FOSTER CITY (CBS 5) — A Bay Area woman said she lost her sense of taste for more than a week after using a popular alcohol-free mouthwash.

It’s one of hundreds of complaints that have been lodged against Crest Pro-Health Complete mouth rinse, which has been on the market since 2005.

Kate Steeper of Foster City tried the rinse two weeks ago, before bedtime. Steeper told CBS 5 ConsumerWatch, the next morning, “I woke up and I noticed I couldn’t taste my breakfast.”

She said her tongue felt strange as well. “It felt like when you eat pizza that’s too hot, like burning your tongue and then you can’t taste anything,” Steeper said. The Foster City woman said her sense of taste didn’t return to normal until eight days after using the rinse.

The Food and Drug Administration has received about 350 complaints about the mouth rinse. Reviewers on online retail sites such as Amazon have also posted criticisms about the product.

Most of the complaints are about a different side-effect: teeth staining. However, others have complained about the same mouth-numbing effects as Steeper.

Dentist Mark Ryder, director of periodontology at UCSF, said the rinse’s active ingredient is antiseptic called cetylpyridimium chloride (CPH). Ryder said studies show CPH is effective. He was also surprised to hear just how long Steeper’s taste-loss lasted.

“Sometimes it could last for minute, sometimes it could last for several hours. Some patients do notice that it does change their sense of taste, but their sense of taste does come back,” he said.

Crest told CBS 5 ConsumerWatch that the product, “may alter your taste, but it shouldn’t be permanent. And it is not a health issue.” As far as the staining is concerned, the company said the product can discolor plaque and germs already in the mouth and can be removed through brushing or professional care.

Steeper said Crest needs to do more. “At the very least, they should have a warning label on there,” she said.

Crest’s website said the mouthwash does not have a warning because “the active ingredient in Crest Pro-Health Rinse has been recognized as safe and effective by an FDA advisory panel. The label meets current FDA standards.”

ConsumerWatch contacted the FDA, which is currently looking into the matter.

Crest added that it does not have plans to put a warning label on the bottles and is willing to offer anyone who doesn’t like the mouth rinse a full refund.

Ryder suggests buying a trial-sized bottle of the mouthwash first to see how much you like it and how it affects your mouth and recommends reporting any ill-effects to the FDA.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (5)
  1. tn says:

    Stay with normal brushing (and after meals if possible), tongue scaping, flossing, regular dental visits, and curb your diet. That will minimize the bad breath your mate and friends are noticing. And check for tonsil stones…

  2. Diane Dodd says:

    Regarding the no taste issue, I too had a similar experience, however mine was from the toothpaste I believe……..Everything tasted like cardboard. lasted about a month before I went to the doctor….Nothing found, but put on antiobitics for 10 days & gradually I got my taste back. I had a very strong bitter taste in my mouth that wouldn’t go away..

    I changed mouth wash,& tooth paste .threw everythig out & started fresh…..

  3. Carol Abbott says:

    I too have had a taste issue, when using Crest pro health, which went on for quite a while. My mouth was irritated, nothing tasted right, noticed enhanced sense of saltiness. Went to the dentist, and Dr., had blood work done, with no results of any issues. This recent news article sheds light on what was wrong. Stopped using the rinse, and my taste seems to be back to normal. With so many complaints, something should be done about this issue. At minimum a warning so people know what to expect, to avoid wasting money on Dr appointments and tests.