Home Remedies for Gingivitis
Easing up on routine dental care may not seem like a big deal, but skipping out on basic oral hygiene can have serious consequences. The plaque that builds up on teeth as a result of poor brushing habits is filled with bacteria, and that bacteria can lead to an inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis.
While nothing takes the place of routine dental checkups and cleanings, there are some home remedies for gingivitis that can help you fight back against plaque.
How It Happens
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease, and plaque buildup is the No. 1 cause of the dental condition. Over time, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more advanced form of gum disease that eventually leads to bone destruction and tooth loss.
Carbohydrates in the food and drinks we consume cause plaque to form on teeth. These sugars and starches fuel bacterial growth, which can result in cavities and gum disease. “Plaque is very sticky and has to be brushed away,” says Jacksonville, Florida, periodontist Brian T. Young, DDS. Problems develop when plaque remains in place over a period of time.
The gingival sulcus is the groove between the teeth and gums. Bacteria that works its way into the groove cause irritation and inflammation, and it doesn’t take long. Skipping out on good oral hygiene for even a few days can lead to gingivitis.
Plaque is clearly the No. 1 culprit when it comes to gingivitis, but there are also other conditions that can contribute to gingivitis. The American Academy of Periodontology lists the following factors as possible causes of gingivitis:
- Genetic predisposition
- Poor nutrition
- Some systemic diseases
- Hormonal fluctuations such as pregnancy or puberty
- Substance abuse
- Certain medications
Signs and Symptoms
Red and swollen gums are the most common signs of gingivitis, and it’s not unusual to notice a small amount of blood while brushing your teeth or swishing and spitting after brushing. Bad breath is another complaint sometimes associated with gingivitis.
But not everyone with gingivitis experiences symptoms. Some individuals may not even be aware they have the condition or that it is progressing. Gingivitis can persist for years before advancing to periodontitis. Children in their teens can develop gingivitis, but periodontal (gum) disease is more common in older adults and usually doesn’t show up until after age 30.
The disease process is slow, but if gingivitis is not reversed, it can lead to more serious gum disease. Eventually, the gums will pull away from teeth and form pockets of infection. Without professional treatment, chronic periodontitis causes the teeth to become loose, and it may even be necessary to remove them.
What To Do
Home remedies for gingivitis are not only effective, but they may actually be the best solution for both prevention and treatment. At this early stage, gum disease is easily reversed without extensive treatment.
“Preventing gingivitis is as simple as basic brushing and flossing,” says Dr. Young, who adds that 90 percent of individuals can control gingivitis and keep gums healthy with those two steps alone. In addition, antiseptic mouthwashes, like Listerine, can be used but aren’t a necessity.
The American Dental Association also lays out some easy home remedies for gingivitis:
- Brush teeth well at least two times a day
- Clean between teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners
- Eat a balanced diet
- Schedule regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings
Even if your oral care routine has been less than stellar in the past, it’s not too late to clean up your act. Home remedies for gingivitis are effective, but they do require diligence. Sliding back into bad habits can cause gingivitis to quickly flare again.
Arming yourself with the right tools is also important, which means ditching your hard-bristled toothbrush. Young recommends choosing a toothbrush with soft or very soft bristles and a full head. And while the special timing features on some electric toothbrushes can be helpful, it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money.
“Whether you use an electric or a manual toothbrush is irrelevant,” he says. Instead patients should focus on brushing technique and time. “It’s all about mechanical debridement, so if you’re not brushing long enough – it’s a problem.”