What is chlorhexidine digluconate?

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Chlorhexidine digluconate is a powerful antimicrobial agent. It is notable for its effectiveness for killing a wide range of bacteria, including both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria (the two largest classes of bacteria). It is also an effective anti-fungal and anti-spore agent.

Chlorhexidine digluconate is commonly used as an active ingredient in germicidal mouthwash, pet shampoo, surgical lubricants and wipes, and hand soap.


Chlorhexidine digluconate is a non-solid, water-soluble antimicrobial agent composed of carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, nitrogen and oxygen.

In its most common commercially available form, chlorhexidine digluconate is provided as a 20 per cent aqueous solution. Higher concentrations up to 50 per cent are possible, although difficult to handle due to the compound's high viscosity. Lower concentrations around 0.5 per cent are available for use as a hand sanitiser or contact lens solution.

Dental Uses

Among the most common uses of chlorhexidine digluconate is as an oral antiseptic. Since the compound is an effective antimicrobial agent, use as a mouthwash reduces the amount of bacteria in the mouth.

Chlorhexidine digluconate is particularly effective as an oral antiseptic because it is absorbed by tooth surfaces and thus provides long-lasting protection.

In addition to its common use a mouthwash, chlorhexidine digluconate is used as an antiseptic rinse before, during and after periodontal procedures.

Antiseptic uses

Chlorhexidine digluconate is used as a non-dental antibacterial solution. It is effective against a wide range of bacteria, including both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria (the two primary classes of bacteria). It is also effective as an anti-fungal, anti-spore and antiviral agent.

Common non-dental uses of chlorhexidine digluconate include use as a topical antiseptic, antibacterial hand rinse and pre-surgical scrub.

Animal uses

Chlorhexidine digluconate is used for several veterinary purposes. As a topical disinfectant for pet and livestock wounds, it has been demonstrated to be more effective than povidone-iodine and saline. It is also an active ingredient in pet shampoos, teat dips, skin treatments, and lubricants made from animal fat.

Advantages and Disadvantages

One of the primary advantages of chlorhexidine digluconate is the persistence of its antimicrobial properties. When used orally, chlorhexidine digluconate is absorbed into the teeth and thus provides extended protection against oral bacteria such as gingivitis. When used topically, it both kills bacteria and contact and has a lingering residual effect, preventing bacteria from regrowing on the application site.

Potential side effects of chlorhexidine digluconate use include staining and yellowing of teeth after prolonged oral use and the potential for skin sensitivity after topical use.