What to do if you have gingivitis

Written by: Professor Christian Mehl
Published: | Updated: 13/04/2023
Edited by: Kalum Alleyne

Gingivitis is a common issue that can occur due to a number of factors and causes irritation, bleeding, and potentially embarrassment. Professor Christian Mehl is here with his expert advice on the best home remedies for treating this condition.


Dental hygiene is vital


Gum inflammation

Gum inflammation, also known as gingivitis, is primarily caused by plaque that constantly forms on the surface of the teeth and is full of lots of different types of bacteria. If left undisturbed, plaque causes irritation of the gums resulting in inflammation, which is most commonly characterised by bleeding when brushing or flossing. Inadequate plaque removal with your toothbrush and interdental aids such as floss or interdental brushes are the main causes of gingivitis, but some other factors such as mechanical irritation of the gums, diabetes, hormonal changes such as pregnancy or menopause, or high alcohol consumption can also trigger inflammation of the gums.


Good oral hygiene is important for bleeding gums

When the gums are inflamed and swollen, an excellent daily oral hygiene regime is essential. When brushing and/or flossing causes the gums to bleed, many people tend to avoid brushing their teeth as they perceive that the bleeding means they are causing harm. On the contrary, effective brushing and interdental cleaning twice daily is imperative to regain health of your gums.


Using an electric toothbrush is far more efficient and effective in the removal of plaque compared to a manual brush. Gliding the bristles along the gum line is very important to remove the plaque in contact with the gums as this is what irritates them and causes the inflammation, also brushing every surface of each tooth - the inside surface, the outside surface and the biting surface. Spend at least two minutes twice per day brushing and you should change the head of your electric toothbrush every 8 to 12 weeks.


Every day each interdental space needs to be either flossed or have a snug-fitting interdental brush inserted. Interdental cleaning is just as important as general toothbrushing in achieving and maintaining healthy gums. Regular hygiene cleans with your dental hygienist are always recommended as they can keep your oral hygiene regime under constant review and make suggestions on what would work best for you.


Advantages of mouthwash

Antibacterial mouthwash can work as an adjunct to toothbrushing and interdental cleaning (flossing or interdental brushing) but must never be seen as a replacement to mechanical plaque removal. It can assist with reducing the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth and gives the gums the opportunity to regain health, but it is always best to discuss with your dentist or dental hygienist which mouthwashes are recommended and whether they are suitable for long- or short-term use.


In addition, some household remedies may help, such as camomile extract which has a calming and disinfecting effect. Rinsing with warm salt water has antibacterial effects and can be used several times a day. Rinsing with essential oil is sometimes beneficial, but you should always dilute the oil (2 or 3 drops in a glass of water) because, if left undiluted, the oil can cause more irritation to the gums.


Cooling soothes swollen gums

It is unusual to experience pain with inflamed gums but in rare cases where you do suffer discomfort, the swollen and irritated gums should be cooled gently. The best way is to use a cool pack wrapped in a cloth to cool your cheek. Gently rinsing your mouth out with cool water can also help but be careful: if the gums have already receded partially, the teeth can be quite sensitive to the cold.


If symptoms persists: Off to the dentist

Do not delay visiting the dentist if you have gum inflammation. If you notice your gums are bleeding easily, appear red and swollen or are causing bad breath or any pain then you should make an appointment with the dentist. In the early stages, gingivitis is fully reversible and can be treated successfully by professional cleaning of teeth and gums and good oral hygiene advice.


Untreated gingivitis can progress into periodontitis which affects the lower supporting structures of the tooth such as the ligament and bone. If left untreated, this irreversible damage can lead to tooth loss.


For further advice on dealing with gingivitis, why not visit Professor Mehl's Top Doctors profile, where you can request an appointment with him.

By Professor Christian Mehl

Professor Christian Mehl is a specialist in prosthodontics at the Wimpole Street Dental Clinic in Marylebone, London. He holds a special interest in dental implants, bone augmentation surgery, oral surgery, aesthetic dentistry, reconstructive periodontal surgery and root canal treatment.

Professor Mehl is a qualified prosthetics (dental restorations) specialist with the German Society of Prosthodontics and the General Dental Council and is a certified implantologist with the German Society of Implantology.

He is a lecturer at the University of Kiel in Germany. Professor Mehl is actively involved in clinical research and development of dental implant systems for which his work has received the Camlog Research Award. His work is regularly published in peer-reviewed journals.

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