When you stroll down the dental care products aisle at your local store, most items on the shelves should seem familiar. Of course you recognize floss, toothpastes and toothbrushes. But what about those tools that look like metal arms with rubber spikes on the top? Those might be less familiar to you.
Known as a gum stimulator, this tool doesn't get as much attention as a toothbrush, floss or toothpaste – three tools you should be using daily for optimal oral health. But gum stimulators can play an important role in keeping your teeth clean and your mouth healthy. You might want to add one to your daily oral care routine.
What Is a Gum Stimulator?
Gum stimulators aren't fancy tools. Usually, they are available at drug stores for just a few dollars. Your dentist might throw one into your goody bag at the end of your check-up and cleaning appointment, if they think you would benefit from using one.
Typically, the tool has a metal handle with a pointy rubber or silicone tip at the end. The tip is usually somewhat firm, although silicone tips tend to be slightly softer. The tips don't last forever. After a few months of consistent use, you might notice that yours is worn down. When that happens, you should replace the tip. You don't have to buy a new tool, though, as replacement tips are sold separately.
What Does a Gum Stimulator Do?
Gum stimulators can help your mouth in more ways than you might expect. For one thing, they can help to clean your teeth and gums, by removing plaque from the area along the gumline. Periodontists at Tufts University point out that gum stimulators can also help clean between the teeth, removing trapped food and debris. For people with wider spacing between teeth, gum stimulators can be particularly useful to clean between the teeth.
A gum stimulator may reduce your risk for gum disease. As you might know, your mouth is full of bacteria. Some of it is "good bacteria," meaning it won't hurt you and might even help you. Some of it is bad bacteria, which can cause infections.
The New York Times notes gram negative anaerobic bacteria are usually responsible for gum disease and other infections. Anaerobic bacteria thrive when no oxygen is present. Some strains die when exposed to oxygen. When you use a stimulator to massage your gums, you're increasing blood flow and introducing oxygen to the area, which may help eliminate nasty bacteria.
How to Use a Gum Stimulator
Gum stimulators aren't difficult to use, but it's important to keep in mind that they aren't a replacement for toothbrushing and flossing. If you're going to introduce one to your oral care routine, use it after you brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush, like the Colgate 360° Enamel Health Soft Toothbrush for Sensitive Teeth, which has 48 percent softer bristles, and after flossing.
Place the rubber tip of the stimulator between two teeth, at a 45 degree angle. Using a gentle, circular motion, massage the gumline. Repeat until you've massaged each space between your teeth. You can also gently run the tip of the stimulator along the bottom edge of your teeth, right where they meet the gums. Doing so will remove any excess plaque and food caught between the teeth.
If you're not sure how to use a stimulator or you're worried that your technique isn't correct, you can ask your dentist or dental hygienist for advice and a demonstration at your next appointment. As with brushing your teeth, you want to avoid using too much force or pressure when you use a gum stimulator. When it comes to your teeth and gums, gentle is always the way to go.
You'll want to replace the tip on the stimulator every so often. One way to get into the habit of changing the tip is to replace it whenever you get a new toothbrush.
Do you need to stimulate your gums? If you have a history of gum disease or a family history of gum problems, using one couldn't hurt. You can always ask your dentist or dental hygienist for guidance.