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Can You Brush Your Teeth With Rubbing Alcohol?

Brushing your teeth with rubbing alcohol is NOT recommended because it is an ineffective cleaner and it is hazardous to your health. There are plenty of safer alternative products to brush your teeth with if you don't like toothpaste.


70% isopropyl alcohol 32oz

We do not believe it is worth the risk to use isopropyl alcohol as a toothpaste. We will explain why you shouldn't do it.


Table of contents:



Can it clean your teeth?

Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) is a first aid antiseptic and not a cleaning agent. It may be effective at disinfecting wounds but when it comes to cleaning teeth it is ineffective.


Reasons isopropyl alcohol is an ineffective toothpaste alternative:

  • Doesn't lather. Toothpastes often contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) which helps it lather and foam so that it cleans more easily. That helps the toothbrush glide along the enamel.

  • Lacks abrasives. All toothpastes contain abrasives which is how they clean and whiten your teeth. The gritty texture of the paste is what helps your toothbrush scrub off tooth stains.

  • Doesn't whiten. Most modern toothpastes do containing whitening agents such as peroxide to help whiten your teeth. Rubbing alcohol does not whiten your teeth because it does not have peroxide in it.


Hopefully from these reasons you understand why it is a poor tooth cleaner. However if you wanted further proof you should look no further than the product label and what it was meant to be used for.


Rubbing alcohol label - warnings and purposes

Uses:

  • Helps prevent risk of infections

  • Minor cuts

  • Scrapes

  • Burns


Warnings:

  • For external use only.

  • If taken internally, serious gastric disturbances will result.


This product is NOT meant to be used on your teeth. It is not an oral care product!


Impractical to brush with

It's not very practical to use isopropyl alcohol to brush your teeth with.

  • Doesn't stay on the tooth brush. This product comes in a liquid form so when you pour it on the toothbrush, most of it will spill off. Toothpaste has more solid consistency which helps it stay on the brush and on your enamel.

  • Evaporates very quickly. As soon as it is exposed to air, it quickly dries up and evaporates. That means you'll have to continually keep applying more to your toothbrush to brush with it. That only increases the chances of you becoming intoxicated.


If you can't tell already, we're not a big fan of using this.


What happens when you do it?

If you brush your teeth with isopropyl alcohol, you may become inebriated if you use enough of it. In other words, you'll most likely become drunk since most rubbing alcohol are 70%-90% in alcohol content. Basically, it is more alcoholic than your typical beer.


Perhaps this never crossed your mind but there have been multiple cases were people tried to get drunk off of rubbing alcohol. According to The American Journal of Kidney Diseases, isopropyl alcohol intoxication can present a huge problem in healthcare settings.

  • Most frequently these cases are seen in alcoholics who get desperate.

  • Four cases involving children from 6 months old to 2 years old.


For the pediatric incidences, they were all due to rubbing alcohol ingestion. Most likely cause was their parents might've left it out and they drank it by accident. In summary, if you try to brush with it you'll most likely get inebriated and you'll end up with gastric disturbances like it says on the product label.


Is it safe to brush with rubbing alcohol?

Since you can potentially become intoxicated from brushing with rubbing alcohol, we would say that it is unsafe to use it. Every run of the mill toothpaste does not have such a deleterious side effect which makes them all safer to use than this.


You should be especially careful with it around children because they have a lower alcohol tolerance than adults. Even a little bit of it may cause alcohol poisoning in children so please be careful.


Better alternative

Practically every toothpaste commercially available will do a better job at cleaning and whitening your teeth.

  • Fluoride toothpastes are inexpensive and readily available.

  • Hydroxyapatite toothpastes are an alternative option if you do not want fluoride but still want cavity fighting potential.

  • Baking soda is an all natural option which is highly effective for stain removal.


fluoride toothpaste
fluoride toothpaste

We do get questions about whether or not charcoal toothpaste is safe, and to be honest there are mixed messages. The official stance by the American Dental Association is that there is insufficient evidence to deem it safe at the moment.


The Verdict

Rubbing alcohol is not the best option for brushing your teeth with because it doesn't clean or whiten them very well. It lacks a lot of the properties of regular toothpaste so we'd have to say that it is ineffective as one.


We recommend finding an alternative option instead. If you really want something natural, either a hydroxyapatite based one or even pure baking soda would be a better choice. If you really want to whiten your teeth, you should consider professional teeth whitening with our dentists in Long Island City.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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