Can I re-use chlorhexidine mouthwash?
December 7, 2013 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Will the bacterial properties still be effective?

My dentist gave me a sample bottle to use for gingivitis. I'm wondering, after I use it to swish my mouth, can I spit it back into the bottle and re-use it? It seems to me that the anti-bacterial properties would still work, and the bottle would last much longer. My insurance doesn't pay for the chlorhexidine.
posted by ragtimepiano to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're looking for validation for your bad idea, you will not find it here. Do not reuse mouthwash.
posted by cellphone at 11:08 AM on December 7, 2013 [30 favorites]

When you spit it back into the bottle, you're also including a lot of your own saliva. This is a bad idea.
posted by dmd at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2013

Antibiotics and bacteriocides work because chemical components or chemical properties interact with the bacteria to kill it or prevent it from multiplying. Once those properties have been used, they are not available to use again.

Chlorhex mouthwash works by having a positive chemical charge that is attracted to the negative charge of a bacteria. The binding of the two kills the bacteria, but that positive chemical charge is no longer available to kill other bacteria. Info from here:

Perhaps see if your dentist can supply you with more sample bottles?
posted by Pantengliopoli at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

no. no, nonono, you can't. the chances of reintroducing bacteria into the bottle and contaminating it out weigh anything else. i've used chlohexidine and it's really strong and effective but it's for short term use only. it can badly stain your teeth with over use, besides, it's not a good idea to regularly use something that strips all the bacteria out of your mouth, good and bad. it's prescribed for acute infections and once those are cleared up you shouldn't continue using it. once the initial infection is done you should get on a regular flossing schedule or if it's easier try The Doctor's Brush Picks which i find much less of a hassle to use if i'm not at home and when i use them diligently my dental hygienist always compliments me and tells me to keep doing whatever it is i'm doing.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 11:28 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, don't do that. Mouthwash is single-use only. See if your dentist will give you a big pile of sample bottles, he or she may get that stuff by the case as a promotional thing and have more than she/he knows what to do with. It's also possible that someone in your dentist's practice may be able to find a way for you to buy it more cheaply, or there may be a cheaper alternative treatment that will work just as well. Talk to your dentist about your situation and see if he/she can help you out.
posted by Scientist at 11:38 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

And yeah, your gingivitis will probably come under control if you just get yourself on a good dental hygiene regimen. Brush thoroughly twice a day, floss once a day, religiously. Keep using the mouthwash until it's gone, but it's really the brushing and flossing that is key. Even without the mouthwash, brushing and flossing properly will probably cure your gingivitis – although I would assume that there are some abnormal types of gingivitis that require more serious treatment, and if you think you may be in that situation then again you should talk to your dentist about it.

For what it's worth, these mouthwashes have been approved by the ADA as antiplaque/antigingivitis mouth-rinses, and as far as I can see most if not all of them are available without prescription. I would look for one that's not alcohol-based, as I've heard that alcohol-based mouthwashes (Listerine, for instance) can cause other types of damage to the mucous membranes of your mouth. If you can't find a way to get the chlorhexidine mouthwash affordably, perhaps you could switch to one of those once your sample runs out. Your dentist could probably advise you there as well!
posted by Scientist at 11:45 AM on December 7, 2013

Best answer: I don't think that's a good idea. You should ask your dentist if there are alternatives you can afford.

You can make the bottle last longer by dipping a soft (and clean and dry) toothbrush into the mouthwash and brushing it on instead of rinsing.
posted by zennie at 11:49 AM on December 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sorry for the serial posting, but things keep coming to me.

Another really important and simple thing you can do for your mouth (and your overall health) is to drink lots of plain water. Drinking plain water helps keep your mouth clean and free of food particles and sugars that plaque and other bacteria feed on, and staying hydrated will make sure that your mouth produces plenty of saliva. Your saliva contains lots of chemicals and enzymes that fight plaque and other pathogenic bacteria, and insufficient salivation is one of the major causes of tooth and gum disease. If you're chronically slightly dehydrated (which a great many people are without even realizing it) one of the first things that happens is your body decreases salivation to conserve fluids. Make sure your body is always topped off with plenty of water, and make it plain water with no sugars or acids in it that could contribute to tooth decay. It's good for you in general, but it's specifically very good for your teeth and gums.

And you can use your mouthwash sparingly. You don't need to flood your whole mouth with it, you just need to make sure that it's coating your gums and sits there for a minute or two so that it has a chance to do some work. Just a sip is probably plenty if you're careful to spread it around to where it needs to be.
posted by Scientist at 11:50 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can get Chlorhexidine Gluconate 0.12% soln (473ml bottle) at WalMart for $4. I'm not sure if that's a mouthwash (chlorhexidine is in lots of things for people and animals) but it's worth a call.
posted by Houstonian at 12:02 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you looked into online pharmacy options? That might be cheaper. Chlorhexidine is available OTC in some countries (the UK for example) so that could be an option as well, albeit possibly illegal.
posted by goo at 12:03 PM on December 7, 2013

If you've actually got the prescription, I was just about to say, the mouthwash is incredibly cheap. Not all prescriptions cost an arm and a leg without insurance, thankfully.
posted by Sequence at 12:04 PM on December 7, 2013

Even when I buy it from the dentist, it only costs $15.00. And a full size bottle lasts a pretty long time.

I find Crest Pro-Health original blue color is a reasonable substitute, and less drying because it has no alcohol.
posted by monopas at 12:55 PM on December 7, 2013

You can also ask your dentist if you can use plain hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash, it's very cheap. I was told to use it after I had my wisdom teeth out. Please note you want to be very careful not to swallow any.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:48 PM on December 7, 2013

If you're going to dip the toothbrush, only do it once. Or better yet, spill out a small amount into a small dish (a leftover lid from something in the kitchen, maybe) and dip the toothbrush into that. Don't pour it back into the bottle when you're done.
posted by CathyG at 7:26 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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