Gingivitis is a very common, mild form of gum disease. A great percentage of the population experiences gingivitis at some point in life, and many are completely unaware they have it. When people do have symptoms, they are annoying at worst. If gingivitis is left unchecked, however, it will develop into a more serious gum disease, periodontitis. With this advanced gum disease, you can expect to lose teeth and perhaps friends. The pain will be much worse, and so will your breath. What’s more, it is now widely known in the medical community that people with gum disease are far more prone to heart attacks and stroke. So if you want to keep your teeth (and your life), take care of your gums. Fortunately, gingivitis is reversible. You can get rid of gingivitis by following a consistent, disciplined oral hygiene regimen and making a few lifestyle changes.
- Swollen, soft, sensitive gums
- Red gums (as opposed to healthy pink)
- Gums that bleed easily while brushing or flossing
- Bad breath
If you find that your teeth look longer (gums are receding), your bad breath won’t go away, your teeth are loose or moving, or pus is coming from your gums, it is likely that your gingivitis has progressed into a more serious gum disease. See a dentist immediately.
Get Rid of Gingivitis
First, get your teeth cleaned professionally. To get rid of gingivitis, you need to get rid of all the bacteria-laden plaque and tartar above and below the gum line. You really do want a dentist for this. Besides being out of reach, tartar can become nearly cement-like. Dentists have the tools and experience to get it out without causing trauma to the gums. I’m not pro-dentist or anything; they seem to golf far too often, and dental hygienists make too much money. However, everyone should go twice a year – more if you develop plaque quickly.
Floss once daily. The American Dental Association recommends flossing every day to prevent and get rid of gingivitis. Don’t get rough. Gently slide the floss between your teeth and scrape against each side, forming a “C” with the floss. Always be sure to go below the gum line. Floss top teeth first, and go from front to back. You will probably still bleed for some time before your gums heal. When you’re finished flossing, rinse, swish, and then brush your teeth to remove loosened plaque, bacteria, and filth.
Brush at least twice daily (and do it right). Use a soft, polished bristled tooth brush, a dab of toothpaste that does contain fluoride, and use gentle strokes. Use vertical strokes for behind teeth, short horizontal ones for the front, and hit the gum line at a 45degree angle. Brushing and flossing should take at least five minutes – don’t phone it in. You should always try to brush after meals, but if you can’t, chew on some sugar-free gum. Remember to replace your brush every 2-3 months.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your body will need your help to get rid of gingivitis. Eat those green leafy vegetables, fruits, grains, and meats. Dental health requires a steady stream of vitamins and nutrients. Vitamins C, A, and E are essential for healing gum tissue and bleeding gums. Zinc is needed for a healthy immune system. A variety of minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium are important for the overall health of your teeth. Be sure not to eat soft foods constantly…your gums need challenges to stay healthy. Of course, avoid junk food, sugar-saturated sodas, and refined carbohydrates.
Use antiseptic mouthwash. The American Dental Association recommends using an antiseptic mouthwash to prevent and get rid of gingivitis. These products kill the bacteria that leads to plaque and tartar, which in turn causes gingivitis. As an added bonus, your breath will be fresher. But mouthwash is never a replacement for brushing and flossing – it won’t effectively get rid of plaque that has already formed. Some people find that regular mouthwashes are too strong and dry out the mouth. Bacteria love cottonmouth. If this happens for you, dilute using 50% water and 50% mouthwash.
Products that Get Rid of Gingivitis
Electric toothbrush. Yes, they are corny, but they work much better than your manual toothbrush for getting rid of plaque and debris. The machines can put out nearly 8,000 brush strokes per minute. Sonic brushes (Sonicare, Ultrasonex) put out around 40,000 per minute. Even spazzing out, foaming and depraved, the best you’d do is 350 with your vintage brush. Whichever brand you choose, look for the ADA seal.
Disclosing tablets. If you’re going to get rid of gingivitis, you need to get rid of plaque. These tablets show you where the plaque is hiding. You chew them after brushing and they “disclose” where you got lazy or failed. It ends up looking pretty gross, so you’ll brush with more enthusiasm the second time around. Just remember to be gentle – you can’t win the war against plaque in one fell swoop.
Flossing tools. I sometimes wonder how many people floss every day, as is the recommendation. Do I know anyone who does? Flossing is a hassle, and if you have gingivitis, it can be a disturbingly gross ordeal, with blood and puss flying everywhere. Well, flossing tools won’t make it less gross, but they do make the process easier. No more struggling for a grip or imitating a contortionist to get at the plaque.
Gum stimulator. Gum stimulators can get rid of plaque, but not as effectively as flossing. What they do well is increase blood flow to the gums. If you’re practicing proper oral hygiene, this can speed up healing. Some people buy wooden, toothpick like stimulators…don’t do it. “Rubber-tipped stimulators” may sound dirty, but they can gently and effectively get rid of gingivitis.
Healthy Living and Gingivitis
Some people are genetically predisposed to gingivitis. They just build plaque at a faster rate and should get more regular cleanings. More often, gingivitis is of our own doing. Like rain on weeds, drinking sodas, energy drinks, and junk food creates an explosion of bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria convert sugar into toxins, and your body reacts by sending in enzymes which further corrode teeth while fighting infection. And stop smoking? Smoking causes gum disease and also prevents it from healing. The same goes for anything that harms your immune system – lack of sleep, drinking, drugs, and birthday cakes are perfect examples. Oral hygiene isn’t an isolated chore. You need to take care of your body too.