Fact Checked

What to Do if You Accidentally Swallowed Mouthwash

Written by Fernanda Elizalde

October 29, 2022

Medically Reviewed

By Dr. James Younan, DDS

When it comes to freshening up stale or foul breath, being able to swish mouthwash around in such a situation is a convenient innovation.

But it can be even more beneficial. Mouth rinse can eliminate dangerous germs that cause tooth decay and gum disease while also helping to improve the condition of your teeth and gums.

You don't want to swallow mouthwash. It is not meant to be consumed, and in high enough quantities, swallowing mouthwash may be poisonous.

That's why it's critical to understand what's in your mouthwash bottle and what to do if someone accidentally (or engulfed deliberately) consumes some.

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What happens when you swallow mouthwash?

We assume you are usually cautious when using mouthwash. You swirl it in your mouth for the required amount of time. You may cringe at the taste or sensation, but keep going for your oral health.

If you gulp down that mouthful of mouthwash by accident, you may suffer some remorse in the form of a somewhat unsettled stomach.

Many types of mouthwash include fluoride, which has been linked to stomach upset. You may feel uneasy or sick, but this should pass fast.

Fluoride isn't the sole element in many types of mouthwash; alcohol is also included in several. Some of the most popular alcohol versions in mouthwash are:

  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Menthol
  • Eucalyptol
  • Benzyl alcohol
  • Salicylate, methyl
  • Thymol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Chlorhexidine gluconate
  • Methyl salicylate

A small amount is unlikely to impact you, but consuming a somewhat larger dose may have an intoxicating effect.

If you swallow large amounts of mouthwash, you may experience dizziness or drowsiness. In severe cases, you may have trouble breathing or even seizures.

It is especially vital to be cautious with youngsters. Because their bodies are smaller, they are more likely to overdose than if an adult swallows mouthwash.

What to do if you drink a little mouthwash

There's no need to panic if you or a child swallowed a little bit of fluoride mouthwash (or any other type, including alcohol-free), but please take precautions to prevent it from happening again by following these steps:

Children must be supervised. Do not allow children to use mouthwash unattended. It is advised that children between 6-12 be supervised when using mouthwash. To assist you, several dental care companies employ child-resistant caps. Make sure they spit it out. Mouthwash is not suggested for children younger than six since they may have difficulty controlling their swallowing reflex, putting them at greater risk of consuming a large amount leading to serious problems.

Pay close attention. Allowing family members to distract you while conducting your oral care regimen may cause you to forget to spit and accidentally swallow the mouthwash.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What should you do if you drink a lot of mouthwash?

Swallowing little amounts of mouthwash may induce nausea or diarrhea, but these symptoms should disappear quickly. However, if your kid or someone you know consumes a large amount of mouthwash, consider the following precautions:

Examine the label. Examine the mouthwash to check if it includes fluoride and ethanol content and if there is alcohol present, which is potentially toxic. Severe signs of a mouthwash overdose may include dizziness, sleepiness, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, or, in extreme cases, convulsions or coma. In difficult situations, go to the emergency department and, if possible, bring the mouthwash container.

Seek assistance. Do not force the individual who ingested the mouthwash to vomit. Instead, ensure that you have information on the victim's age, weight, and the type and amount of product consumed. It's critical to keep the goods nearby so you can advise the operator about the precise contents. You might have to visit the hospital for the appropriate amount of stomach-activated charcoal or iv fluid drip laxatives if there has been excessive vomiting if they swallowed a large portion.

Should you visit the emergency room?

Children are more likely than adults to die due to mistakenly ingesting mouthwash. The presence of the component ethanol in it causes toxicity. Some mouthwashes have an ethanol level as high as 27 percent. Adult fatalities are uncommon but can occur if humans are purposely swallowed.

The alcohol in mouthwashes has been altered to make it taste awful. Even yet, many individuals try to get intoxicated by ingesting it.

They are unaware that it might disrupt the body's acid-base balance.

Among the complications are:

  • Failure of organs
  • Vision impairment (going blind)
  • Coma
  • Poisoning from alcohol
  • Heart failure
  • Respiratory impact

When should you go to the doctor?

If a child has ingested mouthwash

Call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 if your kid has ingested mouthwash. Prepare to explain the kind and amount of mouthwash your youngster consumed.

The hotline operator may also request the child's age and weight and a description of the child's symptoms, if any are present. A child may experience breathing problems and need breathing support even if they swallow mouthwash accidentally.

If an adult consumes mouthwash

If you or another adult swallows a tiny bit of mouthwash, you may have nothing to worry about.

One thing to remember: Do not force yourself to vomit. If you have severe symptoms such as convulsions, a high heart rate, or breathing difficulties, contact your doctor or go to the emergency room.

Don't be alarmed if you unintentionally consume a lesser volume. If it's only a tiny amount, you should be alright; otherwise, your stomach may become upset for a brief time. Call your doctor and see if they have any further instructions.

A significant amount should prompt you to contact your doctor or the Poison Control Center. If you are told to go to the hospital, do so immediately. The sooner you receive therapy, the higher your chances of recovery.

What medical procedures could be required?

Suppose you go to the emergency department after you swallow mouthwash. In that case, they may want to do several tests before recommending any treatments.

Mouthwash overdose treatment options include:

  • IV administered fluids
  • Medicines
  • Chemical absorption with activated charcoal
  • Laxatives
  • Breathing assistance

People have needed renal dialysis in some very critical circumstances.

If you feel you or someone in your home has swallowed a toxic level of mouthwash, call the National Poison Control Center immediately (800) 222-1222

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