Active Ingredients

Chlorhexidine – Effect, Application & Risks


Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic . It has far-reaching antibacterial effects and is mainly used in dentistry .

What is chlorhexidine?

Chlorhexidine belongs to the group of polyguanides. It is an antibacterial agent. As it does not dissolve well in water, it is not suitable as a rinsing solution.

In the trade it is mostly offered as chloride or acetate . For medical applications, it is mainly available in the form of gluconate. In this state achieves the same effect as chlorhexidine. In neutral aqueous solution, the molecule has a double positive charge. It is mirror symmetric and has two benzene rings.

The drug is found to be readily soluble in organic solvents such as dichloromethane. It is available in the form of creams, gels, ointments or solutions for individual medical applications. Medicines containing chlorhexidine can be bought over the counter in pharmacies.

Pharmacological action

Chlorhexidine has extensive antibacterial properties. Because of its positive charge, it attracts bacteria with their negative charge.It also adheres to the body area treated for a long time, so that it shows a persistent and lasting depot effect. The antiseptic effectiveness occurs because the active substance inserts itself into the cell membranes of the bacteria and thereby destroys them. The details of the mechanism of action are currently being researched. So far, resistance to the substance has not been found in any type of pathogen.

The drug has little effect on enveloped viruses and none on non-enveloped viruses. It is not absorbed by the body through the mucous membranes. Almost 100% of chlorhexidine is excreted again without being metabolized.

Medical Application & Use

Chlorhexidine was originally used primarily for skin infections. Today it is mainly used in dentistry, for example for disinfection before and after operations.

For example, after a dental implant has been inserted, aftercare with the active ingredient reduces the risk of peri-implant inflammation. The drug is also used to treat bacterial gingivitis , periodontitis and bad breath . The concentration of the solutions used in dentistry is between 0.03 and 2 percent. To prevent tooth decay, it is advisable to dab the teeth with an appropriate gel or to apply it with the help of a splint. The medicine is also available as a varnish that is applied to the teeth.

Due to the long adhesion, it continuously releases the active ingredient for three to four months. Sprays, gels and chips are also available. The active ingredient is also used as an ingredient in mouthwash solutions as part of oral hygiene . Comparative studies on the effect of antibacterial solutions show that these solutions are superior to other products.

When cleaning dentures , too, it has proven to be advantageous to regularly store the dentures in a chlorhexidine digluconate solution at night at certain intervals. In this way, the germs that cause prosthesis-related inflammation of the mucous membranes are reduced. The active ingredient has other possible uses in the field of wound care . Plasters , ointments and healing powders with the active ingredient for disinfection are offered. Chlorhexidine is also used for bacterial throat infections.

Risks & side effects

Prolonged use of chlorhexidine may result in few side effects. However, these phenomena turn out to be completely reversible in most cases. Side effects can occur: sensory disturbances , brownish deposits on teeth and in the oral cavity.In rare cases, delayed wound healing or desquamation of the epithelial layer occur. If a mouthwash solution containing chlorhexidine is used for a longer period of time, it may be advisable to use it alternately weekly with another preparation in order to avoid brownish deposits on teeth and tongue .

When used in combination with certain substances, the antiseptic is inactivated. The use of sodium lauryl sulfate, for example, leads to a loss of function. For this reason, the active ingredient should be taken at a large interval after using sodium lauryl sulfate-containing toothpaste or mouthwash. Iodine and triclosan are also agents that inactivate chlorhexidine.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.