Is listerine good for gum disease?

Walk down any drugstore aisle and you’ll see LISTERINE® touted as “the mouthwash brand dentists recommend most.” 

Listerine is a widely recognized brand of mouthwash that offers a variety of formulations targeting different oral care needs, including gum health. But is this popular oral rinse an effective way to manage or prevent gum disease?

Generally, swishing some mouthwash around in our mouth has been shown to prevent the buildup of plaque in your mouth. Some mouthwashes, like LISTERINE®, have special ingredients called phenolic compounds that can kill germs and reduce plaque and gum issues.

Some studies have shown that using a mouthwash with these essential oils, like Listerine, is more effective in keeping our gums healthy and reducing plaque.

Is listerine good for gum disease

What Features Make a Mouthwash Effective for Gum Disease?

When it comes to selecting a mouthwash for gum disease, several key features contribute to its effectiveness in promoting gum health and preventing or managing gum-related issues.

Here are the important features to consider:

Antimicrobial Properties

An effective mouthwash for gum disease should have antimicrobial properties that help combat the bacteria responsible for plaque formation and gum inflammation. Antimicrobial agents like essential oils (e.g., eucalyptol, thymol), chlorhexidine, and cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) can target and reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Gum disease often involves inflammation of the gums. A suitable mouthwash should have anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe and reduce gum inflammation, contributing to overall gum health.

Plaque and Tartar Control

Plaque buildup is a major contributor to gum disease. Look for a mouthwash that can help control plaque formation and even prevent the development of tartar, which can lead to more advanced gum issues.

Gentle on Oral Tissues

Since periodontal disease can make gums sensitive, an ideal mouthwash should be gentle on oral tissues and not cause irritation or discomfort. Alcohol-free formulations are often recommended for individuals with sensitive gums.

Promotes Healing

Gum disease can cause damage to gum tissues. A good mouthwash may promote gum tissue healing and repair, aiding in the recovery from gum-related problems.

How Does Listerine Compare?

Antimicrobial Properties

Listerine’s antiseptic mouthwash contains essential oils such as eucalyptol and thymol, which have shown antimicrobial effects against bacteria associated with gum disease. These ingredients can help reduce harmful bacteria and control plaque.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Some Listerine formulations may have mild anti-inflammatory properties due to their essential oil content. However, for individuals with severe gum inflammation, a mouthwash containing an active anti-inflammatory ingredient may be more suitable.

Plaque and Tartar Control

Listerine’s antiseptic mouthwash can help control plaque buildup, contributing to gum health. However, individuals with significant plaque and tartar concerns might benefit from more targeted solutions.

Gentle on Oral Tissues

Listerine offers alcohol-free options, which are recommended for individuals with sensitive gums. This ensures that the mouthwash is gentle on oral tissues and less likely to cause irritation.

Promotes Healing

While Listerine’s antiseptic properties can contribute to gum healing by reducing harmful bacteria, specific formulations designed to support tissue healing might offer more targeted benefits.

What do studies say about Effectiveness of Listerine?

Researchers have done various tests to see how Listerine compares to other mouthwashes, and concluded that Listerine users regularly had healthier gums and less plaque buildup compared to their counterparts, both in the short- and long-term.

  • In one test, comparing Listerine with essential oils to a mouthwash with an ingredient called chlorhexidine (CHX), they found that Listerine was actually better at stopping plaque from growing on teeth.
  • Another study found Listerine with essential oils to be as effective as a different mouthwash containing cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), but Listerine is better in fighting plaque and gingivitis (marked by gum inflammation)
  • People wearing braces can successfully use Listerine to help keep the mouth healthy.
  • People who are feeling sick can use Listerine to help reduce the number of germs in the mouth.

As such, Listerine with essential oils can be used in the fight against plaque and gum problems. It’s not a replacement for brushing and flossing, but it can give your mouth an extra boost to stay clean and healthy.

Listerine’s Benefits

Listerine contains essential oils that give it antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to:

  • Reduce plaque that causes gingivitis
  • Kill bacteria responsible for bad breath
  • Reach areas that brushing misses

A 2021 study did find using Listerine 2-3 times daily significantly reduced gingivitis and plaque over a six month period compared to chlorhexidine or brushing alone.

Potential Drawbacks of Listerine

However, there are some potential issues with relying solely on Listerine for gum disease:

  • It cannot penetrate gum pockets to treat advanced periodontal infections
  • The high alcohol content can dry out and irritate inflamed gums
  • It does not remove tartar below gumline like professional cleaning

How to use Listerine for best results

If you have purchased some Listerine mouthwash, it’s important that you read the product label for the manufacturer’s instructions on usage and dosing.

Following the directions is important:

  • For standard use, pour about 20mL of Listerine into a cup or measuring cup. This equals about 4 teaspoons.
  • Swish the mouthwash vigorously around the entire mouth for at least 30 seconds, allowing it to reach all surfaces of the teeth, gums, tongue, and inner cheeks.
  • Spit the used mouthwash out thoroughly. Do not swallow any amount.

NB: There is no need to rinse with water after expectorating the used rinse. The antibacterial ingredients continue working and rinsing them away reduces effectiveness.

  • For maximum oral health benefits, use Listerine mouthwash twice daily – morning and night.
  • If using for a specific purpose like post-oral surgery care, pre-procedure cleansing, or managing a dental condition, follow any special instructions from your dentist.

Using an antiseptic mouthwash like Listerine as part of your daily oral care routine helps reduce bacteria, prevent plaque buildup, and promote healthy gums and teeth. Just be sure to follow usage directions.

Dental professionals also recommend: 
  • Using Listerine as an adjunct treatment, not primary gum disease therapy
  • Sticking to alcohol-free versions if you have sensitive gums
  • Seeing the dentist for evaluation if inflammation persists

Final Thoughts

In summary, Listerine can be a suitable choice for gum disease management due to its antimicrobial properties, plaque control benefits, and availability of alcohol-free options.

That said, it should be used as a supportive rather than primary treatment for gum disease. Consistent flossing, brushing, and professional cleanings should form the foundation of maintaining gum health and preventing gum-related issues.

Moreover, individuals with advanced gum disease or specific oral health concerns should consider consulting a dental professional for personalized recommendations.



  • Editorial team

    A team comprising oral health care professionals, researchers, and professional Writers, striving to impart you with the knowledge to improve your oral health, and that of your loved ones. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top