Can Listerine Cure Periodontitis?

You may have seen adverts that Listerine®  kills 99.9% of germs that cause bad breath, plaque, and gingivitis. You may also have seen advertising that Listerine will give you healthier gums when used in conjunction with brushing and flossing.

If you already have periodontitis or gingivitis, you may be wondering whether Listerine can cure it.

Unfortunately, Listerine alone cannot cure periodontitis or gingivitis. It could help when teamed up with ideal brushing and in-between cleaning, but certainly not on its own (1)

This post aims to explain why not and highlight the treatments which can cure gingivitis and effectively treat periodontitis. 

Can Listerine Cure Gum Disease?

can listerine cure gum disease

What is Listerine?

Listerine is an American brand of mouthwashes that was inspired by Joseph Lister (2). The company is now owned by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson. 

Currently, there are at least 27 different bottles of Listerine mouthwash to choose from (3). 

Some of these products have been specifically created to tackle bacteria that cause plaque the leading cause of gingivitis. 

The following mouthwashes are currently listed on Listerine’s website as products for gum disease:

  • LISTERINE® ULTRACLEAN®  Tartar Control Antiseptic Mouthwash COOL MINT®
  • LISTERINE® Total Care 10 in 1
  • LISTERINE® Advanced Defence Gum Treatment
  • LISTERINE® Naturals Gum Protect Mouthwash

The products available may depend on your location. 

Does Listerine Work?

Listerine has been in use since the 1900s and it has been the focus of much clinical research; more than thirty long-term studies have been conducted over the last forty years (4).

A review of the literature in 2018 concluded that there was strong evidence that mouth rinse containing essential oils (LISTERINE®) when used in conjunction with daily tooth brushing and interdental cleaning has anti-plaque and anti-gingivitis effects (5). 

However, whilst some of Listerine’s products can help prevent gum disease, they are not indicated to treat periodontitis.

When you look at what causes gingivitis and periodontitis it is easy to understand why Listerine cannot cure the disease

The Cause of Gingivitis and Periodontitis

The most common cause of gum disease is inflammation caused by bacterial growth in the mouth along the gum line around the teeth. 

A thin layer of bacteria known as biofilm accumulates on our teeth all day long. When this thin layer of bacteria is not removed by regular brushing and flossing it builds up and dental plaque can accumulate. 

Gingivitis occurs when plaque is allowed to accumulate on the teeth. When the plaque isn’t removed from the gumline it irritates the gums causing them to become red, swollen, inflamed, and may bleed. 

At this stage gum disease can be reversed when you adopt and maintain an excellent oral hygiene routine. 

However, if gingivitis isn’t effectively treated, reversed, and cured it can progress to periodontitis. 

The term periodontium refers to the tissues or structures around the tooth – the bone, ligaments, and gums.  

When you have periodontitis, plaque accumulates below the gum line on the tooth roots. Bacterial toxins and the body’s immune response as it tries to eliminate plaque and tartar causes the bone and ligaments to be broken down. The gums remain inflamed, swollen, and red. 

Contributing Factors

In addition to the plaque being allowed to build up, several things can increase your risk of plaque accumulating and thus gingivitis being initiated. 

Factors such as crooked teeth, family history, smoking, uncontrolled diabetes, hormones, stress, and underlying health conditions such as diabetes can lead to gum disease. 

Treatment for Gingivitis and Periodontitis

To effectively treat gingivitis and periodontitis, the underlying cause, plaque, needs to be removed. Plaque can only be done by manually brushing or scraping it off. It’s about mechanical cleaning, physically touching your teeth and gums with something. There is no magic cure, you can’t rinse it away or take a pill to make it dissolve. 

How to Remove the Plaque Causing Gingivitis

To remove plaque dentist recommended that you

  • Use the specially designed Gum Pocket Brush to clean into areas your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque from the gumline.
  • Use floss, interdental brushes, or a water flosser daily to remove plaque from between the teeth
  • Have a hygiene appointment to remove any plaque and tartar (hardened plaque on the gum line).
  • It is also a good idea to try and stop smoking, reduce stress and discuss underlying health conditions with your dentist. 

Knowledge is power where beating gum disease is concerned. Gum Disease: Solved online education tool arms you with the information to understand why you have gum disease and how you can beat it in only 10 minutes per day at home, without the need for costly and ineffective dental visits.

Beat Gum Disease Now

Treating Periodontitis

The goal of treating periodontitis is to remove the plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline. The majority of this is done at home with Daily Self-Performed Care. After all, at home cleaning is done twice daily, compared to 3-monthly appointments with your hygiene team. It’s imperative that your at-home cleaning is perfect.

Depending on how advanced the periodontitis is will depend on the exact treatment. Some advanced cases may require surgical treatments to clean the roots effectively. 

Can Listerine Cure Periodontitis?

If you have periodontitis, the only way to stop the disease from progressing further is to remove and prevent further build-up of plaque and tartar above and below the gumline with excellent oral hygiene in combination with help from a dental professional. 

Listerine cannot infiltrate the plaque and tartar and remove them. 

Using Listerine after Treating Periodontitis

As indicated by independent studies and the ADA (6), some of Listerine’s products may be useful in preventing gum disease when used in conjunction with brushing and flossing. However, this will only work if you have effectively treated the disease first. 

Can Any Mouthwash Cure Periodontitis?

No, the same as with Listerine you need to manually remove the plaque to cure periodontitis or gingivitis. 

How To Treat Gum Disease at Home

If you have gingivitis or periodontitis and need some advice on removing plaque at home in order to treat your gum disease we can help! 

Beat Gum Disease Now


  1. Lynch MC et al. The effects of essential oil mouthrinses with or without alcohol on plaque and gingivitis: a randomized controlled clinical study. BMC Oral Health 2018; 18: 6-15
  5. Alshehri FA. The use of mouthwash containing essential oils (LISTERINE®) to improve oral health: A systematic review. Saudi Dent J. 2018 Jan;30(1):2-6. doi: 10.1016/j.sdentj.2017.12.004. Epub 2017 Dec 19. PMID: 30166864; PMCID: PMC6112363.
Gareth Edwards image

Written by Gareth Edwards

Co-Founder & GDG Dentist

Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS (RCPS Glasgow) is GDG Co-Founder and Gum Disease Expert.

He is a practicing dentist based in Bournemouth, UK and has treated thousands of patients with gum-related diseases.

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