23 Ways To Stop Gum Disease
23 Ways To Stop Gum Disease
A survey reported in the Journal of the American Dental Associationfound that a majority of adults have gingivitis, the first sign of periodontal disease and the major reason adults lose their teeth. Gingivitis is simply inflammation of the gums. The gums’ usual pale pink color turns bluish red. The tender gums swell between the teeth and bleed easily, especially during toothbrushing.
Caused by plaque and tartar above and below the gumline, gingivitis, if left unchecked, can lead to periodontitis, in which pus collects in deep pockets of the gum, teeth become sensitive to pressure, loosen, and fall out. Research also suggests gum disease can boost the risk for other serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory infections and premature birth. But don’t despair. Dentists have much to offer that will keep the false teeth away.
You can help prevent gum disease by brushing twice a day and cleaning once a day between the teeth with floss or an interdental cleaner, says the American Dental Association. Block out 3 to 5 minutes two or three times a day for good oral hygiene, says Robert Schallhorn, DDS.
Brush At The Gumline
The plaque-catching area around the gumline is where gingivitis starts, and it is the most neglected area when we brush, says Vincent Cali, DDS. Place your brush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth so that half of your brush cleans your gums while the other half cleans your teeth. Then shimmy your brush by moving it in a forward and backward motion. (Here's what happens if you only brush your teeth once a day.)
Have 2 Toothbrushes
Alternate between them, says Cali. Allow one to dry while using the other. (Read this if you haven't replaced your toothbrush in 3 months.)
Keep Them Germ-Free
Store your toothbrush in an upright position if possible. Don’t routinely cover or store toothbrushes in closed containers. The moist environment promotes the growth of most germs. When storing more than one brush, keep them separated to stop germ transmission from one brush to another.
Choose Your Toothbrush
Although studies show that using an electric toothbrush improves oral health, the American Dental Association reports that manual toothbrushes are just as effective. As long as you’re brushing properly, it doesn’t matter which toothbrush you use. Electric toothbrushes are advantageous for people who have limited manual dexterity or hand braces, because the rotating head can clean hard-to-reach areas.
Bank Some Bone
Gingivitis is the beginning of what Cali calls periodontal osteoporosis. Just as the bones in the rest of your skeleton can shrink and become brittle, so, too, can your jawbone. You can strengthen the bones all over your body by exercising regularly and not smoking. And don’t forget your calcium! Getting at least 800 milligrams of calcium a day can reduce your chances of developing severe gum disease, according to a study from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Calcium strengthens the alveolar bone in the jaw, which helps hold your teeth in place. Dairy products are the best sources of dietary calcium, but you’ll also get good amounts of the mineral from salmon, almonds, and leafy dark green vegetables such as kale and broccoli.
Use A Gum Stimulator
A rubber or specially designed triangular gum stimulator is better than a toothpick for massaging the gums, says Cali. It also cleans the surfaces between the teeth. Rest the rubber point between two teeth. Point the tip in the direction of the biting surface until the stimulator is at a 45-degree angle to the gumline. Apply a circular motion for 10 seconds, then move on to the next tooth.
Stock Up On Vitamin C
Vitamin C won’t cure gingivitis, but it can help check bleeding gums, according to a study at the USDA Western Nutrition Research Center in San Francisco. The National Institute of Health recommends a daily dose of 100 to 200 milligrams.
Consider Vitamin D
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionexamined data from 6,700 people who took the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Those with the highest levels of vitamin D were 20% less likely to show signs of gingivitis. Although the results don’t necessarily mean vitamin D is responsible for healthier gums, it has been shown to have possible anti-inflammatory benefits, which might explain its association with reduced inflammation and bleeding between the gums.
Black and green teas contain polypenols, antioxidant compounds that prevent plaque from adhering to your teeth, which helps reduce your chances of developing gum disease, says Christine D. Wu, PhD.
Brandish A Proxa Brush
A proxa brush is a specially designed brush (available at most drugstores) that’s shaped like a tiny bottle brush. It slides between your teeth or under your crown or bridge to get to those hard-to-reach places, says Roger P. Levin, DDS.
In a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, Listerine mouthwash inhibited the development of plaque and reduced gingivitis.
Scrutinize The Label
When buying generic mouthwash, look for the chemicals cetylpridinium chloride or domiphen bromide on the label. Research shows these are the active ingredients in mouthwash that reduce dental plaque.
Examine Your Lifestyle
Too much stress? Too little relaxation? Do you work around toxic chemicals? Any of those factors can adversely affect your gums. Examine every aspect of your lifestyle to see what you can change to make living more healthy, suggests Cali. (Here's 10 silent signals you're way too stressed.)
Cut Your Vices
Excessive smoking and drinking can drain your body of vitamins and minerals vital to a healthy mouth, says Cali.
Scrape Your Tongue
Remove the bacteria and toxins hiding there. It doesn’t matter what you use to scrape with, as long as it isn’t sharp, says Cali. He recommends a small spoon, a Popsicle stick, a tongue depressor, or your toothbrush. Or you may wish to buy a specifically designed tongue scraper. You will need to scrape from back to front 10 to 15 times.
Take An Intermission
Don’t try to perform all these oral ablutions in one day. Stimulate your gums one day, and scrape your tongue the next, says Cali. If you do something different after you brush and floss, you won’t bore yourself to death.
Swish With Peroxide And Water
Buy a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide, mix it half-and-half with water, and swish it around your mouth for 30 seconds. Don’t swallow. Use this wash 3 times a week to inhibit bacteria, says Cali.
Wash With An Oral Irrigation Unit
Use an oral irrigation device to flush water around your teeth and gums, says Cali. To use it correctly, direct the stream of water between your teeth, not down into your gums.
Pack A Portable Irrigator
When you travel, carry an ear syringe (a rubber bulb with a long nose). Fill it with water, then flush your teeth, says Cali.
Eat A Raw Vegetable A Day
It will keep gingivitis away, says Cali. Hard and fibrous foods clean and stimulate teeth and gums.
Try The Baking Soda And Water Solution
Take plain baking soda, mix it with a little bit of water, and apply it with your fingers along the gumline in a small section of your mouth. Then brush. You’ll clean, polish, neutralize acidic bacterial wastes, and deodorize, all in one swoop, says Cali.
Give Aloe A Try
Some people brush their gums with aloe gel, says Eric Shapira, DDS. “It’s a healing agent, and it will reduce some of the plaque in your mouth.” (Here's 10 surprising things you can do with aloe vera.)
When To See Your Dentist
You can risk more serious periodontal disease and the possible loss of your teeth if you ignore sore, bleeding gums. See your dentist if you notice:
- Gums that bleed during brushing and flossing
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose or separating teeth
- A change in your bite
- Your partial dentures fit differently
- Pus pockets between your teeth and gums
Also, if your gums still bleed when you brush your teeth and continue to be sore and swollen despite all your efforts at good oral hygiene, see your dentist again.
Panel Of Advisors
Vincent Cali, DDS, is a New York City dentist and author of The New, Lower-Cost Way to End Gum Trouble Without Surgery. He also has a postgraduate degree in clinical nutrition from the Fordham Page Institute at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the CEO of the Levin Group, a dental practice in Baltimore.
Robert Schallhorn, DDS, is a dentist in Aurora, Colorado, and past president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
Eric Shapira, DDS, is a clinical assistant professor and lecturer at the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in San Francisco and a dentist in Half Moon Bay, California.
Christine D. Wu, PhD, is a professor and director of Cariology Research at the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Dentistry. She currently serves as a consultant to the American Dental Association's Council for Scientific Affairs.
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