If you’re being treated for gum disease, have issues maintaining oral health, or are having certain dental procedures performed, your dentist might prescribe you a special antibacterial oral rinse containing chlorhexidine.
Chlorhexidine, short for chlorhexidine gluconate, is a compound that binds to the tooth surface and soft tissues of your mouth to block bad bacteria from forming there. It’s great for eliminating the types of bacteria that cause or worsen gum disease, and is also prescribed for people who need help controlling gum inflammation, plaque buildup, or need a sort of “deep clean” for their mouth—especially after intensive periodontal procedures such as tooth scaling and root planing.
Despite its many benefits, chlorhexidine does have a troublesome side effect: it can cause brown or yellowish stains on the teeth. It can be frustrating to improve the health of your teeth at the expense of their appearance, so follow these simple steps to help prevent chlorhexidine staining.
1. Brush and floss at least twice per day. This is a simple, but very important step. The easiest way to keep your teeth white is to practice good oral hygiene. Daily care prevents the buildup of bad bacteria, plaque, and tartar that can further discolor your teeth. Toothpastes that contain baking soda can help whiten your teeth, and flossing after each meal helps your whole mouth stay clean and healthy. Brushing with an electric toothbrush can also be very effective for polishing the plaque away.
Sometimes chlorhexidine is prescribed to patients who have a difficult time maintaining their oral hygiene and require a deep clean. Regular brushing and flossing will work toward maintaining the cleanliness and healthy look of your teeth after chlorhexidine.
2. Stop or minimize your coffee, tea, cola, red wine consumption. For the duration of the time you use chlorhexidine, make sure to minimize your intake of food and beverages that are likely to stain your teeth. Check here for a longer list of foods that could cause discoloration. If you are craving a drink that could stain your teeth, try to reduce the amount of contact by sipping it through a straw.
3. Don’t smoke. Tar and nicotine are some of the biggest causes of tooth discoloration out there. Smoking while using this mouthwash will only exacerbate the staining—plus, smoking is proven to have negative effects on your oral hygiene in general.
4. Ask your dentist for alternative antibacterial mouth washes or treatments if you have tooth crowns or caps made from composite or glass particles, as light-colored crowns and caps can stain easily.
5. Only use chlorhexidine for up to 2 weeks, unless otherwise prescribed by your dentist. Chlorhexidine mouthwash is not meant to be a permanent solution and your dentist will likely only prescribe it for 1-2 weeks to give your teeth, gums, and soft tissues a deep clean. Within the 2 week timeframe, the staining side effect shouldn’t be too severe as long as you brush and floss.
There are a thousand different tooth whitening products out there—toothpastes, oral rinses, strips, trays—but only your dentist will be able to recommend the best product or treatment for your particular teeth. If you have just undergone treatment for gum disease, it’s imperative that you consult your dentist before beginning any serious tooth whitening treatments. Your teeth might be extra sensitive following your treatment.
Some patients need professional whitening treatments, and some experience hardly any staining as a result of chlorhexidine mouthwash. It all depends on your mouth—and your oral hygiene. To learn more, contact us at My Family Dentistry to meet with Dr. Wes Mullins and our caring, experienced team.