Gum disease is an elaborate term that includes diseases involving gum tissue as a consequence of plaque and calculus build-up.
Gingivitis shows red, swollen and bleeding gums (on brushing). Periodontitis, on the other hand, presents with shrunken receding gums, loose teeth and root exposure.
The treatment of gum disease involves the removal of the cause along with the management of risk factors that can lead to gum disease.
Plaque is easily removed at home by correct brushing and flossing techniques. In contrast, hard and mineralised tartar (calculus) requires professional removal at the dental office.
The dentist or hygienist removes the calculus build-up by a two-step procedure called scaling and root planing.
The scaling removes the tartar present above and below the gums by an ultrasonic scaler and the root planing planes the roughened tooth surface that allows re-attachment of the gums back to their original position.
Gingivitis can be managed well at home with over-the-counter and natural products but periodontitis requires more extensive therapy.
Oral hygiene maintenance
First and the foremost thing for healthy gums is to maintain good oral hygiene. If you’re not keeping the gums and teeth clean, home remedies won’t do much good to heal the gum disease.
Following are the home care measures you need to strictly follow:
• Brushing with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day.
• Use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
• Make sure to brush for at least two minutes and clean all the surfaces of teeth that toothbrush bristles can access i.e, inside, outside and the chewing surfaces.
• It is mandatory to floss once a day to clean the surfaces in between teeth.
• Water irrigators can be used before brushing if you’re not comfortable with string floss, have crooked teeth or have very tight contacts between teeth.
• Quit smoking, tobacco chewing and alcohol drinking.
• Cut refined sugar from your diet.
• Visit your dentist at least once a year. They are experts in diagnosing the problem at an early stage. Regular scaling and polishing remove the calculus deposits above and below the gums.
Warm salt water rinses
Salt is a cost-effective, tissue-friendly, natural disinfectant and is readily available at home. Warm salt rinses provide several health benefits to the gums when used in addition to standard oral hygiene practices.
The salt water rinses promotes healing by dilation of blood vessels and recruitment of white cells at the site of injury.
Salt water rinses also lower the bacterial load by slightly alkalising saliva. Moreover, it acts as an astringent (shrinking the swollen gum tissues) and a bacteriostatic agent (stopping the multiplication of bacteria) and facilitate the healing of gum tissues.
How to make it: Add half or a quarter teaspoon of sea salt in Luke warm water in half a cup of water, swish it around the mouth for a couple of seconds and spit it away. It is advised to add it to the morning and nighttime oral hygiene routine.
Precautions: Avoid too much rinsing with salt water as it could have a detrimental effect on teeth and gums.
Mouthwashes to control gum disease
Another way to relieve the red inflamed and swollen gums is to include mouthwash in the existing oral hygiene practices. Mouthwash reaches the areas of the mouth that escape brushing.
There is a huge range of over-the-counter mouthwashes available in the pharmacies for gum disease, but there are ways you can make your mouthwash at home with herbs or essential oils that facilitate healing.
- Essential oil mouthwashes: There are different sorts of essential oils that you can use to make a mouthwash. These oils have antiseptic and antibacterial properties that help control bacteria in the mouth.
Essential oils contain the essence of the plant’s fragrance (the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived). They have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties and thus reduce gum inflammation and bleeding.
Peppermint, clove, tea tree, oregano, chamomile, spearmint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, hazel and coconut are some of the common organic safe oils used in home preparations of the mouthwashes.
How to make it: Dilute two to three drops of essential oil in half a cup of water and swish the solution in your mouth for 30 seconds. Spit out the solution and repeat it two to three times a day.
Precautions: Essential oil available in the market are often very potent and concentrated. Make sure to use no more than the recommended amount (in drops).
Read the label to see the concentration of the product. More concentrated solutions may cause an allergic reaction, rash or mild burning.
- Spices and plant extract-based mouthwashes: Spices or other plant extracts can be used to make a mouthwash. Aloe vera juice and xylitol are widely used to soothe pain and reduce plaque buildup.
Spices like clove, cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric have several health benefits. One or more of these spices can be added as an active ingredient in mouthwash. These spices have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and antimicrobial properties.
How to make it: Bring a cup of water to boil and add 1 teaspoon whole cloves, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 4-5 cracked cardamom pods and 4 drops peppermint essential oil to the water. Remove it from heat and let the spices infuse for about 10 minutes.
Strain the mixture twice with a fine mesh strainer and pour into a bottle with a lid and keep refrigerated. This mouthwash can be used twice a day after the brushing.
There is no need to dilute the solution. Rinse it around the mouth for 30 seconds, then spit out.
Look for these ingredients if you are in search of mouthwash to control gum disease:
- Cetylpyridinium chloride eliminates bad breath and kills bacteria.
- Chlorhexidine is an antibacterial agent used to reduce plaque and control gum disease.
- Essential oils such as menthol, eucalyptus, methyl salicylate and thyme have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
Oil pulling is an ancient, traditional remedy that has been practised for centuries in India and Southern Asia as a holistic technique.
How to do it: The procedure of oil pulling involves placing a tablespoon of edible oil, for instance, sesame, olive, sunflower, or coconut, inside your mouth, and swishing or “pulling” the oil through the teeth and around the mouth for up to 15-20 minutes or longer.
It is claimed as one of the best methods to control gum disease in addition to usual plaque control methods.
Herbal application to control gum disease
As described earlier several herbs and plants such as cloves and turmeric have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and antioxidant properties and help prevent plaque accumulation and reduce inflammation.
You can either ground them into fine powder or get a ready-made powder from a grocery store to make a thick paste for the application.
How to use it: Mix a teaspoon of clove or turmeric powder (or as required) with water to form a thick paste. Apply this paste to your gums with a clean finger or damp cotton ball.
Message it gently for 30 sec to 1 min. Let it sit for another minute. Swish water around your mouth to collect all of the particles of the paste and spit it out.
Topical OTC gels for gum disease
There are several over-the-counter gels available at pharmacies or health stores that contain active ingredients to restore gum health.
How to apply it: You can either apply it on your toothbrush and brush your teeth for a minute or apply it over the sore, inflamed gums and leave it for 1min.
For correct application see the label. Continue the treatment for a month to see results.
Some of these gels are:
Corsodyl 1% w/w Dental Gel – for gingivitis
It is formulated to treat and prevent gum problems, such as red, swollen or bleeding gums and is clinically proven to help put a stop to the first stage of gum disease, gingivitis.
The gel contains 1% w/w Chlorhexidine Digluconate as an active ingredient.
Chlorhexidine Digluconate acts rapidly, to kill the bacteria that cause plaque within 30 seconds. It also forms a protective antibacterial layer over the teeth and gums to prevent plaque buildup for up to 12 hours.
Gengigel – for gingivitis and periodontitis
It contains 0.2% hyaluronic acid (HA) and 7.5% Xylitol (extracted from birch and beech trees). Hyaluronic acid is a natural constituent in gum tissues.
It boosts collagen formation and tissue regeneration by influencing the migration of fibroblasts (collagen fibre-producing cells), thus making the healing of gum tissue easier. Collagen provides firmness and elasticity to the gum tissues.
HA performs three synergistic effects:
- Accelerates the healing process
- Stops the multiplication of bacteria
In the early stage of inflammation and gum disease, the tissue’s requirement for HA increases by 200%, demonstrating its central role in regulating cell turnover and optimising tissue regeneration. When lacking HA, healing will be delayed and inflammation will continue.
How to use: Use the gel 2 to 3 times a day after meals, for 3 to 4 weeks continuing until all symptoms have disappeared.
Apply a film of gel to your gum tissue, massage it gently with clean fingers to aid even distribution on the gums. Do not eat, drink or rinse for 30 minutes.
When to see a dentist?
These are the few measures that can help you control gum disease at home. At the initial stage of the disease, you can manage it well by home care with annual or biannual scaling and polishing. However, the more advanced cases need professional help to prevent permanent damage to gum tissues.
It is advised to visit your dentist at 6 months to 1 year especially if you see a change in your gum health or anything unusual.
See your dentist if the symptoms listed below get worse or are not responding to home remedies:
• Bad breath
• Gum bleeding
• Red, swollen and painful gums
Gum disease includes diseases affecting the gums as a result of plaque and tartar formation. It could range from simple inflammation of the gums to more advanced periodontitis.
The treatment of gum disease involves the removal of plaque and calculus by scaling and polishing along with the management of risk factors that can lead to gum disease.
There are several home remedies you can do to control gum disease in addition to standard oral hygiene practices such as the use of mouthwash (homemade or OTC), oil pulling, salt water rinses and topical application of gels or herbal application (in the form of paste).