients as well as the age and weight of the person who overdosed. They will give you the best advice.
  • Call emergency services if your symptoms are severe. These include dizziness, drowsiness, difficulty breathing or, in severe cases, seizures. If you have to go to the emergency room, take the mouthwash bottle with you.
  • When in doubt, always consult a healthcare practitioner .

Mouthwash, side effects and ingredients

There are hundreds of different mouthwashes and a wide range of possible ingredients. Those that are potentially dangerous are listed here. Remember, these ingredients are safe if used according to directions . It is only in high doses that the most alarming side effects are likely to occur.

Perhaps the most common harmful ingredient is alcohol, usually ethyl alcohol.

Ethyl alcohol

It is an alcohol that has been deliberately altered to make it unfit for human consumption in order to deter people from drinking it. This process is known as denaturing. It usually involves the addition of other chemicals. The process does not alter the intoxicating effect of alcohol. In fact, it’s the high concentration of alcohol found in mouthwashes that makes some people abuse them to get drunk.

In addition to the side effects you would experience from drinking highly concentrated alcohol, you react to any chemicals added during denaturation. If it is methanol , the side effects can be organ failure, nervous system damage, blindness or even death.

Methyl salicylate

This ingredient is used for flavoring and as an antiseptic.

Side effects can include rapid salicylate poisoning . Symptoms include shortness of breath, exhaustion, ringing in the ears, hyperventilation, organ failure, and even death. It is especially dangerous for anyone taking blood thinners such as Wayfairin.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can be used in mouthwashes as an antiseptic.

An overdose of hydrogen peroxide can damage the digestive system and cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Chlorhexidine gluconate

This ingredient is antibacterial and is commonly used to fight gingivitis .

Ingesting this ingredient can cause circulation problems, increase blood pressure and damage the heart. In addition to killing the bacteria that cause gingivitis, it also harms the helpful bacteria that control blood pressure.


Fluoride helps fight tooth decay and is often found in mouthwashes.

It is generally believed that the benefits of fluoride outweigh the risks. In very high doses, it can cause damage to bones and joints. It can also lead to thyroid and neurological problems. Children under 6 are particularly sensitive to it.

Fluoride is a recognized neurotoxin – but you can only overdose if you drink large amounts of mouthwash. We discuss this in the next section.

Drink mouthwash to get drunk

If your mouthwash contains alcohol, the concentrations are much higher than in a standard alcoholic drink .

For example, beer typically contains 5% alcohol and wine 12%. The concentration of alcohol in a mouthwash can reach 26.9%. This concentration is higher than that of some spirits. This means that only a few centiliters of mouthwash can make you drunker than 2 or 3 pints of beer.

This has led some people to abuse mouthwash to get drunk.

But as we have said, the alcohol in mouthwashes has been deliberately made unfit for human consumption . The chemicals used in this process can have dangerous and even fatal side effects if overdosed.

NEVER drink mouthwash to get drunk .


  • Accidentally swallowing a small amount of mouthwash is usually not dangerous , unless you are allergic to one or more of the ingredients.
  • Ingesting large amounts of mouthwash can be harmful to your health, depending on the ingredients.
  • You should never overdo a mouthwash to get drunk.
  • Children should be supervised when using a mouthwash, and should not use one if they are under 6 years of age (unless instructed to do so by a dental professional).
  • If you swallow large amounts of mouthwash, you should contact your GP or call the emergency room. Indicate the age and weight of the patient as well as the list of ingredients contained in the mouthwash.

Also Read: What happens if you don’t brush your teeth?

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