Does mouthwash stain teeth?: The ugly truth unrevealed

Many of us rely on a variety of dental hygiene tools to maintain healthy teeth and beautiful smile, including soft toothbrushes, fluoride toothpastes, mouthwashes, and floss. However, sometimes these products fail to deliver the desired results or even lead to unintended oral health issues. Mouthwash is one such product that can cause confusion due to its potential to create stains on teeth. So, does mouthwash really stain teeth? Or better formulate the question: Do mouthwashes have ingredients that stain teeth?

In this article, we will search for the answers to these questions with you. After we understand the problem, we’ll also look for the safer uses of these mouthwashes and mouthwash stain removal techniques. So, let’s see how does mouthwash stain teeth.

Could your mouthwash be staining your teeth?

Even if you brush your teeth regularly and use mouthwash, you may notice yellow and brown stains forming, especially around the edges of your teeth. This yellowing and plaque buildup are signs that indicate you may have a discoloration problem.

Yellow and brown stains on your teeth can sometimes be caused indirectly by the use of certain mouthwashes. Your best companion against bad breath can do such things sometimes. If you are witnessing plaque buildup, it may be due to overuse of your mouthwash. In this case, what you need to do is to leave your mouthwash as soon as possible and then see a dentist. In the case of non-plaque stains, you can also talk to your dentist to analyze the situation and find a solution.

Which mouthwash stains teeth?

They may be your protectors against tooth decay, but they may also cause undesirable stains on your teeth. But how can we know which one is safer, in terms of tooth discoloration, or which one is risky? How can we distinguish them? Of course by analyzing the real reason behind this situation. First, we have to know the mouthwash ingredients that stain teeth.

So we can mention two ingredients in mouthwash known for staining: chlorhexidine gluconate and cetylpyridinium chloride. So let’s see how this hard-to-remember scientific stuff stains your teeth, but before we go, we have to give some information. Tooth stains can occur in two ways: 

You’ll be happy to get this knowledge soon. So let’s start.

Cetylpyridinium chloride mouthwash

Cetylpydinium chloride mouthwashes are over-the-counter mouthwashes that are used to reduce plaque build-up. It is a very effective agent if used alongside brushing and flossing to have pearly white teeth. However, some people experience staining after the use of this mouthwash. But don’t need to worry because of the following two facts.

The first one is it’s not a big possibility to experience such problems. Only 3% of the users experience such things. The second one is about how these stains occur. Actually, cetylpyridinium is not the direct cause of these stains. It only kills germs and dead germs stain your tooth surface. Like many many dead bodies lying on your tooth, it is quite normal to get some dirt from it. The good news is it’s just a surface stain aka extrinsic stain. That means you can easily remove them with a professional dental cleaning.

Chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash

The people who experience staining because of chlorhexidine are much more than the ones who experience it because of cetylpyridinium. But it can happen only in long-term use. Chlorhexidine mouthwashes are strong antiseptic mouth rinses that are effective against both bacteria and fungus. These are prescribed mouthwashes that you can not buy without a doctor’s permission.

Chlorhexidine is a strong agent that kills almost all germs in your mouth, but it can also destroy good germs that prevent the growth of bad bacteria and plaque. Long-term use can result in more plaque buildup, tooth discoloration, and staining. Follow the instructions and avoid overuse to prevent these effects. 

What should I look for in a mouthwash that doesn’t stain teeth?

In fact, most mouthwashes are safe. They won’t stain your teeth. You only need to look at the table of contents to understand which of them they are. There is no evidence that mouthwashes that do not contain chlorhexidine gluconate or cetylpydinium chloride cause staining on your teeth. However, it is useful to mention that high alcohol mouthwashes can cause various problems such as dry mouth.

How to remove mouthwash stains from teeth

Tooth stains caused by mouthwash can be cleaned with a proper method as they are just surface stains. That’s why you have simple options to get rid of them, in-office dental cleaning and teeth whitening. A deep cleaning performed by a professional can restore your teeth to their former whiteness. If it’s not enough, the dentist can also show their magic with whitening agents. 

But of course, the best solution is to never experience the problem. So, how can we prevent this from happening? The main tip here is to follow the doctor’s advice. Do not overuse such products. For example, the maximum time for chlorhexidine use is 4 weeks and if you’re not using it for gum disease or similar serious problems, probably you should use it for a shorter amount of time.

Plus, you should never neglect to brush and floss. You should maintain daily oral hygiene routines. That’s how you can prevent both the plaque formation caused by mouthwash and the dead bacteria killed by mouthwash to stain your teeth. 


Zanatta FB, Antoniazzi RP, Rösing CK. Staining and calculus formation after 0.12% chlorhexidine rinses in plaque-free and plaque covered surfaces: a randomized trial. J Appl Oral Sci. 2010 Sep-Oct;18(5):515-21. doi: 10.1590/s1678-77572010000500015. PMID: 21085810; PMCID: PMC4246385. Link