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Can You Drink Water Immediately After Using Mouthwash?

We’ve all heard about the benefits of using mouthwash as a part of our daily oral hygiene routine. It’s a quick and effective way to freshen your breath, kill harmful bacteria, and promote overall dental health.

But a myth have always kept people perplexed: can you drink water immediately after using a mouthwash?

The legend goes on by saying that after rinsing your mouth with mouthwash and water, some residue still remains. If you drink water immediately, you risk ingesting the residual mouthwash.

While this is true, ingesting small volume of mouthwash would not cause any significant impact to your stomach or general health. As such, it is totally safe to drink water immediately after using mouthwash.

In the rest of this article, we will share more about the ingredients of a mouthwash, and highlight the potential health risks of consuming mouthwash in large amounts.

What Is in a Mouthwash?

Mouthwash is often used to complement brushing and flossing. While brushing and flossing remove debris and plaque from the surfaces of teeth, mouthwash can reach areas that might be difficult to access. The swishing action can also help to rinse away lingering food particles, bacteria, and acids that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Mouthwash is also used to combat bad breath, or halitosis. To achieve all these health benefits, mouthwash contains a combination of ingredients to serve the various purposes. Here are some of the common ingredients:

  • Water: Water is the primary ingredient in most mouthwashes and serves as a carrier for other active and inactive ingredients.
  • Antiseptic Agents: These are ingredients that kill bacteria and germs in the mouth. Common antiseptic agents include cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), chlorhexidine, and hydrogen peroxide.
  • Flavoring Agents: Most mouthwash contains flavoring agents, such as mint or menthol, to provide a pleasant taste and freshen breath.
  • Humectants: These ingredients help retain moisture in the mouth, preventing it from drying out. Glycerin is a common humectant used in oral care products such as mouthwash and toothpastes.
  • Sweeteners: Some mouthwashes include sweeteners like saccharin or sorbitol to improve taste and appeal to adults and children.
  • Fluoride: Some mouthwashes contain fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel.
  • Alcohol: Many mouthwashes contain alcohol (usually ethanol or denatured alcohol) as an antimicrobial agent. Alcohol helps kill bacteria in the mouth and can provide a fresh, clean feeling.
  • Surfactants: This helps to disperse and mix the ingredients in mouthwash and can aid in removing debris from the mouth.
  • Preservatives: To prevent bacterial growth and maintain the shelf life of the product, mouthwashes often include preservatives like sodium benzoate or methylparaben.

Note that depending on the brand and purpose of the mouthwash, its formulation and concentration may differ significantly. For instance, antiseptic mouthwash such as Crest Gum Care Mouthwash will contain alcohol and antiseptic agents whereas this is likely to be absent in cosmetic mouthwash like biotène Oral Rinse Mouthwash.

If you have concerns about using mouthwash or its ingredients, consult with a dentist or healthcare professional.

What Happens if You Ingest Mouthwash in Large Quantities?

The ingesting of large quantities of mouthwash is dangerous and can lead to various adverse effects, including death. Here are some of the potential ill-effects of swallowing significant amounts of mouthwash:

  1. Alcohol Poisoning: Many mouthwashes contain a significant amount of alcohol, usually ethanol or denatured alcohol, to act as an antimicrobial agent. Swallowing a large quantity of alcohol-based mouthwash can result in alcohol poisoning. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and confusion.
  2. Dehydration: Consuming alcohol-containing mouthwash can have a drying effect on the mouth. In some cases, it can lead to dehydration.
  3. Fluoride Toxicity: Some mouthwashes contain fluoride, which is beneficial for dental health when used in appropriate amounts. Swallowing excessive fluoride-containing mouthwash can lead to fluoride toxicity. Common symptoms may include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  4. Gastrointestinal Distress: Ingesting mouthwash can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, leading to stomach pain, cramps, and diarrhea.
  5. Damage to Organs: Repeated ingestion of large quantities of mouthwash can have long-term health consequences potentially affecting the liver, kidneys, and overall digestive system.

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It is important to emphasize that mouthwash should never be ingested intentionally. Mouthwash should be used as directed on the product label, which includes rinsing and gargling in the mouth. To prevent accidental ingestion, keep mouthwash out of reach of children.

In the event of accidental ingestion of large quantities of mouthwash, seek immediate medical attention. Alcohol poisoning, fluoride toxicity, and other ill-effects listed above can be serious and lead to long-term complications if not treated in time.

How Long to Wait Before Drinking Water Again?

There is no strict rule about how long you should wait before drinking water after using mouthwash. However, most dental professions recommend that you wait at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking again.

This is especially so if you are using fluoride mouthwash, as time is needed to allow the fluoride to remain in contact with your teeth for maximum effectiveness in strengthening your tooth enamel. A study by The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry concluded that fluoride mouthwash users who waited 30 minutes before rinsing their mouth experienced higher percentage of fluoride on their teeth.

That said, if you’re simply thirsty and want to drink water after using mouthwash, it is perfectly fine to do so right away. In fact, as there are minimal consequences if you ingest insignificant quantities of mouthwash, the choice of when to drink water after using mouthwash is a matter of personal preference and comfort.

Is It Ok to Swallow Saliva after Using Mouthwash?

Yes, it is absolutely normal and safe to swallow your saliva after using mouthwash.

Saliva is a natural bodily fluid that helps with various functions in your mouth, such as lubricating and protecting your oral tissues, aiding in digestion, and maintaining a healthy pH balance in your mouth.

After using mouthwash, you may experienced increased salivation as your mouth is irritated by the different ingredients of the oral rinse. As mentioned above, it is safe if a small quantity of mouthwash is accidentally swallowed together with your saliva.

If you are bothered by the irritation, consider replacing your current mouthwash with a non-alcoholic rinse or a natural mouthwash. See here for a list of the top organic mouthwashes recommended by dentists.


In conclusion, the question of whether you can drink water immediately after using mouthwash comes down to personal preference and the type of mouthwash you’re using.

For those who use mouthwash primarily to combat bad breath or freshen their mouths, drinking water right after rinsing is perfectly acceptable. However, if you’re using a fluoride mouthwash for its dental benefits, it’s advisable to wait for about 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything to allow the fluoride to fully interact with your teeth and strengthen enamel

Erinwood Brady

Brady Erinwood is an accomplished dentist operating in New York City. Renowned for his proficient use of state-of-the-art dental technologies, Dr. Erinwood offers both general and cosmetic dental services and is widely lauded for both his dental makeovers as well as his to enhancing the oral health of his community.