The idea of your gums bleeding sounds like something out of a horror movie, but it’s a serious problem for millions of Americans, and a staggeringly high global number. So what causes it? There’s a lot that you need to know, but we’re not just going to tell you what the problem is: we’re going to provide a direct action that you can start today, and limit your tooth sensitivity and chance of your gums bleeding.
Before we begin, understand that everyone is different, and there are two unfair factors that come into play when trying to mitigate gum and tooth damage: age and history. The older you are, the harder you have to work to curb these issues and prevent future ones. The longer you’ve gone with sensitive teeth and bleeding gums, the longer it’s going to take to find your way back to a healthy state. You might have a tougher road ahead than most, but these ten rules to live by are designed to help you regardless of your current situation.
1. Brush Three Times a Day
We’ve all heard this age-old rule. Unlike a ton of other archaic dental practices that have been disproven in recent years, this rule held the test of time. There are stipulations on this, which we’ll get into in other rules, but it’s extremely important to develop this habit. Science tells us that it takes sixty-seven days to develop a new habit, whether it’s positive or negative. You have a struggle ahead to ensure that you’re brushing three times a day, but we’re going to help you get there.
On average, it only takes about four hours for massive amounts of bacteria to build in your mouth. It’s touchy, because some of this bacteria is good. Some of it is there to promote saliva production and stimulate your glands, break down food before it reaches your stomach, and keep dry mouth at bay. Unfortunately, if you let these go on for too long, those positive effects become increasingly negative.
Does this mean you should always be brushing? No. It’s about balance, so brushing three separate times per day is going to majorly help you. Think of it as morning, somewhere midday, and just before bed. Those are your most important times. When you’re sleeping, you have no defense, no way to combat bacterial growth in your mouth, and this method gives you the best chance to prevent damage.
How to Make it Happen: We’re not going to say, “Just remember, and get it done.” That’s a load of bull. You’re forming a new habit, so you need to remind yourself and set failsafes. Use your smartphone, set three timers throughout the day, and actually listen when they go off. If you carry around a dopp kit, you can stow your electric toothbrush in there with some travel-sized toothpaste so you don’t forget. Avoid wrapping up your reminder and your morning alarm into one function, otherwise you’re certain to forget.
2. Exclusively Use a Water Flosser
Using traditional floss isn’t bad for you, we actually recommend it. But if you’ve always struggled with oral health, floss might actually irritate your gums more than help them out. The perfect alternative is a water flosser, which glides between your teeth and across your gums without any solid object coming in direct contact with them. It guarantees less inflammation, which is one of the reasons that your gums are bleeding in the first place.
They’re also far more efficient. What do you do with standard floss? You pull it between your teeth, get all the gunk out, and it’s stuck there on the floss. With a water pic, it’s like using mouthwash. You’re using liquid to create a stronger force than a piece of nylon string, leaving nothing but clean teeth behind. Water flossers have a safe level of pressure that’s more powerful than exclusively using mouthwash, which helps remove tartar and plaque buildup that could be damaging your teeth, and affecting your gums.
How to Make it Happen: We know it’s a bit of a step (it’s not like just going from a manual to an electric toothbrush), so to get started, you need to determine what kind of flosser you want. Some are electric, others are hand pump-operated. Get them primed, lean your open mouth over the sink, and use the sprayhead to get in all those hard-to-reach spots in your mouth. The goal is to let the water pour out of your mouth like a waterfall, bringing bacteria, plaque and food particles with it, right down the drain. There’s an odd, almost ticklish feeling at first, but it doesn’t take more than a few uses to get familiar with a water flosser.
3. Wait to Brush Until Thirty Minutes After a Meal
If you’re very particular about your oral health, then you might be running to the restroom to brush right after your meal. The intention is great, but you’re actually causing the inflammation, sensitivity and potential bleeding gums. You’re assaulting your teeth with acidic food, carbonated drinks and hundreds of individual chews. That’s a lot for them to go through, and as you might imagine, it lowers your tooth’s natural defenses.
Eating doesn’t kill your enamel (depending on the food), but it does temporarily weaken it. After you’ve finished eating, your teeth have about twenty-four minutes on average where they are still extremely vulnerable to pressure and scrubbing. It isn’t just your enamel, though: it’s your dentin, which is the hardy layer beneath the enamel.
Even if you consume foods with low acidity levels, or you’re not having carbonated drinks, you should still wait at least thirty minutes after eating a meal to brush your teeth. Try your best to have access to your toothbrush and toothpaste, which is especially helpful if you want to brush after a workplace lunch-in meeting or something of that nature.
How to Make it Happen: It’s not always easy to remember to brush, especially when you’re setting limits on the exact timeframe. If you can’t walk away from your desk after lunch to brush, then consider using an enamel restoring toothpaste during your morning and even brushing. Even if your enamel is in top-notch condition, this is just going to elongate your oral health. Nothing wrong with doubling down on protection for your teeth.
4. Use Alcohol-Free Mouthwash
Alcohol in your mouthwash isn’t the primary thing that kills bacteria. If that were the case, we’d be swishing around Jack Daniels with a hint of mint thrown right in. The truth is, alcohol is an outdated ingredient in mouthwashes, but everyone is so convinced that this archaic recipe is the only thing that really cleans their teeth. It’s been proven time and time again, that alcohol-free mouthwash provides the exact same benefits, with less drawbacks.
Your gums may not absorb every drop of what goes into your mouth, but the walls of your cheeks certainly do. There are salivary glands present that help produce enzymes that break down food, but it also absorbs some of that food to determine what needs to be released. Your body is pretty smart like that. Ingesting alcohol one to two times per day for thirty years tends to take its toll on your health.
Alcohol no longer needs to be in mouthwash. It does little but cause a greatly increased risk of cancer, as well as promote more irritability. In a nutshell, alcohol-inclusive mouthwash could be worsening your bleeding gums, or at least prolonging what should be a fairly short recovery period. If you can strike this from your life forever, you’ll be better off.
How to Make it Happen: Sounds like a simple thing to implement, but you’ll notice that the cost of alcohol-free mouthwash is still higher than big bulk purchases of alcohol-inclusive mouthwash. It makes it hard when you’re staring at your thin wallet and thinking, “Does it really matter?” Buy in bulk, same as you would with alcohol-inclusive mouthwash, and you’ll get very similar prices. It requires more of an upfront cost, but in most cases, you can get one to three years worth of alcohol-free mouthwash to even out the price gap.
5. Kick the Bucket on Smoking
We’re not here to preach, just showcase what smoking specifically does to your teeth. Smoking throws a lot of different chemicals, and of course tobacco, right at your immune system. Even the immune system of a standardly healthy person has its difficulties with staving off disease and common illnesses, but smoking makes its job a hell of a lot harder.
When you smoke, your immune system isn’t on the front lines to help prevent gum disease. Gum disease can occur even if you’re practicing regular brushing and flossing habits. It starts out by making plaque and bad breath bacteria far easier to form and spread, which makes it more difficult and labor intensive to keep your mouth clean on a constant basis. If you’ve ever shared a kiss with someone who smokes (before you began smoking), you’ll remember that there was a distinct taste. It’s the smoke affecting your salivary glands.
When you don’t produce a properly viscous saliva, it doesn’t work to break down food or eliminate plaque on your teeth. Smoke and nicotine clog your salivary glands, which is why food begins to lose its sharp flavor, and you can smell smoke sometimes even when you haven’t had a cigarette all day. It’s not just a craving, it’s your salivary glands secreting enzymes that are loaded with nicotine, which reflects in your breath.
How to Make it Happen: Lessening your smoking habit still leaves you more vulnerable to gum disease, and once it’s herre, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of without some serious intervention. Everyone has a different way that smoking impacts their lives, and we aren’t experts on how to handle quitting. You can always call on the good folks behind Quit.com to help devise a truly powerful tactic to quit smoking today, and start enjoying better oral health tomorrow. The damage doesn’t have to be permanent.
6. Upgrade Your Diet
What you eat directly affects your skin’s health, oral health, and of course, the operations of all your internal organs. It’s a big responsibility to eat properly, but if you look around, there’s a million unhealthy options being shoved in our faces every single day. Nobody expects you to be a clean-eating machine that refuses every delicious morsel of food that comes your way, but upgrading your diet to include foods with more antioxidants and all-natural ingredients is certainly a step that you need to take.
We know the basics about sugar and how bad it is for your teeth, and we know some foods (carb-heavy food) that ends up turning into sugar when it meets saliva or our stomach. It puts a big red X on a lot of different foods, even ones that were previously thought to be healthy. If you’re thinking, “I can just brush shortly after I eat, and I’ll be fine,” we’re about to burst your bubble.
We’ve talked about saliva production. Poor food that doesn’t promote healthy bacteria buildup creates an imbalance, only advocating for bad bacterial growth. You get a smelly breath and an environment that looks to decay your teeth instead of protecting them. Your diet is extremely important to reduce inflammation, so add antioxidants and clean ingredients to your menu.
How to Make it Happen: Getting rid of poor eating habits isn’t an easy feat. You have to seriously sit down and identify what you’re eating, and how you can adopt a new lifestyle. This doesn’t mean you have to go hardcore vegan or anything like that, but limiting grease and oil from your diet, while including vitamin and mineral-enriched foods, is going to help you in the long run. The easier it is for your saliva to break down the food, the less likely it is to stick around and cause plaque or sensitivity on your teeth.
7. Stop Skipping Your Twice Yearly Dental Appointments
No matter how good you are at maintaining your own dental hygiene, it’s not going to be worth much if you aren’t letting the professionals take a look. At the very least, annual dentist visits help you screen for oral cancer and problems that you just can’t see without the proper equipment. There could be underlying issues that contribute to bleeding gums and tooth sensitivity that you aren’t aware of, such as periodontitis or other tooth-related issues.
You could have developed allergies to your toothpaste, you could require medicated mouthwash and closer monitoring; there’s any number of things that could be happening. Getting the advice (and possible prescriptions) from a dentist can save you a lot of hassle, discomfort, and pain in the long haul. There isn’t much more to say on this topic, other than the fact that you need to take the time to visit the dentist and leave excuses at the door.
How to Make it Happen: We’re not going to pretend that cost and time aren’t issues here. If your work schedule is hectic, you still have to make time for your health. Just bring it up to your boss at least two weeks prior to the appointment. If money is tight, check out online dental health insurance programs, or see if you can apply for a dental credit service. It sounds bizarre, but the latter is like a credit card for your oral health. We don’t advocate going into debt, but it’s your health after all: protect it vigorously.
8. Quit Buying Low-Quality Dental Hygiene Products
To get this straight right from the start, expensive and low-quality aren’t mutually exclusive. You need to pay attention to the ingredients list, and understand just what you’re going to be using: toothpaste, mouthwash, bristles on your brush, and so on. Your dentist will be able to advise you on what products you should be on the lookout for based on their analysis of your teeth, but as a general rule, stick to these:
For Your Brush – Stick to soft bristles when available. You have to understand that softer bristles might provide less cleanliness, which is why it’s important to ensure your routine has an alcohol-free mouthwash and water flosser included.
For Your Toothpaste – If you’re getting fluoride treatments at your dentist, ask them if your teeth are strong enough to forego using more in your toothpaste. We often see many toothpaste brands showcasing fluoride being added to their formula, but it’s not always necessary. Look for ingredients that rebuild enamel and help restore damage.
How to Make it Happen: It’s going to require a small bit of extra funding to get the right supplies. We wish that it weren’t that simple, but these companies understand the value in their products and don’t lowball the prices. Plan to cut out your trip to the coffee shop for a few days, don’t get takeout this month, do whatever you have to do in order to have enough money to upgrade your oral hygiene products.
9. Only Get Your Teeth Whitened Professionally
Teeth whitening really became a big deal about a decade ago, but today it’s far too common. What we mean by that is, it’s a lot easier to mess up an at-home kit than you think, causing enamel damage or just a poor job at whitening your teeth. What you should be doing is getting a professional whitening at the dentist office instead.
When you go in, they’re not using strips and a timer like at-home kits do. These kits don’t account for tooth sensitivity, gum disease, as well as multiple other issues that you could be facing. In fact, if there’s a small hole anywhere in your teeth, that solution can actually sink in and cause damage to your dentin, the layer of the actual tooth just below your enamel. It weakens enamel to reduce discoloration and lift stains, but when you’re damaging your actual teeth for the sake of a white smile, that’s not good.
To put it plainly, dentists have the necessary tools, treatments and experience available to give you fantastic results. You think that red carpet A-listers are using in-home kits? No. The idols we look to that have perfect smiles are allowing a professional to do the job for them, the right way.
How to Make it Happen: Plan ahead. If you don’t have a dental plan, either get on one, or plan to have your teeth whitened with plenty of time to build up the necessary funding. With preventative measures, teeth whitening isn’t always a necessity, so you’ll be able to forego this expense altogether with appropriate preparations.
10. Drink More Water Every Single Day
This sounds relatively simple, but your body doesn’t always send off the right signals that tell you-you’re dehydrated. Your body and mind aren’t always communicating, in fact very few of us are in tune with our bodies enough to know what the problem is. Dehydration adds to bacterial growth, because you’re not producing saliva with as many food-dissolving enzymes as you could be.
On top of that, your gums are technically an organ. They bleed, they require care, and are prone to infections just like any other part of your body. The only difference is that you’re applying direct benefits or damages to your gums depending on what you’re doing. Like with any organ, hydration allows it to fire on all cylinders, combating problems and staying healthy.
We recommend drinking at least eight 8oz glasses of water per day. It directly helps your gums by keeping everything in check, but indirectly affects your tooth sensitivity. The amount we just mentioned is a half-gallon of water every single day. Imagine drinking that through the day, and try being thirsty for anything else. You’ll stay fuller for longer, so you won’t reach to soda, energy drinks or carbonated beverages as often, reducing the damage you do to your teeth.
How to Make it Happen: Just carry the jug around. Purchase a half-gallon plastic jug of water, and start drinking it first thing in the morning. Don’t down it by lunchtime: sip throughout the day so you’re getting round-the-clock hydration. Most inflammation and irritability can be countered with enough hydration, so if you currently experience bleeding gums or generally bright red gum tissue, you’re about to curb it.