This double-blind, controlled, cross-over, clinical study evaluated the effect of preprocedural rinsing with an antiseptic mouthrinse on the level of recoverable viable bacteria in an aerosol generated during a typical dental procedure. Eighteen subjects participated. Following 24 hours of abstention from all oral hygiene procedures, subjects received a 10-minute ultrasonic scaling of a randomly selected one-half of their mouth which served as the unrinsed control. They were then randomly assigned either antiseptic mouthwash or a control rinse and rinsed with 20 ml for 30 seconds, after which the remaining half mouth (experimental side) was scaled ultrasonically for 10 minutes. During each 10-minute scaling period aerosolized bacteria were collected on a sterile filter using a modified vacuum air-sampling device. Microbes captured on the sterile filter were quantitated by overlaying the filters onto trypticase soy agar, incubating the filters aerobically at 37 degrees C for 24 to 72 hours, and counting the resulting colony forming units (CFU). Preliminary experiments had confirmed that neither the collection method nor residual antiseptic mouthwash in the aerosol adversely affected the number of viable bacteria recovered from the filter. Rinsing with the antiseptic mouthwash produced a 94.1% reduction in recoverable CFUs compared to the non-rinsed control, while the control rinse produced a 33.9% reduction. The difference between the mouthwash and control was statistically significant (P < .001). This study indicates that preprocedural rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash can significantly reduce the microbial content of aerosols generated during ultrasonic scaling and may have potential in-office use as part of an infection control regimen.