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Does Chlorhexidine Gluconate Oral Rinse Whiten Teeth?

No, chlorhexidine gluconate oral rinse does not whiten your teeth because it doesn't possess the ability to bleach them whiter but it can stain them instead. The reason is because its sole purpose is to reduce bacteria in the mouth and one of the unfortunate side effects is tooth discoloration.


Chlorhexidine

Chlorhexidine doesn't whiten teeth

Chlorhexidine gluconate oral rinse doesn't whiten teeth because it isn't a whitening mouth rinse nor does it contain hydrogen peroxide. The combination of these two factors mean that it does not possess the ability to bleach your teeth whiter.


Key points:

  • It's a prescription rinse but it's not meant to whiten your teeth.

  • It lacks the quintessential ingredient (hydrogen peroxide) which bleaches your teeth.


Not a whitening mouthwash

Most obviously why chlorhexidine oral rinse doesn't whiten teeth is the fact that it doesn't list whitening anywhere on its label. You can look as hard as you want but you will not find the words whitening mouthwash on the label.


Chlorhexidine gluconate oral rinse directions for use on bottle
Label

Oral care products that can whiten teeth will have the word "whitening" on its label. It is a major selling point and manufacturers want to make sure that you know it can make your teeth whiter. These products will blatantly advertise the whitening potential.


optic white whitening mouthwash
whitening mouthwash

In summary, chlorhexidine is a prescription antibiotic rinse but it is not a whitening mouth rinse. If you wanted a mouthwash that can whiten, you should look for alternatives.


Mouthwashes that can whiten teeth:

  • Colgate Optic White Whitening Mouthwash

  • Crest 3D White Glamorous White Mouthwash

  • 3% Hydrogen peroxide


Doesn't contain peroxide

The primary reason why chlorhexidine doesn't make teeth whiter is because it lacks hydrogen peroxide. A commonality among all whitening products that work is that they all contain a form of peroxide.


Examples of whitening products with peroxide:

  • KoR Night Whitening

  • Opalescence BOOST

  • Colgate optic white pro series toothpaste


Hydrogen peroxide is the only ingredient in existence which can bleach your teeth whiter.

  • The breakdown of peroxide creates powerful oxidizing free radicals.

  • The free radicals diffuse through the tooth and oxidize all of the stains.

  • Oxidized stains will make the teeth appear whiter.


Ultimately, if your whitening product does not contain peroxide it will be an ineffective bleaching product. Since chlorhexidine does not have H2O2, it is an ineffective whitening mouth rinse.


What chlorhexidine does to teeth

Rather than making your teeth whiter, rinsing with chlorhexidine gluconate oral rinse will have other effects on them. This is due to the fact that it is not a whitening rinse because it is prescribed to treat other types of oral conditions that are not cosmetic in nature.


Key points:

  • Rather than whitening teeth, it stains them instead.

  • It's primary purpose is antimicrobial meaning it's used for infections.

  • Has a tendency to increase tartar build up which exacerbates teeth staining.


Causes teeth staining

Instead of whitening your teeth, using chlorhexidine long term may stain your teeth to a brown color. Yes, chlorhexidine teeth staining is a well known side effect.


Don't believe us? Just look at the precautions on the bottle's label (provided below).


Chlorhexidine label - adverse reactions
Adverse reactions label

In other words, rather than a whitening mouthwash, chlorhexidine is a staining mouthwash. Fortunately for you, the staining isn't permanent because it can be removed. Good oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings will get rid of the tooth staining. Although you may need a longer hygiene appointment to remove it.


How it causes staining

  • Chlorhexidine molecules are positively charged and they stick onto the enamel.

  • Stain moelcules are negatively charged so they are attracted to it.

  • Therefore, rinsing with this medicated solution will exacerbate staining of teeth.


What it can stain:

  • Dorsum of the tongue.

  • Dental restorations.


Anti-bacterial rinse

Chlorhexidine is meant to be used as an antiseptic and disinfectant rinse. In other words, its purpose is to kill bacteria and reduce their population count in order to prevent infections.


Oral conditions it is used to treat:

  • Gum disease (gingivitis & periodontitis).

  • Periodontal abscess.

  • Peri-implantitis.

  • Endodontic-periodontal lesions.

  • Dry socket


Most commonly, your dentist will prescribe this for you after a deep teeth cleaning or if you've had some type of gum infection. On the other hand, if you come in for a whitening consultation, this prescription rinse wouldn't even come up in the conversation.


Increases tartar build up

Another adverse effect of rinsing with chlorhexidine (CHX) is that it can increase the amount of calculus (tartar) build up on your teeth. The consequence of this is that it may contribute to additional teeth staining.


What studies show:

  • Repeated exposure of biofilm to CHX resulted in more calcium deposit.

  • Experimental groups experienced 5x as much calculus build up than control.

  • Ultimately, the rinse


Tartar or calculus have a tendency to pick up extrinsic stains from all of the foods and drinks that you eat. Therefore, if you drink a lot of red wine, coffee, or tea it may exacerbate the staining. If you smoke, the calculus will also pick up the staining from the tar smoke.


Takeaway

Unfortunately rinsing your mouth with chlorhexidine will not whiten your teeth because it's not a whitening mouthwash. It does not contain any peroxide so it lacks the ability to chemically bleach your dentition whiter.


What may happen instead is actually make your teeth less white since it has very potent enamel staining abilities. Yes, that is a well known adverse effect of this prescription oral rinse so if you were thinking of using it to make your teeth whiter, you may want to look elsewhere.


If you wanted an oral rinse that can whiten, it needs to contain hydrogen peroxide.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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