Chlorhexidine (CHX) is a commonly used antiseptic mouthwash, used by dental practitioners and the public, due to its antimicrobial effects. The aim of this article was to provide a narrative review of current antimicrobial uses of CHX relevant to dentistry in the context of oral diseases, highlighting need for further studies to support its safe and appropriate use.
Randomised controlled trials, systematic reviews and national (UK and US) guidelines were consulted where available, with search terms for each subject category entered into MEDLINE, PubMed, Google Scholar and the Cochrane database.
Some evidence existed to support adjunctive short-term use of CHX to manage dental plaque, and reduce clinical symptoms of gingivitis, dry socket, as well as reduce aerosolisation of bacteria. However, use must be weighed alongside the less desirable effects of CHX, including extrinsic staining of teeth, antimicrobial resistance to antiseptic agents and the rare, but fatal, allergic reactions to CHX. Conversely, evidence for the effectiveness of chlorhexidine to manage or prevent periodontitis, dental caries, necrotising periodontal diseases, peri-implantitis, and infections associated with extraction and aerosolised viruses remains less certain.
The use of CHX in dentistry and oral healthcare continues to be widespread and thus it is important that dental practitioners understand that, based on its differential mechanisms of action on different microbes, appropriate clinical and dental use of CHX should be oral disease specific. However, further scientific and clinical research is required before full recommendations can be made.