Contending With Gingivitis & Ways You Can Help Beat It

Although I have quite a fear of dentists, something that’s changed for me as I’ve gotten older is a sincere desire to have healthy teeth that will last for as long as possible. Before, my phobia ruled and that meant my mouth suffered for it.

I have a few bad habits that don’t help (love coffee, pop, sweets, hate flossing), but with some determination, I’ve been able to successfully bounce things back into pretty decent shape.

A big part of my success has been seeing a dentist regularly as well as a great hygienist. This is key, but there are also steps that can be done at home to improve oral health.

A dental team can’t work magic overnight and if you’ve neglected professional care for years like I did, chances are your gums are suffering. They start to recede, teeth develop sensitivity and when the situation gets bad enough, real problems develop that won’t be turned back.

After a certain point, complete healing is no longer possible and the window to turn the situation around closes. This is why the sooner a person starts, the better.

I had no idea that it wasn’t just our chompers we should worry about! Plaque and bacteria build up and gums then become inflamed. If left unchecked, periodontitis arises which then causes serious damage (gums shrink and molars begin to loosen).

Here are a couple home treatments to try when struggling with gingivitis problems or hoping to prevent them…

Remedy #1:

  • Mix 1/2 cup warm water with 1 TBS apple cider vinegar and use as a rinse for about 1 minute. Spit out, don’t swallow.

Remedy #2:

1 or 2 TBS salt
Glass of warm water

  • Mix the two ingredients then swish around for approximately one minute. Spit out then finish off with a plain water rinse.

Product Recommendation:

  • Listerine (original) is not tasty or pleasant, but you get accustomed to it. A daily rinse is believed to be beneficial for oral care. Many times I’ve heard this recommended for smokers. Some find Listerine makes the inside of the mouth feel like it’s on fire or experiencing a severe acid burn (or what one imagines it would feel like, lol), but that eases over time the more it’s used. If you find this product intolerable, try another brand of antibacterial mouthwash.

More Tips

Snappy Living recommends not brushing too hard to prevent damage (see this page), it’s a bad habit I’ve had to fight myself. Another beneficial practice is adding an extra brushing session to my day, just a light scrub, and being more attentive to how I do it.

No getting around it, flossing daily can repair some damage. If you find it clumsy, messy and awkward (I do), try different tools. Dental floss picks are cheap, easy enough to use and they do cut back on any slobbery awkwardness. Check out the local drugstore to see what’s available, there might be a product that seems better suited.

If you’re a smoker, you already know how unhealthy this is so I won’t bug you about it. However, just a heads up that smoking does affect the mouth and increases the rate of receding gums (stains the enamel too). If not ready to knock the habit, try a preventative gargle with water (or mouthwash) right after a cigarette. Such a simple step to do and it may help delay deterioration.

Periodontal disease may be successfully fought with a few no-hassle steps (listed above) and a commitment to professional care. An annual cleaning goes a long way to avoiding serious issues down the road. It’s not fun to go through when terrified, but let both the dentist and the hygienist know you have fears and they’ll be extra gentle. Over time you’ll calm down and the appointments will get easier since the problems will be fewer and less serious.

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    • Lois Solberg

    I echo the outlook of the above Tipnut. I HATE to care for my teeth, and by the time I was 55, neglect caught up to me.

    Before we relocated two years ago, the dentist I had said I would have to have minor surgery to ward off the receding gumline (at a price of $900×4; $900 each for top left, top right, lower left, lower right) and don’t wait. Once we got up to Alaska, I saw a dentist right away. He said the surgery wouldn’t do enough good to warrant the cost. Instead, he told me that at the end of the day, brush my teeth as I regularly do, and then brush my teeth with baking soda — don’t swallow it, but spit it out and don’t rinse my mouth.

    I’ve always flossed, but I found that the Butler’s Floss Picks have helped bring about a major improvement as well.

    So this is now my routine. In the morning, I floss and pick with the flosspick (this takes about three minutes), use a prerinse mouthwash, brush my teeth with a battery-powered toothbrush, use a post-rinse mouthwash (I’m sorry, you may be right about Listerine, but I can’t do it!). In the evening, I usually flosspick again, use a prerinse mouthwash, brush my teeth with my manual toothbrush, rinse, then put about a tablespoon of baking soda in the palm of my hand. I fill my brush with the baking soda, and go around the mouth gently with the baking soda. Then I spit out what’s left and go to bed. By the way, my husband says my breath is a little more fresh in the morning since I started this bedtime routine.

    After six months, the dental technician couldn’t believe the change. It’s been two years now, and the technician says that if i would stop my routine, my gums would regress significantly.

    I’m thankful for a dentist who was honest enough not to be greedy and go for what would fill his pocket (i.e. dental surgery).

    • A Name

    Lois, I have a similiar problem to yours. You mention using a prerinse and postrinse mouthwash. What kind do you use? I currently use listerine and a homemade concoction that has baking soda and salt in it.

    • Haleigh

    I’m 20 years old and I’m experiencing problems with my teeth. Is it normal for people my age to have receding gums? I brush everyday and floss often … I don’t understand why this would happen to me. I can’t see a dentist. But, I don’t want to lose my teeth or have them turn colors. Help?

      • Dani

      omg i have the same thing and im only 19 :/

    • Tanya

    Haleigh, I am 26 and also experiencing gingivitis and receding gums. But for me, I know it it my laziness in daily care and no professional cleanings every 6 months (no health insurance.) For you, is it possible that the problem could stem from poor nutrition? If your diet is mostly fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains, then this may not be it. But if you diet is mostly cooked and processed foods (not whole, and home-made food,) then perhaps this is the cause of your gum disease.
    In any case, if you are brushing properly daily and flossing often, I don’t think this is “normal” but I believe you can manage your problem without a dentist. Consider using the baking soda method, or others like tea tree oil or salt rinses. I’ve been using a diluted hydrogen peroxide rinse but I can’t recommend it at this point. Definitely be sure to be eating whole, raw fruits and veggies like apples or carrots and perhaps consider a Vitamin C supplement and Zinc supplement. There is a lot of information on the internet.

    That’s how I found this one, and I’m going to try the evening baking sode technique. I can’t lose my teeth!

    • RaddaRawr

    I am 18 and have gingivitis, my teeth aren’t too bad, but they are bad for someone my age. my dentist said that my teeth look like a 20-year-old’s. I have two 6mm holes in my gums; not good. I know that often we don’t have time to do this, but it really helps by brushing and flossing your teeth after every meal. the longer you let your dirty teeth sit, the more bacteria they collect. I also floss my teeth like crazy now because i’m a paranoid person. My dentist said that she recommends Listerine total care mouthwash and she doesn’t recommend Crest mouthwash because it sticks to your teeth and only freashens your breath. I love tea tree oil and use it on my skin a lot. I’m kind of scared to put it in my mouth, but i will try it. possibly baking soda too (i love how baking soda can be used for everything) eating healthy is always a plus. also, stress can hinder your teeth as well. (i learned this while listening to people and waiting for the dentist… 45min) well i think that’s about the only advise i have to give. live healthily and smile often and your whole body will thank you.

    • kris RDH

    I am a dental hygienist and I love my job helping people care for their teeth and gums. I like this article with one exception. Be very careful if you opt for the vinegar rinse. I had a patient recently who was gung-ho on the apple cider vinegar to help with her arthritis. She ended up with severe decay (tons of cavities). Vinegar is acidic and can burn right through your enamel. Bacteria causes gingivitis. Reduce bacteria = reduce gingivitis. Brush, floss, and rinse. At least twice daily. And I do (of course) recommend seeing your local hygienist to help with some tarter removal (you can’t do it yourself) and customized tips for you and your specific needs.

    • Kevin

    Don’t forget the value of staying well hydrated. Bad breath and the associated tooth decay can be due to dehydration, and, even if you don’t know it, it can take a long time for the body to fully recovery its hydration levels after a diarrhetic like coffee or alcohol. Also look into supplementing with colloidal minerals and avoiding anti-nutrients like sugar, refined white flower, fried foods (free radicals), nitrate and phosphate additives. I’ve also heard that mega-doses of C help. Another remedy I’ve heard of is to make sure your tarter is regularly removed and use a water-pic loaded with 1.5% hydrogen peroxide after every meal.

    • Carrie

    My dentist said that Listerine is very bad for your gums

    • Mags

    Plse anyone who can help? Aging dog, has always been very healthy and teeth brushed with dog dental stuff. Had an op recently and all of a sudden-really bad gums-been rubbing with swabs of warm salty water. Pensioner, so transport/vets bills really difficult. He is like my son, so I really need advice?

    • annie

    Mags make sure he has bones to chew. Buy some Australian tea tree oil, it is brilliant for gingivitis also. Mix a couple of drops with bi carb of Soda and rub it on his gums. For humans put one drop on your normal toothpaste, or make same mixture with bi carb and a little water. Also dip toothpick in the oil. Soon there will be no sign of Gingivitis on either of you!

    • Linda

    Hi, I am 66. I’ve had bad breath for over 20 years. My dentist said I’ve got gum disease. I’ve tried baking soda and vinegar and listerine twice a day but to no avail. I was going to stop but after reading these comments will keep trying it, but no vinegar. I am attractive have a lovely smile, but people say, “oh my breath!” I have floored people with my bad breath. I turn away if people want to talk. I am single, how can I get a boyfriend with this problem. It is like being a leper. I am going to try the dentist again, but am afraid of the cost. Linda.

      • Della

      Linda, If you eat a lot of meat, dairy and processed foods, they can cause bad breath. I too have had bad breath for some time. I have changed my eating habits to just fruits and vegetables and have had no further issues. I hope this helps.

      • stephanie moore.

      Activated charcoal and oil pulling. 2 months ago i’d floss one gum at the back and Geez it was foul – rotten… dentist said I was stupid and nothing was wrong. I began doing the above when ever i thought about it and for last couple weeks my gums smell normal.

    • Li-Aura

    Hi Linda,
    Sorry to hear that you are single because of bad breath. Bad breath does not
    always comes from gum disease. Many many times bad breath stems from a bacteria
    in the stomach called H.Pylori. You can check that with your family doctor – there is a test for it and is treated with antibiotics. Leaving it untreated
    for a long time might escalate to stomach cancer. Personally i am very much
    against antibiotics and do all i can to not use it.
    Sometimes,though, you have to weigh the pros and cons of the antibiotics and make your decision based upon info and intuition.
    You can also muscle test (ask someone to help)your body to see whether you need
    antibiotics or not or even as to whehter your problem stems from gum disease
    or H.Pylori. Hopefully i was able to help somewhat.

    • Carda

    First of all it’s important to know that citric acid can soften your dental enamel a bit and by brushing your teeth right after eating food which contains this acid you can damage your enamel. It’s better to wait half an hour or so to let your spittle wash away the acid.
    Also brushing your gums with your toothbrush isn’t a good idea, especially electrical brushes can be the reason why your gums are retracting because the touch of the brush is too hard.
    Bad breath can also be caused by something called tonsillolith, a white substance which is emitted by the tonsils.

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