Chlorhexidine - Use | Dose | Side Effects

This article was medically reviewed by M.Pharm, Marko Tanaskovic on August 12, 2018. To read more about an author, click here.

Chlorhexidine is a drug used as a topical antiseptic in the form of a solution for rinsing the mouth. It has antibacterial effect and prevents the formation of dental plaque - the main cause of dental caries. Chlorhexidine is used to improve the oral cavity hygiene, for the treatment and prevention of bleeding gums, for the treatment of canker sores (painful sores in the mouth) as well as for the prevention of fungal infections of the oral cavity, especially in people who wear dentures.


Chlorhexidine should not be used in the following situations:

  • In children under the age of 12 unless recommended by your dentist
  • After tooth extraction
  • In patients with ulcer-necrotic gingivitis

Chlorhexidine must not be used elsewhere in the body other than the mouth.

It can be used only for short periods of time. Do not swallow the solution, and make sure that the solution does not come in contact with the eyes.

This drug should not be used after tooth extraction, because if the solution comes in contact with the bones it can cause necrosis of the alveolar bone!

Chlorhexidine can often cause a dark discoloration of the teeth and tongue, which create aesthetic problems in patients. This can be prevented by regular maintenance of oral hygiene and by avoiding drinking coffee and tea. Dark discoloration is usually reversible phenomenon and quickly subsides after cessation of this drug.

Dark discoloration occurs more frequently if you consume foods rich in tannins, such as:

  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Cranberries
  • Strawberries
  • Coffee
  • Tea

Chlorhexidine, pregnancy and breastfeeding

The FDA classified this drug into the group B (which means that there are not enough well-controlled clinical studies that prove the safety of this drug during pregnancy), while the Australian TGA classified this drug into the group A (which means that the drug is completely safe for application during pregnancy). Consult your gynecologist and dentist before you start applying this drug during pregnancy.

It can be used during breastfeeding as long as you avoid swallowing of the solution.

How to apply Chlorhexidine

Chlorhexidine exists in the form of mouthwash solutions (mouth rinse). Do not dilute the solution. Do not brush your teeth or eat any food half an hour after application of this solution.

Measure 15 ml of solution, gargle for a minute and then spit it out. The solution can be applied twice a day, in the morning and in the evening.

Therapy can last from 7-30 days.

Children under the age of 12 should not use this solution.

Side effects

Chlorhexidine may cause the following side effects:

  • Pain in the mouth
  • Swelling of the mouth
  • Irritation of the mouth
  • Dark discoloration of teeth or tongue
  • Desquamation of the mucous membranes of the oral cavity
  • Allergic reaction

If you notice pain or swelling in the mouth, immediately stop using this medicine and call your doctor.

Information on this website are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.

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