Medications for Periodontal Disease

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.

Medicines used to treat periodontal disease may be delivered in a number of ways, such 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

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 medicine may be used in combination with another drug. You can take metronidazole with food if the medicine 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 medicine may affect other prescription drugs—especially blood thinners. So, be sure that your doctor is aware of any medicines, 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 medicines, follow these general guidelines:

  • Take the medicine 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 medicines.
  • Plan ahead for refills if you need them.
  • Do not share your prescription medicine with anyone.
  • Medicines can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one medicine, 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.


Gum disease risk factors. American Academy of Periodontology website. Available at: Accessed August 17, 2016.
Gum (periodontal) disease. NIH SeniorHealth website. Available at:
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Accessed August 17, 2016.
Periodontal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Accessed August 17, 2016.
Periodontal (gum) disease: Causes, symptoms, and treatments. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research website. Available at:
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September 2013. Accessed August 17, 2016.
Periodontal treatments and procedures. American Academy of Periodontology website. Available at: Updated May 2011. Accessed August 17, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 4/6/2021

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