Listerine: Not Worth The Trouble

If you’re like me, we used whatever was given to us growing up. If it was soap, shampoo, toilet paper, or mouthwash, we pretty much had no choice. And for many years, your choices in mouthwash were either Scope or Listerine.

But as awareness of mouthwash has increased, so have your options; however, Listerine still seems to be the brand most people think about when they hear the word “mouthwash.”

The bad news is, the burning, bad taste is still the thought that comes to most people’s mind when they think of Listerine. The worse news? The taste may just be the tip of the iceberg.

For the purist in natural living, the question that must be asked is, “Is Listerine still my mouthwash of choice?”.

The short answer is a resounding NO. Listerine has been around for decades, but while the company has tried to improve its image by coming out with different flavors, the main ingredients remain the same… with the most noxious and unsafe ingredients being the alcohols.

The alcohols in Listerine (and in Scope and other store-branded bottles) cause a drying effect in the mouth. That’s the burning sensation you feel that ultimately makes you want to spit sooner than later. It is also that  drying power that naturally causes more cells to die, resulting in an increased probability of having oral cancer.

So combining the horrid taste with the increased risks of cancer, we give Listerine or any mouthwash containing alcohol a big thumbs down. Stay far away from these.

We recommend alcohol-free mouthwashes, preferably ones containing the active ingredient stabilized chlorine dioxide.

For more information about the highly recommended rinse we use in the office, please use the contact form to send us an email. Breath Doctor mouthwash is a stable, natural mouth rinse that is incredibly effective in killing bacteria safely.

If you’re still not convinced, read through some of the comments below and discover some real life stories from other readers who have had experiences with Listerine.



  1. Olivia Reed Says: April 7, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    Listerine’s original formula has been on the market since 1865. It was created as a medical antiseptic, and later marketed as a mouthwash. This product probably saved thousands of people from losing their teeth to gingivitis and other common oral diseases of the early twentieth century, and still continues to do so. I have used it for over 40 years as a mouthwash, with NO ill effects, as well as to successfully relieve itchy scalp, insect bites, and the occasional skin rash. These are facts. Your article (WRITTEN BY ANONYMOUS AUTHORS!) doesn’t give us any scientific basis for its claims, so I choose not to believe it. Period. People who don’t like Listerine don’t have to use it. Stop trying to take an excellent product away from those of us who have solid reasons to trust its value.

    • Tony DeRosa Says: April 7, 2018 at 10:52 pm

      Thank you, Olivia, for your defense of a simply great product. I was introduced to Listerine by my grandparents at a young age and I am proud to say I’ve NEVER had a cavity or any issues with Gingivitis or any other oral disease. I’m nobody special. I have no background in the oral health profession. I just use what has always worked for me and my entire family and I will always recommend Listerine.

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  3. I’d be the last one to defend some large corporation that is intentionally selling a product that causes harm. But this article is that biased and based upon several assumptions, which are not backed up by any scientific research or a detailed and peer reviewed test.

    Labeling a common, globally accepted organic solvent as ethyl alcohol, that has been used in medicine for ages, as noxious and causing cancer is a stretch, non sense. Tinctures exist for about as long as man lived. Essential oils are super concentrated and although organic, they don’t exist in nature, it’s man made. Some essential oils are very nasty, a couple of drops can kill, cause burns and … cancer. Essential oils are so much more then terpenes and terpenoids that make up the smell. Essential oil of the Sassafras tree is used to make the party drug MDMA (safrole).

    Oils don’t mix with water, even when adding an emulsifier, it’s still an emulsion, not a solution. For a solution you need a solvent which, depending on the compounds you want to use out of the concentra, is polar or non polar. This is not some global conspiracy, this is basic knowledge of organic chemistry. Another example of a solvent similar to alcohol is aceton. The human body can produce and process aceton but nowhere near the quantities considered to be safe for ethyl alcohol.

    So for mouthwash, research and historical data, concluded that the best solvent for the essential oils used, is alcohol. The quantities used for mouthwash, which is about two teaspoons, is that small, that even the alcohol absorbed through mucous membrane has no intoxicating effect.

    There are other claims made that are based on some sort of handpicked negative effects that just don’t occur given the concentrations used in mouthwash.

    Always open to new ideas or opinions, but this is just plain wrong.

    There are people that actually consume ethyl alcohol which is the alcohol you’ll also find in a beer, glass of wine, spirits and cocktails. As the human body is a collective of ‘cells’

  4. Listerine finally introduced their Zero Alcohol line. Unfortunately, the Total Care Fresh Mint has a horrendous taste. It also leaves an unusual numbing sensation along the gums and cheeks. Some claim to have lost skin from inside their mouths. The obvious concern with mouth wash that contains alcohol is the possibility of acquiring tongue cancer.

    • Yup and the white film are in fact dead cells, because like some other brand I won’t mention, trislocan is in it which it’s an antibiotic which pretty much nukes your mouth. Good and bad bacteria die from this which it’s what causes the “peeling”.

    • That’s absolutely true. The Zero Alcohol Line made me lose skin from inside of my mouth, I lost a good hook up just last night and that’s why I am doing some research. I kissed her and she must have felt the peeled skin and she just left. Embarassing to say the least, I had no idea I just realized I had this horrible things in my mouth later. So is true with the numbing sensation, one way to counterpart it is to rinse your mouth right after the mouthwash, which is in a way counterproductive.

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  8. […] Listerine: Not Worth The Trouble […]

  9. […] a dryness in your mouth. Most of us experience this dryness as that burning sensation. It is this dryness that causes more of your cells to die, potentially leading to […]

  10. My dentist only recommends mouthwash with the word “antiseptic” on the label. And they stress to use it twice every day. They say that it is not the alcohol in mouthwashes that kills the germs but the essential oils that do. The alcohol is added to dissolve the oils (wow, you learn something everyday!). I always do what MY dentist tells me. To do otherwise would be putting myself at risk for major expense of money and time and pain and discomfort for years to come.

    • Stephanie Says: October 18, 2016 at 2:22 pm

      As a student RDH I want to thank you for realizing that your dentist really does have your best interest in mind and not going gung-ho over an internet fad.

      • Denrisrs put “silver fillings in my mouth for decades that contain mercury, without ever telling us”. Dentists have lied to us for 90 years. Medical doctors are even more greedy. All Medicine is dishonest in the USA.

    • Your dentist also tells u to use fluoride. Fluoride is a byproduct of the aluminum industry and is a known cancer causing agent. It also puts holes in the brain and too much fluoride has the great effect of eating away enamel and making your teeth very brittle and spotty.

      • Fluoride is a natural occuring substance. Don’t believe me? Look it up on the periodic table

        • I mean, there’s lots of natural occurring stuff on the Perodic Table that’s bad for people

        • fluoride is not on the periodic table…this is untrue. Your lack of knowledge in this field is helping everyone else believe nonsense. Do some research, fluoride should not be ingested at any level.

      • And saves your teeth if you use it correctly.

      • You are uninformed and simple. Armed only with typical, controversial opinions instead of logic and scientific facts, you manage to succeed not as a source of helpful information, but in proving yourself as yet another opponent of sound reasoning and lover of mindless controversy. You’ve certainly succeeded in showing us how unimpressive and inept you are. Imbeciles should not try to communicate worthwhile information. They do quite well, however, in spreading gossip and scaring those who have more than half a brain.

  11. Listerine was first marketed as a floor cleaner. They coined the term halitosis and exploited peoples insecurities to make a profit. I’m not kidding just have a look.

    i stopped using it for the sole fact that it hurt so much to use. if you wanna swish anything use unrefined coconut oil. it great for your teeth, doesnt hurt and tastes pretty fine if you like coconut.

  12. GeordieJan Says: January 3, 2016 at 6:15 am

    A very long running and highly respected consumer programme shown weekly on the BBC here in the UK claimed there was a direct link to cavities and thinning enamel caused by using Listerine. They made this claim in an episode broadcast here over 20 years ago and I’ve not used mouthwash since, I just won’t take the chance. For anyone doubting the TV programme that made this claim we have very strict rules and guidelines that our TV programmes must adhere to in this country. This is a programme that also got laws changed and set up a national children’s charity (Childline) so I have no reason to doubt what they say. With correct brushing, flossing etc I don’t see the need to use mouthwash also!

  13. I have seen several studies and heard from many professionals (scientists, chemists, etc.) And know from all this data that alcohol is not the reason for burning in mouthwash. Just knowing this makes me not trust or believe any of the other statements being made in this article.

  14. Had been using Listerine for 5, maybe 6 years but have to stop now – the dryness is spreading outside my mouth and doesn’t look nice. Just bought a bottle Corsodyl Daily and will give that a try.

    Wish me luck…

  15. Like many people, your present dental programme focuses only on cleaning your teeth and flossing infrequently. In fact taking care of your mouth does not always commence with your teeth. Approach to life habits, health conditions, and even heredity can all influence oral health. As you’ll soon see, there are countless easy things which you can do to look after your mouth, teeth, and gums.

    On some occasions, you will not be able to brush after you’ve finished a meal. When you brush after a meal, it will help to remove any food that may have stayed in your teeth. Since brushing isn’t always possible, you need to try to always at least rinse your mouth out. This is going to help to get rid of most of the food left in your teeth.

    To help lighten your teeth brush using baking soda. Sodium bicarbonate is known for its disinfecting and cleaning properties. To use simply spatter a bit of cooking soda in your hand and dip your wet toothbrush into the sodium bicarbonate. Then, delicate brush your gnashers for a minimum of two minutes.

    Article excerpt from

  16. Can you source the proof that any mouthwash causes oral cancer? The last I read this has been contested since the 1970’s with no proof that it does in fact cause cancer.

  17. Please question products containing chemicals that cause your mouth to burn…..’nuf said

  18. Julian Tejeda Says: January 20, 2015 at 12:48 am

    I’ve been using this Listerine for about a week now and my front teeth feel thinner. A lot sharper than they did a couple days ago. This stuff is wearing off my enamel.

  19. I noticed i had a build up of plaque so i bought some listerine mouthwash. I have used it twice a day as instructed for the last week and the first thing i started to notice was that my lips went really dry and my cheeks felt sore .. now ive noticed that my gums are swolen and instead of being pinky red they are purpley with yellowy patches .. i can only put this down to the mouthwash. But now i know from reading that alcohol based mouthwashes are bad. No more listerine for me!

  20. we should use the mouthwash for the daily oral care protects our mouth from germs . I am using Listerine mouthwash for my oral hygiene.

  21. Have always steered clear of the alcoholic mouthwash, just as easy to have a good brush! Although the convenience of mouthwash can appeal to some on the go, surely it isn’t worth the risks?

  22. I have a friend who recently had a veneer come off. She knows I have veneers as well and wanted to tell me about several websites from dentists she found that stated that alcohol mouthwash is the worst for the bonding between veneers/crowns and the natural tooth. Can you believe that dentists have never told her or me about this being a possibility???? Maybe it is because they are hoping it happens to bring them more patient cases=money. UGHHHHHH. Frustrating. She had to pay to have it rebounded, yet it could have possibly been prevented.

  23. K so I just recently used listeriene the purple kind and noticed it becoming surgery then anything ! And I haven’t found any related issues on the internet- anyone else have this prob?

  24. hobocat Says: July 23, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    well everything else causes cancer so im not really too worried about. in fact seeing as how many things can cause cancer i should be really really sick by now… weird…

  25. Charles Says: May 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Anyone who believes ANY finding of the FDA is a complete MORON. The FDA says flouride is safe & necessary for teeth; which we ALL know is BS, a grand LIE, & unecessary to & for human consumption. The FDA gave the world rat poison artificial sweeteners, approved drugs that kill-not heal, as well as chlorinated & flouridated tap water (also unecessary for good oral health). We Americans are the dumbest ever. Start using 100% ORGANIC ORAL HEALTH PRODUCTS & ditch the man made chemical crap that may or may not kill you. What sheeple we are. Green tea products also have UNNECESSARY FLOURIDE IN IT TOO! DO SOME RESERACH …SMH AT SHEEPLE…..

    • Michelle Says: July 10, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      I do believe that many products passed by the FDA are awful, however, fluoride is not one of them. As a dental hygienist, fluoride is a huge factor in how well we control dental decay especially in children.

      • Shahriyar Imanov Says: July 16, 2014 at 8:07 am

        And even high school student knows how active Chlorine and Fluorine are – have you forgotten that? Have you also forgotten what can two most electronegative (i.e. the most active) halogens in periodic table do to any substance? Its basic chemistry mate, you don’t need to be a doctor or chemist to realize that!

        • omg! flouride [F-] is an ione not a free radical [F] wandering around and reacting with random substances… as someone who claims to have some high school knowledge, I’d expect you to know that flouride [F-] is already in its most stable state which means it DOES NOT LIKE to get hitched and lose its extra electron hence it doesn’t react easily ….get your facts straight shahriyar moronov!

    • Agreed.

    • The chlorine is to kill the damn bacteria in the water…unless you wanna drink e Coli from other folk’s bowel movements :3

  26. waterbottle Says: April 2, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Actually, this article is completely false. Listerine is ADA approved:

    This means, it is safe and harmless. If it really caused oral cancer like all of these people that think it does, you wrong. Sorry. The ADA does a lot of testing on products to see if it’s safe. It is their job to inform people on what products are harmful and listerine is not one of them. It doesn’t cause oral cancer. Listerine would get sued big time and the ADA/FDA (whoever allows hygeine products to be sold to the public) wouldn’t let the pubkic have access to Listerine.

    • Some-BHav Says: April 15, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      Dude it is ADA accepted not approved (That means that:

      Listerine: Hey ADA see i have created a mouth freshener, and i am mentioning it removed plague and bad breath
      ADA : OK i accept that

      And Listerine has been sued in australia for suppressing results and tests finding link between use of alcoholic mouth freshener and oral cancer, See wikipedia as per Australian dental they have enough evidence for it but Listerine has been trying to suppress our sale.

      Do some google you will find it

      And being a dentist i conclude avoid it, you can go for some non alcoholic brands (NO Name in specific, not doing publicity)

      • Wolf Lorber Says: July 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm

        You are not a dentist! Your post is stupid and full of errors. I suspect you are not even a HS graduate!

  27. I got my tongue pierced a few days ago and I had been using the Listerine that contains alcohol. I was using it every time after I ate, first thing in the morning, and before bed. Needless to say, my entire mouth feels like it’s burning. What can I do to soothe it? Thank you.

    • callahan Says: July 26, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      I’m sure you have figured it out by now….but even after the piercing has healed…dilute your mouth wash 50% water 50% mouthwash to help with irritation and burning

    • Don’t use any alcohol based cleaner because it will cause irritation. Try swishing with warm sea salt water, I had very good results using sea salt water to soak my belly button piercing and I never got an infection or irritation.

  28. I just had my tongue pierced and was using the Listerine containing alcohol every time after I ate, int he morning, and before bed. Needless to say, my entire mouth feels like it’s burning. What can I do to help soothe it? Thank you.

    • Shahriyar Imanov Says: July 16, 2014 at 8:31 am

      Use something WITHOUT chlorhexidine and WITHOUT alcohol. I heard something called “Crest Pro Health” is such a product. Biotene products also should be alcohol free.

  29. I was doing the listerine challenge till my mouth and tongue latterly felt like it was on fire and I looked and it seemed like it was eating the skin on the bottom of my tongue now I’m not sure if my mouth is rittled with cankers or if I have mouth cancer

  30. I’ve also been using Listerine for years (I grew up using it) and it doesn’t burn that long (for me). Usually it goes away after about 7 seconds. I wonder if I could just be getting used to it, or it goes hand in hand with my tolerance for really spicy foods. I’m 18, a non-smoker, vegan, and I don’t drink. FYI. (dunno if that helps) but what do you think could be causing this effect (or lack there of)?



  31. Good Grief Says: October 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    “stabilized chlorine dioxide”
    What the hell will THAT stuff do to you if you use it long enough?

    • Actually stabilized chlorine dioxide has been used as a mouthwash ingredient for over 40 years. As far as we are concerned, it is the safest mouthwash on the market.

      • Good Show Dr. Martin. Good Show!! I applaud you..

      • Dr. Oz has stated on his show that mouthwash (he did not point out any brand, of course) is harmful to our health. It has been so long ago, I honestly don’t remember the possible effects. Why is it this doctor states it is not harmful and Dr. Oz just the opposite? What are we to believe. I think we are all at a point where we don’t know what to eat to eat healthily, what items that appear to be a positive for us are now being said to be negative..even some “healthy” foods..and now mouthwash, among other things. How are we to handle all of this completely opposite information from what are thought to be reputable sources. I really would like to see a response from the doctor. Thank you.

      • Dr. Oz has stated on his show that mouthwash (he did not point out any brand, of course) is harmful to our health. It has been so long ago, I honestly don’t remember the possible effects. Why is it this doctor states it is not harmful and Dr. Oz just the opposite? What are we to believe. I think we are all at a point where we don’t know what to eat to eat healthily, what items that appear to be a positive for us are now being said to be negative..even some “healthy” foods..and now mouthwash, among other things. How are we to handle all of this completely opposite information from what are thought to be reputable sources. I really would like to see a response from the doctor. Thank you.

        • This is why biological ionization is important. Every “individual” is unique and different. Someone could say chocolate was good for you but if your sugar levels (saliva,urine,blood) are off it could harm you. Everyone is different. Therefore not everything can adhere to everyone.

          • Yes. People have to look deeper into what they read and not always take it as the only truth.

          • Javier N Says: April 1, 2016 at 5:25 am

            I would say, with some certainly, that almost any consumable item in nature eaten in moderation is not “bad” or “good” for you. Actually, almost everything you can ingest can be lethal at certain doses (water comes to mind), or if eaten excessively for long periods of time can damage your health somehow. Leaving you with an abundance or excess of certain “good” things and a very disparaging lack of many others.

            Nearly all foods, if they’ve been unaltered by man, usually contain things that help you absorb/metabolize them when you eat them, for instance. They also contain many chemicals that your body needs to stay alive. If you don’t diversify the food that you intake you will surely end up with some sort of a malady or other.

            What I’ve just stated above also only works in a perfect world. I do understand and concede that some people have intolerance to certain things along with allergies and the like. That doesn’t necessarily make the food they cannot eat “bad” per se. Example: Cacao (chocolate) is poisonous to many animals but not people. Why? It contains caffeine which is poisonous to animals which cannot metabolize it. We on the other hand can.

            Does that make the food bad? If you eat it in moderation of course not. Is sugar cane juice bad? More than likely not(in moderation). Refined sugar defiantly bad.

            All in all, if we were all to practice moderation in the foods we choose to eat we would do well to ourselves.

        • Dr.OZ is a surgeon do you go to a surgeon besides a oral one for advise how to fix your car?

  32. Nina Morrison Says: October 2, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    I had been using Listerine for a number of years on and off and the burning sensation in my mouth was very unpleasant, I thought it was my toothpaste as it was quite strong but it was only recently that I realised Listerine was the cause of skin coming away from inside my mouth, I’m not sure what caused this as I changed toothpaste and then to Listerine sensitive and one that is alcohol free. The problem still persisted until I gave up using Listerine altogether

    • Thanks for the comment Nina. We have seen and heard the same thing. It us usually the alcohol that dries out the mouth and causes “sloughing” of the soft tissues. But it is not unheard of to have that condition with non-alcoholic mouthwashes. Alcohol is not the only harmful ingredient in off-the-shelf mouthwashes… you have artificial colorings, flavorings, and sweeteners to watch out for, too.

  33. i bumped into this post while googling..Currently I have this Listerine Natural Green Tea mouthwash which claimed that it does not contains alcohol. does this means it’s safe to use?

    After using my gum does not bleed anymore..I am not sure if this is good or bad! Advise is highly appreciated.

    • Is Listerine Natural Green Tea mouthwash safe to use?

      Probably not. Have you noticed how the big manufacturers are making “natural” products now? Of course…to make people buy it and think that they’re not safe.

      Granted they may be SAFER but “safe to use for everyone” is not a claim that I would endorse.

      Everyone is different and could be sensitive to any of the ingredients inside the mouthwash.

      No bleeding after swishing is not a reason to continue or discontinue use of a mouthwash. See your dentist and check to make sure your technique for flossing and brushing is accurate. Also check your diet as bleeding gums is a symptom of poor diet.

      • Jim Palazzolo Says: May 10, 2014 at 10:11 am

        “Probably not”. Is that a clinical term or more of the Green! Gooooooooood, FDA Baaaaaaaaaddddd! nonsense touted as the new OneWorld mantra?

      • Dalissa Crump Says: July 16, 2014 at 7:17 pm

        Is Sensodyne mouth rinse a good product to use? I’m watching from Listerine to a different mouth rinse, couldn’t handle the burning sensation any longer. But I have sensitive teeth and gums and I want to make sure that using Sensodyne products are safe to use.

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