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Chlorhexidine Gluconate Oral Rinse: What Is It?

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If you have been prescribed chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash, chances are your dentist has told you that you have a mild form of gum disease called gingivitis. It might seem a little scary, but this medicated mouthwash could be a simple solution to getting your smile back on track to health and confidence. Chlorhexidine gluconate oral rinse contains a chemical called chlorhexidine, which destroys harmful mouth bacteria, treats gingivitis and promotes the healing of inflamed gums.

What Do Chlorhexidine Gluconate Mouthwashes Treat?

Chlorhexidine gluconate is used to treat gingivitis, another name for mild gum disease. Symptoms can include bad breath and gum redness, swelling and bleeding. While brushing your teeth and gums twice per day and flossing once per day help prevent gingivitis, a medicated mouthwash may help reduce the symptoms when you're already in the early stages. However, according to the National Institute for Health Research, you shouldn't look to chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash to treat more advanced forms of gum disease.

How Does It Work?

When you rinse with chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash, the active ingredient chlorhexidine immediately works to destroy harmful mouth bacteria, even after you spit. The Cochrane Collaboration has found that both short-term and longer-term use of chlorhexidine mouthwash leads to a large reduction in plaque build-up, caused by mouth bacteria. The Cochrane Collaboration also indicates that chlorhexidine remains in the mouth after rinsing, so the chemical continues to destroy bacteria between uses.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash has a few possible side effects, like a change in taste, an increase in tartar build-up and staining of the teeth, gums and dental appliances. Not to worry, though. These side effects are usually very minor.

While severe side effects of using medicated mouthwash are rare, some people can experience swollen neck glands and irritation in the mouth and on the tip of the tongue. Call your dentist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms or you believe you might be experiencing an allergic reaction to the mouthwash.

Is It Safe?

Only use chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash if your doctor or dentist prescribes or recommends it. Under the guidance of a healthcare professional, the product is safe when used as directed. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, chlorhexidine mouthwash is not meant for anyone under the age of 12, so make sure to keep it out of reach of young children.

Though chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash is effective at killing mouth bacteria in mild cases of gum disease, it's not a substitute for regular brushing and flossing for total oral health. Along with daily flossing, try brushing with a toothbrush that has curved, soft outer bristles to clean the gumline and firmer inner bristles to effectively clean teeth.

If you are ready to take steps towards gum health, chlorhexidine gluconate oral rinse could be the perfect first step. Talk to your dentist about your options, and they will be able to help you find the solution that fits your smile best.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.