What happens if you drink mouthwash by accident?

Mouthwashes, along with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss are an indispensable part of our daily oral hygiene routine and the main enemy of bad breath. They are very effective for both white teeth and fresh breath. But unlike other products, mouthwashes are literally liquid, so it’s much more likely to swallow them. So what happens if you drink mouthwash by accident?

In fact, many people drink mouthwash by accident. As long as these are in small amounts, they do not cause serious problems and have temporary effects. However, in some cases, high amounts of mouthwash can be swallowed. In such cases, different problems arise. In this article, we will examine the possible consequences of drinking mouthwash and what to do.

What happens if you drink mouthwash accidentally?

It depends on the amount you swallow and the substances it contains. In some mouthwashes, you will not have a problem when swallowed in small quantities. However, for some, even a small amount can cause side effects that are not serious. These are usually temporary effects but can be bothersome for a while.

At the same time, these effects depend on the characteristics of the one who swallows. For example, some mouthwashes with alcohol can cause much more serious problems for children than for adults. These problems can reach life-threatening health consequences. Although high consumption is exceptional, it can sometimes occur. There are even many cases where people with alcohol use disorder drink bottles of mouthwash when they can’t reach alcohol, and it’s very likely that they will end up in emergency rooms.

What are the symptoms of mouthwash poisoning?

We can examine these symptoms under two headings. As we said before, there is a serious difference between consuming a lot of mouthwash and swallowing a small amount. If you swallow a small amount discomfort will be usually stomach related. You can experience nausea and diarrhea which are the common symptoms. Vomiting, dizziness, and stomach pain are also possible. They should go away on their own after a while. If they don’t go away, it would be helpful to consult a doctor.

However, if you have swallowed a large amount of mouthwash, you may observe the following mouthwash overdose symptoms:

  • Drunkness (Alcohol mouthwashes)
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Convulsions
  • Coma (Yes, even coma!)

The last two of them are severe symptoms. If you or anyone near you experience one of these, you have to contact emergency services immediately and get a medical intervention as soon as possible. Otherwise, the consequences can be fatal.

What to do if you drink mouthwash?

First of all, you should look at the ingredients in mouthwash. If there is something you think might be toxic, what you should do is reviewed it in two separate situations.

The good news: you don’t have to worry if you swallowed some. You may have diarrhea. Vomiting is a somewhat controversial topic. Vomiting when swallowed in low amounts can do you more harm than mouthwash. This can damage your food pipe because of the irritants. If your body is forcing you to vomit on its own, do not go against its natural reaction and vomit. In situations where you can’t get any medical support, vomiting may be a sensible option.

The bad news: if you have swallowed large amounts that contain poisonous ingredients, you should call an emergency room immediately, inform the specialists about your situation and ask what to do. If necessary, seek immediate help. If help is not reaching you, you should go to the nearest emergency room. Below are the emergency numbers and poison control centers numbers of different countries.

  • United Kingdom – 999 (You can also press 55 if you are unable to talk during the situation)
  • Europe – 112 (Most of the European countries, some of the African countries and Turkey)
  • United States – 911
  • Canada – 911
  • China – 120

Here are the poison emergency center’s phone numbers in some different countries.

Why aren’t you supposed to drink mouthwash?

Because some ingredients in these can harm your stomach and the side effects can be quite irritating in the short term. However, the real problem starts when it is consumed above certain amounts. Certain ingredients of mouthwash ingested in high doses can cause life-threatening conditions. We will now review these ingredients and their possible side effects for you.

You shouldn’t drink mouthwash because of these ingredients may be harmful:

  • Alcohol
  • Chlorhexidine gluconate
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Methyl salicylate
  • Cetylpyridinium Chloride

Let’s look at them one by one and see why you aren’t supposed to drink mouthwash!


Some brands of mouthwash contain large amounts of alcohol. Moreover, these alcoholic ingredients like denatured alcohol and ethanol are different from that of alcoholic beverages. So they are not suitable for consumption. They can cause serious discomfort such as intoxication and poisoning if ingested.

Chlorhexidine gluconate

Chlorhexidine is not a well-absorbed agent. If swallowed, it may harm your digestive system and cause irritation in your stomach. It can also cause intoxication. In one case, a woman who drank 100mg of a 5% solution developed a rare female life-threatening condition, methemoglobinemia. This disease affects your body’s oxygen delivery system by red blood cells. Although this woman got to the hospital and recovered, there is another case that an old woman died of a similar reason.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is known to cause mild irritations. Excessive amounts of peroxide can also cause burns. Hydrogen peroxide causes foams, and when these foams start to build up in your blood, it can interrupt your blood flow. This is a life-threatening feature.

Methyl salicylate

Methyl salicylate is a chemical found which you can find in many over-the-counter pain medications and hygiene products. In case of excessive intake, you may experience salicylate poisoning. It has symptoms such as ringing ears, nausea, abdominal pain, fever, and a fast breathing rate. It can also reduce blood sugar which can cause problems such as cardiac arrest, swelling of the brain and lungs.

Cetylpyridinium Chloride

Cetylpyridinium chloride is an ammonium salt that is toxic if swallowed and highly toxic when inhaled. It is known to cause breathing difficulties and serious eye irritation. Although it is necessary to consume a lot of mouthwash to reach the lethal dose, it is useful to be careful to avoid any health issues.

How to prevent accidental ingestion of mouthwash?

The application times of mouthwash vary but are approximately 30 seconds. It is important to pay attention to the duration in your mouth so that you do not accidentally swallow it. Longer it stays, the more possibility to swallow. Also, special care should be taken when applying the mouthwash to the areas of the mouth close to the throat.

Swallowing mouthwash is generally seen in the pediatric age group. For this reason, being with children at the time of mouthwash is important to prevent swallowing. It is also important to keep the mouthwash out of reach of children after use. There are several cases where the children lost their lives by drinking it. A bottle of alcoholic mouthwash may not be dangerous for an adult at least in a life-threatening sense but its consequences are fatal for children.


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-Runde TJ, Nappe TM. Salicylates Toxicity. 2022 Jul 11. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 29763054.

-Mahaseth T, Kuzminov A. Potentiation of hydrogen peroxide toxicity: From catalase inhibition to stable DNA-iron complexes. Mutat Res Rev Mutat Res. 2017 Jul;773:274-281. doi: 10.1016/j.mrrev.2016.08.006. Epub 2016 Aug 30. PMID: 28927535; PMCID: PMC5607474.