Antiseptic mouth rinses: an update on comparative effectiveness, risks and recommendations

J Dent Hyg. 2013 Feb;87(1):10-8. Epub 2013 Feb 5.


Purpose: Antiseptic mouth rinses are widely recommended and marketed to improve oral health. This article summarizes current studies on the comparative effectiveness of selected antiseptic mouth rinses in controlling plaque and gingivitis, as well as risks associated with daily exposure, including salivary flow rate, oral cancer and wear of composite restorations.

Methods: Electronic database searches were conducted using Google Scholar and PubMed to identify articles comparing the effectiveness of 4 commercially marketed antiseptic mouth rinses differing in active ingredients (0.12% chlorhexidine gluconate, essential oils (menthol, thymol and eucalyptol) and methyl salicylate, 0.7% cetylpyridinium chloride and 20% aloe vera gel) for controlling plaque and gingivitis. Criteria for inclusion included controlled clinical trials and systematic reviews appearing in English language publications evaluating the comparative effectiveness of the mouth rinses in controlling plaque and gingivitis, as well as risks associated with daily usage.

Results: The majority of studies have shown mouth rinses containing chlorhexidine gluconate or essential oils and methyl salicylate provide clinically significant anti-gingivitis and anti-plaque benefits. Cetylpyridinium chloride has been found to provide only limited clinical benefits compared to inactive control mouth rinse. Inadequate evidence is available to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of aloe vera gel. Chlorhexidine, essential oils and cetylpyridinium have been found to be safe. However, limited data are available on the effects of the mouth rinse on wear patterns of dental restorations. Studies reviewed reported no significant difference in salivary flow rate related to alcohol based mouth rinse.

Conclusion: Research supports the effectiveness of antiseptic mouth rinses in reducing plaque and gingivitis as an adjunct to home care. Insufficient evidence is available to support the claim that oral antiseptics can reduce the risk of developing periodontitis or the rate of progression of periodontitis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / adverse effects
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / therapeutic use*
  • Dental Plaque / prevention & control
  • Dental Restoration Wear
  • Gingivitis / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Mouth Neoplasms / etiology
  • Mouthwashes / adverse effects
  • Mouthwashes / therapeutic use*
  • Oral Health*
  • Risk Factors
  • Saliva / drug effects


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Mouthwashes