Chlorhexidine decreases bacteria in your mouth but can cause unpleasant side effects, including a change in taste.

Chlorhexidine gluconate is a prescription germicidal mouthwash that decreases bacteria in your mouth.

A 2017 study suggests chlorhexidine is the most effective antiseptic mouthwash to date. Dentists primarily prescribe it to treat the inflammation, swelling, and bleeding that comes with gingivitis.

Chlorhexidine is available in the United States under the brand names:

  • Paroex (GUM)
  • Peridex (3M)
  • PerioGard (Colgate)

There are three side effects of using chlorhexidine to consider before using it:

  • Staining. Chlorhexidine might cause staining of tooth surfaces, restorations, and the tongue. Often, a thorough cleaning can remove any stains. But if you have a lot of anterior white fillings, your dentist might not prescribe chlorhexidine.
  • Alteration in taste. Come people experience an alteration in taste during treatment. In rare instances, permanent taste alteration is experienced after the treatment has run its course.
  • Tartar formation. You may have an increase in tartar formation.

If your dentist prescribes chlorhexidine, review how to use it thoroughly with them. Talk to your dentist about the following:

  • Allergic reactions. If you’re allergic to chlorhexidine, don’t use it. There’s a possibility of serious allergic reaction.
  • Dosage. Carefully follow your dentist’s instructions. The usual dosage is 0.5 fluid ounces undiluted), twice daily for 30 seconds.
  • Ingestion. After rinsing, spit it out. Don’t swallow it.
  • Timing. Chlorhexidine should be used after brushing. Don’t brush your teeth, rinse with water, or eat immediately after use.
  • Periodontitis. Some people have periodontitis along with gingivitis. Chlorhexidine treats gingivitis, not periodontitis. You’ll need separate treatment for periodontitis. Chlorhexidine might even make gum problems like periodontitis worse.
  • Pregnancy. Tell your dentist if you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. It hasn’t been determined whether or not chlorhexidine is safe for a fetus.
  • Breastfeeding. Tell your dentist if you’re breastfeeding. It hasn’t been determined whether chlorhexidine is passed to the baby in breastmilk or if it could affect the baby.
  • Follow up. Re-evaluate with your dentist whether the treatment is working at consistent intervals, waiting no longer than six months to check in.
  • Dental hygiene. The use of chlorhexidine isn’t a replacement for brushing your teeth, using dental floss, or regular visits to your dentist.
  • Children. Chlorhexidine isn’t approved for use by children under the age of 18.

Primary advantage

Chlorhexidine can kill the bacteria in your mouth that cause gum disease. This makes it an effective antiseptic mouthwash. Your dentist can prescribe it to treat the inflammation, swelling, and bleeding of gingivitis.

Primary disadvantages

Chlorhexidine may cause staining, alter your taste perception, and cause an increase in tartar.

Your dentist will help you weigh the advantages and disadvantages to help you make a decision that’s right for you.