Generic Name: chlorhexidine (klor-HEX-i-deen)
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Oct 21, 2020.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Antibacterial
Uses for chlorhexidine
Chlorhexidine is used to treat gingivitis. It helps to reduce the inflammation (redness) and swelling of your gums and to reduce gum bleeding.
Gingivitis is caused by the bacteria that grow in the coating (plaque) that forms on your teeth between tooth brushings. Chlorhexidine destroys the bacteria, thereby preventing the gingivitis from occurring. However, chlorhexidine does not prevent plaque and tartar from forming; proper tooth brushing and flossing are still necessary and important.
Chlorhexidine is available only with your dentist's or medical doctor's prescription.
Before using chlorhexidine
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For chlorhexidine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to chlorhexidine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Studies on chlorhexidine have been done only in adult patients, and there is no specific information comparing use of chlorhexidine in children with use in other age groups.
Many medicines have not been studied specifically in older people. Therefore, it may not be known whether they work exactly the same way they do in younger adults or if they cause different side effects or problems in older people. There is no specific information comparing use of chlorhexidine in the elderly with use in other age groups.
Studies in women suggest that this medication poses minimal risk to the infant when used during breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. Tell your healthcare professional if you are taking any other prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicine.
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of chlorhexidine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Front-tooth fillings (especially those having rough surfaces)—Chlorhexidine may cause staining that, in some cases, may be impossible to remove and may require replacement of the filling
- Gum problems (other)—Use of chlorhexidine may make other gum problems, such as periodontitis, worse
Proper use of chlorhexidine
Chlorhexidine oral rinse should be used after you have brushed and flossed your teeth. Rinse the toothpaste completely from your mouth with water before using the oral rinse. Do not eat or drink for several hours after using the oral rinse.
The cap on the original container of chlorhexidine can be used to measure the 15 mL (½ fluid ounce) dose of chlorhexidine. Fill the cap to the ``fill line.'' If you do not receive the dental rinse in its original container, make sure you have a measuring device to measure out the correct dose. Your pharmacist can help you with this.
Swish chlorhexidine around in the mouth for 30 seconds. Then spit out. Use the medicine full strength. Do not mix with water before using. Do not swallow the medicine.
The dose of chlorhexidine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of chlorhexidine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For oral rinse dosage form:
- For gingivitis:
- Adults—Use 15 milliliters (mL) as a mouth wash for 30 seconds two times a day.
- Children up to 18 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your dentist or medical doctor.
- For gingivitis:
If you miss a dose of chlorhexidine, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not double doses.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Precautions while using chlorhexidine
Chlorhexidine may have a bitter aftertaste. Do not rinse your mouth with water immediately after using chlorhexidine, since doing so will increase the bitterness. Rinsing may also decrease the effect of the medicine.
Chlorhexidine may change the way foods taste to you. Sometimes this effect may last up to 4 hours after you use the oral rinse. In most cases, this effect will become less noticeable as you continue to use the medicine. When you stop using chlorhexidine, your taste should return to normal.
Chlorhexidine may cause staining and an increase in tartar (calculus) on your teeth. Brushing with a tartar-control toothpaste and flossing your teeth daily may help reduce this tartar build-up and staining. In addition, you should visit your dentist at least every 6 months to have your teeth cleaned and your gums examined.
If you think that a child weighing 22 pounds (10 kilograms) or less has swallowed more than 4 ounces of the dental rinse, get emergency help at once. In addition, if a child of any age drinks the dental rinse and has symptoms of alcohol intoxication, such as slurred speech, sleepiness, or a staggering or stumbling walk, get emergency help at once.
Chlorhexidine side effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- Signs of allergic reaction (nasal congestion; shortness of breath or troubled breathing; skin rash, hives, or itching; or swelling of face
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- Change in taste
- increase in tartar (calculus) on teeth
- staining of teeth, mouth, tooth fillings, and dentures or other mouth appliances
Less common or rare
- Mouth irritation
- swollen glands on side of face or neck
- tongue tip irritation
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
More about chlorhexidine topical
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
- Dosage Information
- Compare Alternatives
- Pricing & Coupons
- 51 Reviews
- Drug class: antiseptic and germicides
- FDA Alerts (3)
- Patient Information
- Chlorhexidine topical
- Chlorhexidine Periodontal (Advanced Reading)
- Chlorhexidine Topical application (Advanced Reading)
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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.