Picture this: After a long day of working in your garden, it’s time to sit down to dinner with your family. You head to the bathroom to wash your hands, rinsing away dirt and compost. When you check to see whether you’ve cleaned beneath your nails, you realize that your hands are bleeding. No cuts, no scratches—nothing. Alarming, isn’t it? You wouldn’t think twice about calling your doctor!
Don’t your teeth and gums deserve similar urgency? Dr. Ryan Hussong, a general dentist who treats gingivitis in Polk City, IA, says that many patients take a more cavalier approach on gum health. Bleeding gums, one of the most easily recognizable symptoms of gingivitis, often goes undiagnosed in adults because so many neglect to seek treatment. Other symptoms include:
- Chronic bad breath, or a bad taste that lingers even after brushing
- Gums that look puffy and/or red
- Occasional tenderness when brushing or flossing
A twice daily regimen of brushing and flossing, along with twice yearly dental exams, is your greatest ally against gingivitis and advanced periodontal disease. Without treatment, gum disease causes tooth loss and loss of bone in your jaw.
Common Ingredients in Toothpaste
Baking soda and peroxide are popular ingredients in over-the-counter toothpaste and rinses, usually those that claim to whiten teeth. Like most toothpaste, the “whitening” effect stems from removal of surface stains and cannot necessarily be attributed to peroxide. In such low concentrations, however, they are unlikely to produce results anywhere near as effectively as professional teeth whitening treatments. Neither ingredient affords protection from or treatment for periodontal disease.
Fluoride fortifies tooth enamel, promotes remineralization of teeth, and inhibits growth of bacteria that live in your mouth and produce destructive acids. As an added benefit to your gums, fluoride also helps prevent plaque from building up on the surfaces of your teeth. Most local water supplies are fluoridated, a practice that has been proven to reduce tooth decay.
Many toothpaste brands list triclosan as an ingredient. This anti-bacterial substance has proven effective in the treatment of gingivitis in its earliest stages. Studies show that the ingredient is less effective in the fight against periodontitis.
Zinc, stannous, and other metal salts also have antibacterial properties when used in toothpaste. Although toothpaste that contains stannous fluoride gel does not actually reduce plaque, it has been shown to benefit patients who have mild gingivitis.
Mouthwash and Mouth Rinse Ingredients
The ADA advises that using antimicrobial mouthwash along with flossing and brushing will effectively cut down on plaque buildup, prevent additional buildup, and treat gingivitis. Mouthwash that contains fluoride affords even greater protection against cavities.
Cepacol and Scope mouthwashes list cetylpyridinium as an active ingredient that has a moderate impact on plaque reduction. However, you must use it within an hour of brushing your teeth. Patients who are unable to tolerate stronger mouthwash may benefit from using these milder products.
Chlorhexidine gluoconate, marketed as PerioGard or Peridex, is a prescription-strength antimicrobial mouthwash that prevents gingivitis and cuts down on plaque. The typical use is rinsing a full minute twice daily, but Dr. Hussong may recommend otherwise. After rinsing with the solution, you shouldn’t brush your teeth for at least half an hour, although waiting two hours is ideal. Believe it or not, some compounds found in popular toothpaste can actually render chlorhexidine inactive.
Mouth rinses that contain fluoride, such as Act, are excellent for cavity-prone patients, but do not offer substantial protection against gum disease.
Along with chlorhexidine, Listerine antimicrobial mouthwash is the most effective product for plaque removal and treatment of gingivitis. Use Listerine or its generic equivalent for 30 seconds, twice daily. Although its harsh taste and acrid odor require an adjustment period, the benefits of using Listerine are worth it. Dr. Hussong reassures that most patients gradually adjust to the taste after a few days.
Have you experienced symptoms of gingivitis? To learn more about treating gum disease in Polk City, IA, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ryan Hussong, contact Cornerstone Dental at (515) 984-6001. We welcome patients living in Alleman, Ankeny, Grimes, Urbandale, Des Moines, and the neighboring cities.