Can Mouthwash Help a Tooth Abscess?

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

Yes, mouthwash is beneficial to use for a tooth abscess but it won’t get rid of the infection if that is all that you’re doing for it. In other words, you should be using a mouth rinse but you still need to see a dentist for permanent treatment.

Benefits of mouthwash for abscess tooth

It is very helpful to use a mouthwash for a tooth abscess because it can reduce the bacterial load and slow down the spread of infection.

Reduce bacteria in mouth

Rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash like Listerine can help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. The product label says that it can kill 99.9% of germs in the mouth and that is true.

Listerine - Cool Mint

Typically when you have an abscess in your mouth, there will be an increased amount of bacteria present. If rinsing with this solution can get rid of some of them, that will surely be beneficial for your condition.

Slow down the infection’s progression

The most that rinsing your mouth can do for the abscess tooth is to slow down the spread of the infection. Essentially what happens is that the source of the abscess produces more infection and then you kill off some of the bacteria by rinsing.

However, the process simply repeats itself over and over.

Mouthwashes don’t cure abscesses

While antiseptic mouthwashes can kill bacteria, it isn’t enough to get rid of the tooth abscess on its own. The most that it can do is slow down the progression or spread of the infection by constantly killing off bacteria.

The reason it doesn’t cure the infection completely is because it cannot treat the source of it. Usually an abscess stems from within the tooth such as an infected nerve. The only viable treatment for that is to remove the infected nerve via a root canal procedure. An alternative would be to remove the entire infected tooth with an extraction.

Treatments for dental abscesses:

  • Root canal. Remove the infection from within the tooth by extracting the nerve only. The overall tooth is left intact and it stays in the jaw bone.
  • Tooth extraction. Remove the entire abscessed tooth from the jaw bone. Afterwards there will be a missing tooth and an empty socket which will need to be replaced.

Consequences of not getting treatment

You may think that it is okay to keep using a mouthwash and NOT get professional dental treatment since the rinse can kill bacteria. However, the consequence of doing so will be a persistent infection that won’t go away.

If you let this condition go on long enough, the abscess will eventually start growing in size. You’ll notice your face and jaw start to swell up.

We wish to reiterate that antiseptic rinses won’t stop the spread of the infection but slow it down. What we mean by that is that the abscess is still growing albeit at a slower pace than if you weren’t using mouthwash.

Best mouthwash for an abscessed tooth

The best mouthwash to use for a tooth with an abscess is one that has antibacterial properties. Most over the counter rinses are antiseptic and they will eliminate bacteria.

However, the most effective one that we’ve personally seen is Peridex (chlorhexidine) which is a prescription strength rinse. You can’t buy this one OTC and will need a RX for it.

Although if you don’t have access to one, any mouthwash that you find at the pharmacy will work in the meantime.

Examples of antiseptic mouthwashes:

  • Listerine
  • ACT mouthwash
  • Crest pro-health
  • Colgate total rinse

We’ve only listed a few but you can use any one that you find.


You should be using a mouthwash if you’ve an abscess tooth because rinsing can help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. Since there will be less microbes, you can potentially slow down the rate of the infection spreading.

However, you still need to see a dentist because the rinsing won’t eliminate the abscess permanently. All that it will do is slow down the progression of the disease.


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