The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medicines listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your dentist or doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medicines as recommended by your doctor or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.

Medications used to treat periodontal disease may be delivered in a number of ways, including as:

  • Pills
  • Mouthwash
  • Tiny fibers, microchips, or microspheres that can be placed between the teeth or into deep gum pockets to slowly release the medicine into the surrounding area
  • Gels that can be placed into infected pockets in the gums
  • Custom-fit tray made from impressions of your mouth into which medicine is placed

Prescription Medications

  • Tetracycline
  • Metronidazole
  • Chlorhexidine gluconate

Other macrolide antibiotics such as azithromycin, minocycline, and doxycycline

Prescription Medications


Tetracycline is a type of antibiotic used to fight bacterial infections. Take this medication on an empty stomach with a full glass of water.

Certain over-the-counter products (such as, antacids, calcium supplements, iron) can reduce the effectiveness of tetracycline. Talk to your doctor about any supplements or prescription medicines that you are taking.

Possible side effects include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Increased sun sensitivity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vaginal yeast infection (women)
  • Decreased effectiveness of birth control pills

This antibiotic should be avoided in pregnant or nursing women and in children less than 8 years old.


Metronidazole is another kind of antibiotic that is used to treat chronic cases of periodontal disease. This medication may be used in combination with another drug. You can take metronidazole with food if the medication upsets your stomach.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Abnormal taste

Metronidazole should not be taken if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. This medication may affect other prescription drugs—especially blood thinners. So, be sure that your doctor is aware of any medications, including over-the-counter-products, that you are taking.

Chlorhexidine Gluconate

Chlorhexidine gluconate is another antibiotic that is used to prevent or treat periodontal disease. This medicine may be in the form of a mouthwash or a microchip.

Possible side effects include:

  • Mouth or lip irritation
  • Dry mouth
  • Abnormal taste

This medication should be avoided in nursing women, children, and teenagers.

Special Considerations

If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:

  • Take the medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medication.
  • Plan ahead for refills if you need them.
  • Do not share your prescription medication with anyone.
  • Medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one medication, including over-the-counter products and supplements.
  • If you are taking an antibiotic always follow directions for numbers of doses. It is important not to stop antibiotics early.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
  • Review Date: 09/2017 -
  • Update Date: 11/01/2017 -