How to Fight Gingivitis in 3 Easy Steps

Father and son brushing their teeth in the bathroom in front of the mirror

You may have heard the word gingivitis before, but do you know what it is and what to do if you have it? Gingivitis can make your gums swell, hurt or bleed when you brush, and it can make your breath smell. If you've noticed these symptoms, you may have gingivitis. But don't be scared! It's treatable and often reversible. And the best part is that you can start treating gingivitis in three steps:

  1. Brushing at least twice a day
  2. Flossing daily
  3. Professional and preventative cleanings from your dentist

How Do You Get Gingivitis?

Gingivitis occurs when bacteria build up around your gumline causes your gums to become inflamed. That inflammation causes your gums to bleed easier than healthy tissue. Your dentist wants you to take care of your teeth when you show signs of gingivitis like bleeding gums because it's an early stage of gum disease. If you start reversing gingivitis with brushing, flossing and professional cleaning now, it can save you worry and more serious treatments later.

How to Fight Gingivitis with Proper Toothbrushing

The first step in fighting gingivitis is brushing your teeth using these tips.

  1. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush that is small enough to get into the small places like your back molars is an excellent place to start.
  2. Start brushing with the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gum line.
  3. Use gentle and short back-and-forth strokes on each tooth. Don't press too hard.

It doesn't take a lot of pressure to remove plaque buildup, but it does take time. Brush your teeth for at least 120 seconds/ 2 minutes. You can divide your mouth into quadrants, or start in the same place every time. Use whatever technique feels comfortable so long as you don't skip over any teeth. Make sure you get both the front and back sides of your teeth too. Lastly, brush the chewing surfaces of your teeth and then your tongue to remove the last of the bacteria.

When was the last time you replaced your toothbrush? Toss old and worn toothbrushes as soon as they get frayed bristles, or every three months. They won't clean your teeth as well, and old toothbrushes can store bacteria. Talk to your dentist about which kind of toothbrush and toothpaste is right for you.

How Does Flossing Help Reverse Gingivitis?

Toothbrushes can't always clean between your teeth so bacteria and food can hide, irritating your gums and causing gingivitis. That's where flossing comes in. According to the ADA, dental floss removes plaque between your teeth and under your gum line, removing these irritants and helping reduce inflammation.

The best time to floss is around bedtime after you're finished eating for the day as part of your nightly brushing routine. There are many flossing products out there. Whichever you choose, ensure you are flossing with a clean section of floss, so you aren't moving bacteria to other teeth. Be gentle and don't force the floss. Slide the floss between each tooth and the front and back using push-pull and up-down motions.

Just like brushing, ensure you are not skipping any tooth or rushing the process. Taking care to do the job right can help reduce inflammation and treat gingivitis.

If you're overwhelmed with flossing product choices, ask your dentist for a recommendation on the right type of flossing product for your oral care needs.

Professional and Preventative Dental Cleanings

Brushing and flossing can remove bacteria and plaque when it's still soft. However, plaque will harden over time and become tartar. When new plaque builds on tartar, it can progress into more severe stages of gum disease like periodontitis. That's why it's so important to clean your teeth! If your gingivitis has not progressed to a more serious stage, a professional cleaning can help reverse it.

Your dentist may decide that you need dental scaling or root planing. Scaling involves scraping away tartar with dental tools. Root planing smooths over the tooth root to promote healing after your dentist removes the tartar buildup.

Preventive cleanings twice a year and consistent brushing and flossing will help fight gingivitis. Visit your dentist so you can find out the best treatment for you. You don't need to be scared. Gingivitis is a sign that your teeth and gums need help! Learning these tips now will help you fight off gum disease later.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Top Ways to Prevent GUM DISEASE:

  • Proper brushing and flossing

  • Using antibacterial toothpaste and mouthwash to kill bacteria

  • Biannual dental visits for cleanings and checkups