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Keywords:

  • chlorhexidine;
  • plaque

Abstract Controversy exists concerning the mode of action of chlorhexidine in plaque inhibition. This study attempted to determine whether an oral reservoir of chlorhexidine was necessary for plaque inhibition. Plaque growth on enamel under the influence of topically applied or rinsed chlorhexidine was closely monitored by clinical scoring, bacterial culturing and scanning electron microscopy. Thus, 3 subjects wore removable acrylic appliances containing enamel inserts. In the first regimen, inserts on one side of the appliances were exposed to 0.2% chlorhexidine and on the other, water for 1 min twice a day for 14 days. In the second regimen, subjects rinsed with 0.2% chlorhexidine for 1 min twice a day for 14 days with the appliances in situ. Results demonstrated that plaque growth assessed by the 3 study methods was very small on chlorhexidine-treated inserts by comparison with water-treated specimens. Importantly, inserts treated with chlorhexidine topically or by rinsing could not be distinguished by any method of evaluation. It is concluded that chlorhexidine achieves plaque inhibition as a result of an immediate bactericidal action during the time of application and a prolonged bacteriostatic action as a result of adsorption to the pellicle coated enamel surface. Consistent with other clinical studies, it is apparent that a progressively desorbing oral reservoir of antiseptic is not the mechanism by which chlorhexidine achieves plaque inhibition on teeth.