Three tips for avoiding Gingivitis and Bad Breath

Gingivitis is a gum disease that can lead to bad breath, but here are three things that you can do keep your mouth healthy and your breath smelling good. If you are already seeing receding or swollen gums, see a good local periodontist and ask for an exam.

First, floss your teeth. It’s important to keep the big chunks of food debris out from between your teeth where it can fester. Often this debris is not removed by brushing, so it sits between your teeth and feeds the bacteria that like to gather there. Bacteria eat their fill, then they excrete harmful acids as waste. These acids dissolve holes in your teeth that can become cavities and they irritate your gums. This acid irritation can cause the gums to turn red, feel sensitive, and bleed easily when you brush. Sensitive gums or bleeding easily are good indicators that you might want to see your dentist and get a thorough cleaning.

Second, use a good mouthwash. Rinsing after flossing not only rinses out the debris that you dislodged with your flossing, but rinsing with a good mouthwash will chemically kill many of the germs in your mouth. Rinse for at least 30 seconds and the mouthwash will reach the spaces between your teeth and wash the nasty bacteria away. A good mouthwash also kills many of the bacteria that are living in your tongue. More on this later.

Finally, brush your teeth and your tongue. It’s not enough to just brush your teeth. Your toothbrush should be used in a light scrubbing action all over your tongue. The tongue is like a sponge or a carpet. There are lots of little finger-like structures on the surface of the tongue that also hold microscopic food particles and make a perfect home for bacteria to hang out. Always remember that your trying to control bacteria in your mouth with your oral routine. Anywhere those bacteria can hide – your tongue, between your cheeks and your gums, between your teeth, even on the roof of your mouth – they will. Your goal is to keep them to a minimum.

When brushing your teeth, it is possible to brush too hard. Brushing too hard can lead to receding gums, which leads to other bad things, so keep a light touch. The bristles should be angled at 45 degrees to the gum line. This allows the bristles to gently clean between the gum and the tooth. If you’re not sure what 45 degrees looks like, you can find toothbrushes that have angled thumb pads to help you.

Use a soft toothbrush and brush for at least 2 minutes. You might make this fun by listening to a favorite song while you’re brushing. The average song runs for about two minutes. If it runs a little longer… it won’t hurt. Some toothbrushes have electronic timers or songs built in. The Phillips Sonicare toothbrushes, for example, have up to five 30 second vibration cycles that clue you in when it’s time to switch from one part of your mouth to the next.

Of course, any good oral care program should include regular visits (about twice per year for most people) to your orthodontist. A dental office can answer questions you have, demonstrate techniques, perform biannual deep cleaning (even good brushing and flossing doesn’t get it all), and keep an eye on the health of your teeth and gums. They will know if your missing spots, brushing too hard, or are developing cavities both in the visible and non-visible surfaces of your teeth.

Dr. Gregg Taira DDS is a second generation dentist who has been practicing dentistry in Montgomery County Maryland for more than 23 years. His office can be reached at 1-888-291-4041.

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