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Expert Q&A

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How can I get healthier gums?

Asked by Marilyn, Virginia

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I think my gums are infected slightly. I brush twice a day, use Listerine, and Act rinsing. What can I use each day for getting healthier gums?

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Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Thanks for writing. It sounds like you're describing gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. Symptoms may include red, swollen gums with some bleeding and pain.

The most common cause of gingivitis is plaque buildup from inadequate brushing and flossing. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day. Certain ADA-accepted mouth rinses or toothpastes may also help fight plaque, as may using a dental pick and/or an electric toothbrush. In addition, it is helpful to eat a healthy, balanced diet and see a dental professional on a regular basis for cleaning and exams.

If plaque stays on the teeth for more than a few days, it hardens into tartar and is much more difficult to remove by yourself. Your dentist or hygienist can help remove tartar to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Your dentist may also recommend brushing and flossing after every meal, although cleaning your teeth too vigorously may make the inflammation worse. Finally, severe gingivitis may require treatment with an oral antibiotic.

Sometimes other habits or medical conditions may cause gingivitis. These include smoking or chewing tobacco, diabetes, problems with the immune system, hormonal changes (such as from puberty, pregnancy, menopause or oral contraceptives), an infection in the mouth, an impacted tooth, a vitamin deficiency (such as of vitamin C or niacin), or the use of some medications that treat seizures, high blood pressure and other conditions.

If your gum inflammation continues, be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor and your dentist to figure out the best way to treat it for your own situation. Good luck!

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