Updated on February 22, 2024
3 min read

Cetylpyridinium Chloride in Mouthwash: Is It Good for Teeth?

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Key Takeaways

  • Cetylpyridinium chloride, or CPC, is a chemical compound used as an active ingredient in many oral rinses for its antimicrobial properties.
  • It reduces oral bacteria in your mouth, lowering your risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay.
  • CPC is safe to use in therapeutic mouthwashes. You may experience light burning in your gums or a bitter taste after using it.
  • Always consult your dentist to decide what oral hygiene products are right for you.

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What is Cetylpyridinium Chloride (CPC)?

Cetylpyridinium chloride, also known as CPC or cetyl chloride, is a chemical compound used as an active ingredient in:

  • Over-the-counter toothpaste
  • Oral rinses
  • Other oral hygiene products

It has antimicrobial properties that help prevent gum disease and remove dental plaque. It penetrates the cell membrane of bacteria, causing cell components to leak, eventually killing them.

person pouring mouthwash into cap

What are the Types of Mouth Rinses?

There are two main categories of mouthwashes: cosmetic and therapeutic. Each offers its own specific set of benefits.

Cosmetic Mouthwash

Cosmetic mouthwashes typically focus on teeth whitening or breath freshening. They offer a short-term solution to minor esthetic complaints, like bad breath or a slimy mouthfeel.

They usually don’t contain microbial agents such as CPC, which benefit long-term oral hygiene.

Therapeutic Mouthwash

Therapeutic mouthwashes contain active ingredients like CPC to prevent dental issues like gum disease and tooth decay.

Many studies have documented that CPC mouth rinses significantly reduce plaque and gingival inflammation compared to products that don’t contain it.11 

Many alcohol-free mouthwashes contain CPC as well. Alcohol-free CPC mouthwashes may not produce a burning sensation or a bitter taste after use.

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How Should You Choose a Mouthwash?

Ask your dentist about using oral rinses in your dental hygiene routine. You may decide to use a mouthwash to control oral cavity bacteria or for cosmetic benefits. 

No matter what type of mouthwash your dentist recommends, following their directions and the prescription label is essential.

Oral mouthwash does not replace the need for daily flossing and brushing twice a day. 

What Does Cetylpyridinium Chloride Do in Mouthwash?

Cetylpyridinium chloride is a beneficial antimicrobial ingredient in mouthwash.10 It works against the oral bacteria within dental plaque, which can decrease your risk of cavities.

Preventing the growth of bacteria also reduces your risk of developing gingivitis. Gingivitis leads to gum inflammation and bleeding in the oral cavity.

Using CPC-containing oral rinses ultimately helps you improve your overall oral health.

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Are CPC Mouth Rinses Safe to Use? 

Yes, cetylpyridinium chloride is usually safe to use in oral health products. However, you may experience some mild side effects from using CPC mouthwash, such as burning in the gums.

Frequent use of mouthwashes containing cetylpyridinium chloride can lead to minor brown staining on the teeth and tongue, as well as around dental restorations. However, staining is more likely to occur from prescription mouthwashes, such as chlorhexidine. 

CPC is only toxic in doses of one gram or more of pure CPC. Mouthwashes contain low, non-toxic concentrations of CPC, making these products far more beneficial than harmful. 

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Last updated on February 22, 2024
11 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 22, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Jafer, M., et al. . Chemical Plaque Control Strategies in the Prevention of Biofilm-associated Oral Diseases. The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, ResearchGate, 2016.
  2. White, D. “An alcohol-free therapeutic mouthrinse with cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) – the latest advance in preventive care: Crest Pro-Health Rinse.” American Journal of Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2005.
  3. Rahman, B., et al. “Comparative antiplaque and antigingivitis effectiveness of tea tree oil mouthwash and a cetylpyridinium chloride mouthwash: A randomized controlled crossover study.” Contemporary Clinical Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2014.
  4. Walker, W. “The Oral Cavity and Associated Structures.” Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations, National Library of Medicine, 1990.
  5. Lynch, M., et al. The effects of essential oil mouthrinses with or without alcohol on plaque and gingivitis: a randomized controlled clinical study. BMC Oral Health, Springer Nature, 2018.
  6. Arweiler, N., et al. “The Oral Microbiota.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, National Library of Medicine, 2016.
  7. Silva, M., et al. “A clinical investigation of the efficacy of a commercial mouthrinse containing 0.05% cetylpyridinium chloride to control established dental plaque and gingivitis.” The Journal of Clinical Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2009.
  8. Sreenivasan, P., et al. “Antimicrobial efficacy of 0·05% cetylpyridinium chloride mouthrinses.” The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers, 2013.
  9. Haps, S., et al.The effect of cetylpyridinium chloride-containing mouth rinses as adjuncts to toothbrushing on plaque and parameters of gingival inflammation: a systematic review.” International Journal of Dental Hygiene, National Library of Medicine, 2008.
  10. Teng, F., et al. “Cetylpyridinium chloride mouth rinses alleviate experimental gingivitis by inhibiting dental plaque maturation.” International Journal of Oral Science, National Library of Medicine, 2016.
  11. Witt, J., et al. “Comparative clinical trial of two antigingivitis mouthrinses.” American Journal of Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2005.
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