Can Listerine Cause Canker Sores?

This blog post will address the topic, “Can Listerine cause canker sores?” and understand about canker sores, causes of canker sores, how to know that you have a canker sore, diagnosis and treatment of canker sores, healing canker sores at home and when to consult a doctor or dentist.

Can Listerine Cause Canker Sores?

Yes, listerine may cause canker sores or irritate the already developed canker sore. Consistent use of an alcohol-based mouthwash may irritate the oral tissues and lead to canker sores.

However, this is not for everyone. Not everyone will develop canker sores on use of listerine. Only those who have sensitive tissue, or use listerine way too much on a daily basis, have the risk of developing dry mouth and canker sore as a side-effect.

If listerine or any alcohol-based mouthwash irritates your oral tissues and causes too much discomfort and burning, consult your dentist and replace your mouthwash with an alcohol-free mouthwash.

According to some available evidence, mouthwash containing sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) may irritate the soft oral tissues and cause canker sores (mouth ulcers).

What Is A Canker Sore?

Canker sore is a small, painful sore that develops inside the oral cavity.

The common locations where these painful sores develop inside the mouth are:

  • Inside of the lower lips or upper lips
  • Tongue
  • Cheeks
  • Floor of the mouth

Apart from the above locations, canker sores may develop anywhere inside the mouth. 

What Causes Canker Sores?

The exact cause of canker sores is unknown. However, the following may increase the risk of canker sores:

  • Genetics: Canker sores may occur frequently inside your mouth if there is a family history of canker sores occurrence
  • Sex: Canker sores occur frequently in women
  • Age: Chances of occurrence of canker sores is more in teenagers and people in their early 20s
  • Stress: Stress is known to cause canker sores. However, the exact mechanism is unknown.
  • Iron Deficiency: Canker sores is most likely to occur in persons with iron deficiency
  • Vitamin B deficiency: Deficiency of vitamin B in the body is known to increase the risk of canker sores
  • Poor Oral Hygiene: Canker sores are common to occur in persons with poor oral hygiene. Poor oral hygiene includes not brushing and flossing daily.
  • Mouth Injury: Sudden injury involving the soft oral tissues may lead to canker sores
  • Irritation from dental restorations: Oral tissues take time to adjust to the new dental restoration such as dentures. Meanwhile, the new dental restorations irritate the soft oral tissues to cause canker sores.

How To Know That You Have A Canker Sore?

Canker sores may be known by its unique characteristics:

Stage-1: Painful red swelling

Stage-2: White or greyish in the middle with red borders and increased pain while eating and drinking

Stage-3: Lessening of pain and irritation. Mostly self-heals after 7-14 days

Additional symptoms may include:

  • Raised body temperature (Fever)
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Lack of concentration (due to pain and discomfort)

Diagnosis And Treatment of Canker Sores

Canker sores are generally diagnosed by their physical examination in the oral cavity and based on the symptoms.

Canker sores are self-healing. They usually disappear in seven days or may even last till 14 days before disappearing.

If you suffer from severe canker sores that do not self-heal in stipulated time period and occur frequently, then your dentist might prescribe you :

  • Numbing agent such as orabase or mucopain gel to relief pain symptoms (Warning: not to be used in children below two years of age)
  • Multivitamin tablets
  • Antibiotic mouth rinse (Warning: Complete the dose as prescribed by your dentist even if your condition improves)

Can I Heal Canker Sores At Home?

Yes, canker sores can be healed at home without visiting your dentist. Usually, canker sores are self-healing and heal within a week or two.

To ensure quick healing of the canker sores, you need to follow the below mentioned precautions:

  • Avoid hot drinks like tea and coffee
  • Avoid citrus drinks like lemon water and orange juice
  • Avoid spicy and salty foods
  • Brush your teeth twice daily
  • Floss daily
  • Clean your tongue daily
  • Rinse mouth with normal water after having food
  • Avoid alcohol-based mouthwash

When Should I Contact A Doctor or Dentist?

Contact your doctor or dentist if:

  • Canker sores do not heal within two weeks
  • Canker sores occur too frequently
  • Canker sores is worsening
  • Swollen neck lymph nodes is troubling with normal functioning


This blog post addressed the question, “Can Listerine cause canker sores?”. We understood about canker sores, causes of canker sores, how to know that you have a canker sore and diagnosis and treatment of canker sores. The article outlined precautions for healing canker sores at home and when to consult a doctor or dentist.

Frequently Asked Questions: Can Listerine Cause Canker Sores?

Is Listerine a chlorhexidine mouthwash?

No, Listerine is not a chlorhexidine mouthwash. 

It is a phenolic mouthwash containing methyl salicylate, eucalyptol, thymol, and menthol as its active ingredients. 

Which Is Better, Listerine Or Chlorhexidine?

In a clinical trial, it was found that chlorhexidine was better than Listerine in maintaining lower plaque levels and better gingival health over a 3-week use without any brushing and flossing.

In a comparative study published in the journal of international oral health, it was concluded that chlorhexidine mouthwash was better than Listerine in reducing plaque growth.

Does Listerine Kill The COVID-19 Virus?

No, listerine is not known to kill COVID-19 virus. The available in-vitro studies have found listerine to be effective in reducing the sore throat symptoms of COVID-19 but the data is insufficient.

Can Listerine Be Used As A Hand Sanitizer?

No, listerine cannot and should not be used as a hand sanitizer. It is only to be used as an antiseptic mouthwash to maintain good oral hygiene and prevent plaque, cavities, gingivitis and bad breath.

Can Listerine Cause A Sore Throat?

No! Listerine cannot cause a sore throat. 

Listerine is a mouthwash and may cause a burning sensation in the mouth or throat due to its alcohol and menthol content. 

The burning sensation in the throat due to listerine is often mistaken to be a sore throat. 

However, it is only a temporary effect mainly due to alcohol present in the listerine mouthwash.

Is it safe to use Listerine mouthwash everyday?

Yes, you may use listerine mouthwash everyday if you do not have any allergic directions with the mouthwash.

However, it is advised to consult your dentist before starting the use of any mouthwash as there are studies that have linked daily use of mouthwash with staining of teeth and enamel demineralisation.

Occasional use of listerine will benefit you in achieving a good breath and plaque removal.

Does Listerine have any side effects?

Listerine does not have any potential side effects. It may only cause slight irritation and burning sensation while rinsing.

However, excessive and inappropriate use of listerine mouthwash may cause damage to the enamel of the teeth and may stain your teeth.

It is advised to stop using listerine and visit your dentist if you notice any potential side effects on use of listerine mouthwash.

Other FAQs about Mouthwash that you may be interested in.

What is a Chlorhexidine Mouthwash?

Is Listerine a chlorhexidine mouthwash?

Can I Use Mouthwash With An Abscess?


Is Mouthwash Bad for You? Effects, Risks, Who Should’t Use It

Mouth Ulcer (Canker Sores): Treatment, Causes & Prevention

Canker Sores (for Teens) – Nemours KidsHealth

SORES, C. (2012). Common oral sores and irritations.

McBride, D. R. (2000). Information from your family doctor: Canker sores–what are they and what can you do about them?. American Family Physician, 62(1), 160.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!