Medicines For Gum Disease 

Gum disease, which includes conditions like gingivitis and periodontitis, is a common oral health issue. While gingivitis, caused by plaque bacteria, can be addressed and reversed if caught early, neglecting it can lead to advanced issues such as periodontitis, gum recession, and loss of teeth.

If you have gingivitis or periodontitis, you may be wondering if there are any medicines for treating gum disease quickly.

The good news is that there are a number of gum disease medicines, such as antimicrobial agents and antibiotics. However, with the exception of toothpaste, their use is limited and they are only effective when used in combination with good oral hygiene using off-the-shelf dental products to disrupt plaque bacteria. In some cases, professional gum health treatments and/or advanced surgical procedures are also required.

Below we discuss the different types of medicines and their role and limitations in the treatment of gum disease.


Chlorhexidine is a disinfectant and antiseptic (1) that’s been used externally in several areas of healthcare since the 1950s (2). In dental medicine, it works by killing the bacteria in the mouth and forming a protective antibacterial layer over the teeth and gums to prevent plaque buildup for up to 12 hours (3).

You will see it referred to as either chlorhexidine gluconate (USA) or chlorhexidine digluconate (UK) on a number of formulations including.

  • Mouthwash: In the UK it’s sold under the brand names Corsodyl and Wisdom Chlorhexidine. It is available to buy off the shelf without a prescription. However, in the USA it is a prescription-only treatment branded as Paroex, Peridex, and Periogard. 
  • Gel: A 1% chlorhexidine gel is also available on prescription in the USA or in the UK at the discretion of a pharmacist.  (6).
  • PerioChip: A small chip containing 2.5mg chlorhexidine is placed into periodontal pockets that are 5mm or bigger. These are only available via a dental professional (7) and more recent studies have found them ineffective as the natural fluid within gum pockets flushes them away.

These products are often combined with heavy metals such as zinc which are reported to inhibit the growth of dental plaque and impede tartar formation (5).

When To Use

Chlorhexidine has been shown to be more effective when used to treat gingivitis (4) and dentists only tend to recommend that chlorhexidine is used when all plaque and tartar have been removed and periodontitis is under control. Its use is only indicated for a very short period of time for a number of reasons. 

Chlorhexidine is known to cause

  • temporary staining of the teeth
  • temporary discoloration of the tongue
  • damage to the mouth lining
  • tartar build-up
  • impaired taste

Also, it has not been possible to exclude a possible carcinogenic effect so the use of chlorhexidine has been limited to a maximum of six months by The US Food and Drug Administration [8].  


Antibiotics including doxycycline, metronidazole, tetracycline, and minocycline are used in a very small number of people with gum disease. The antibiotics work by reducing or temporarily destroying the bacteria that cause gum disease.

Due to the worldwide concern about antibiotic resistance, they are only used in limited cases.

Antibiotics to treat gun disease are available in a range of formulations including

Systemic Antibiotics

These are oral antibiotics that work throughout the entire body. They are only recommended in a very small number of cases when there is aggressive periodontitis. When prescribed they are used for a very short period of time and only in combination with good oral hygiene and /or professional dental therapies. 

Antibiotic Gels, Fibers, Or Chips

These topical antibiotics can be more effective than oral antibiotics. They are placed into periodontal pockets and the medicine is released slowly over a number of days, reducing the bacterial load. They can be useful when used in conjunction with specialist gum health treatments (e.g. root planing and scaling or deep cleaning). Some of these topical antibiotic treatments include:

  • Doxycycline gel (Atridox)
  • Minocycline hydrochloride (Arestin)
  • Chlorhexidine chips (PerioChip)

Find out what our dentists think about these antibiotic chips.

Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (paracetamol) might be recommended to alleviate pain associated with gum inflammation or after advanced professional gum health treatments.


Some toothpastes have been formulated with ingredients to help fight gum disease. Using toothpaste that contains stannous fluoride and has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance can be beneficial.

Read more about the best toothpaste for gum disease

Novel Medicines

New methods and alternative medicines for treating gum diseases are being investigated and trialled all the time. Some of these treatments include oral microbiota replacement therapy and probiotic therapy, anti-virulence agents and microbial proteases. Drugs which modify the immune system like Resveratrol, Metformin, Gliclazide and curcumin have also been investigated. However, it is still very early days for these potential treatments.

Alternative Medicines

Alternative medicine encompasses various traditional healing practices, including homoeopathy, Ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine. Others choose to use other natural methods. While many individuals attest to their benefits, there is often limited scientific evidence to conclusively support their efficacy. Despite this, some choose to incorporate these alternative treatments as complementary therapies alongside conventional measures, such as good oral hygiene, believing that a combined approach may offer holistic benefits.

What Is The Best Medicine To Treat Gum Disease?

Sadly there is no quick fix, there is no magic pill that you can take (yet). Apart from toothpaste, the use of medicines in the treatment of gingivitis and periodontitis is limited and only effective when used in combination with good oral hygiene.

The best way to treat gum disease is by disrupting the plaque each day by twice daily brushing and cleaning the interdental spaces. Regular professional gum health treatments to remove plaque and tartar from below the gum line and smoothen the root surfaces are also essential in the prevention and maintenance of the disease. More advanced cases might require surgical intervention.

Additionally, lifestyle changes, such as avoiding smoking, eating a well-balanced healthy diet and maintaining blood sugar levels all play a crucial role.

If you have concerns about gum disease, consult with a dentist or periodontist.

If you don’t have access to a dentist or are looking for advice on treating gum disease at home without a dentist you can find lots of useful information on our home page.

Beat Gum Disease Now

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the dentist prescribe medication for gum disease?

Dentists can prescribe chlorhexidine and antibiotics but they are only used in a limited number of cases in combination with good oral hygiene and professional gum health treatments and surgeries.

What is the drug of choice for periodontal disease?

There is no drug of choice. In most cases disrupting the bacteria daily is the best way to improve oral health.

Sharon Fyles image

Written by Sharon Fyles

Periodontitis Expert & Writer

Sharon Fyles, BSc (Hons, SW), MSc, Dip,  is a Manchester-based expert dental writer specialising in periodontal diseases and their treatment.


Medically Reviewed and Verified by Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons), MFDS (RCPS Glasgow)

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