Tags Posts tagged with "gingivitis"


Teeth Whitening Side Effects
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Did you know that more than half of all people who bleach their teeth end up with sensitive teeth as a result?  It seems like people are willing to go through a lot just to get whiter teeth.  In this article, I’m going to talk about the two main side effects of whitening your teeth: tooth sensitivity and sore gums.

Sensitive Teeth

Teeth Whitening Side EffectsTooth sensitivity is the most common side effect of teeth whitening.  It can range from very mild tooth sensitivity to a sharp, shooting type of pain.  Almost always, the sensitivity goes away within a few weeks and no permanent harm is done to the teeth.  But, in rare cases, irreversible tooth damage can occur according to this page on the American Dental Association’s website.

When I whitened my teeth last year, I ended up with really sensitive teeth and had to stop after a few nights to keep my teeth from driving me crazy!

This study from the American Dental Association found out the following during a study about tooth sensitivity after teeth whitening:

“Fifty-four percent of subjects in both test and controlgroups reported mild sensitivity; 10 percent of test subjectsand 2 percent of control subjects reported moderate sensitivity;4 percent of test subjects and no control subjects reportedsevere sensitivity. Sensitivity decreased with time; by thesecond week, no severe sensitivity was reported, and by thefourth week, no moderate sensitivity was reported.”

How to Stop Sensitive Teeth Caused by Teeth Whitening

There are desensitizing gels available that can be applied to your teeth either before or after whitening your teeth.  These gels contain similar ingredients to those found in toothpastes for those with sensitive teeth.

This study found that using a desensitizing gel before getting your teeth whitened at the dental office actually reduced the amount of tooth sensitivity that a patient experiences.  In the words of the researchers, “The use of a desensitizing gel (5 percent nitratepotassium/2 percent sodium fluoride) before in-office bleachingdid not affect the bleaching efficacy but did reduce tooth sensitivity.”

Your dentist can also give you desensitizing gel if your tooth sensitivity does not seem to be decreasing within a reasonable time after the procedure..

Sore Gums

The second main side effect of teeth whitening is sore gums.  There are a couple of theories as to why you get sore gums with teeth whitening.

Hydrogen peroxide is able to cause chemical burns (much like aspirin) on the inside of your mouth.  One theory suggests that since hydrogen peroxide is present when you whiten your teeth, it can irritate your gums.

Most teeth whitening gels contain carbamide peroxide which ends up breaking down into hydrogen peroxide to whiten the teeth.

Another theory as to why you get sore gums when you whiten your teeth doesn’t have to do with the whitening gel – it is caused by the tray that holds the whitening gel up against your teeth.  The ADA says that “Tissue irritation, in most cases, results from an ill-fitting tray rather than the tooth-bleaching agents.”

How to Stop Sore Gums Caused by Teeth Whitening

If you often have sore gums after you whiten your teeth, you can often solve the problem by getting a tray that fits better.  Dentists can make teeth whitening trays that are custom made to fit your teeth and that hold the gel on your teeth rather than on your gums.  If that doesn’t work, it may be best to take a break from whitening your teeth to keep your gums from hurting.

What to Do If You Develop These Teeth Whitening Side Effects

The dental textbook Sturdevant’s Art and Science of Operative Dentistry states “If either of the two primary side effects occurs (i.e., sensitive teeth or irritated gingiva), the patient should reduce or discontinue treatment immediately and contact the dentist so that the cause of the problem can be determined and the treatment approach modified.  The dentist may prescribe desensitizing agents to help alleviate sensitivity associated with bleaching.”


Although these are the two main side effects, there are other side effects that have been suggested such as:

  • Nausea
  • Sore Throat
  • TMJ disorder due to tray usage
  • Alteration of the normal bacteria leading to taste-bud enlargement
  • Oral infection

If you experience any of these side effects associated with teeth whitening, get in touch with your dentist to get more information on your individual situation.  Sometimes having pearly whites is not worth the discomfort and possible damage to your teeth!

Have you ever had any of these teeth whitening side effects?  What happened?  I’d love to hear your stories, comments, and questions in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

Gum Disease Leads to Tooth Loss

Man Asking About Tooth LossIf someone asked you what the #1 cause of tooth loss is in people over age 35, what would you guess?

If you’re like most people, you would probably guess that it’s cavities.

Unfortunately…you’d be wrong.

It is generally accepted that the leading cause of tooth loss in people over 35 is periodontitis, more commonly known as gum disease.  In people under 35, cavities are the leading cause of tooth loss.

Teeth are normally held firmly in place under your gums by a strong bone called alveolar bone.

Gum Disease Can Cause You To Lose Your Teeth
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You Can Lose Teeth That Are In Perfect Condition

If you’ve brushed your teeth every day of your life and kept them in perfect condition with no cavities, but you’ve never flossed then you might be in trouble.  There are many people who believe that brushing is enough.  But while they are preventing cavities, their lack of flossing is causing other unseen effects on their gums.

Over the years, a lack of flossing will take its toll on your gum health.  Your gums will recede due to the constant irritation they’ve had from bacteria that hasn’t been removed by flossing.  Soon enough, your teeth begin to loosen and can even fall out if your gums are not cared for.

The x-ray below shows two teeth that have lost nearly half of the support from their bony foundation.

Periodontal Disease Associated Bone Loss
The blue lines show the level where the bone should be to provide adequate support to the teeth. The red line shows the current level of the bone. Click on the image for a larger view.

Your Gums Are the Foundation

House FoundationIn a healthy mouth, each tooth in your mouth is firmly gripped by strong, healthy alveolar bone.  Hopefully the building you’re in right now is rooted firmly in the ground by a strong foundation.

Try to imagine a beautiful home anchored firmly on top of a large hill by a strong foundation.  Let’s compare this house to a tooth.

As gingivitis progresses to periodontitis (gum disease), the bone that holds your teeth in place gradually erodes away.  This is similar to hundreds of rainstorms gradually washing away the dirt that surrounds the foundation of a house.

If enough dirt washes away, the house could eventually find itself on unstable ground and fall over.  Even if everything else on the house was in perfect condition, it could still fall.

This is the same in the mouth.  Even if you have a tooth that has never had a cavity, it can fall out due to a lack of support from the alveolar bone.


You now know that gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in people over age 35.

One of the best ways to prevent gum disease is to floss daily.  Flossing helps dislodge the bacteria that get stuck down between your teeth and gums.  Ordinary brushing can’t remove these bacteria, only flossing can get rid of them.

Do you have any questions or comments about gum disease?  Leave them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.

Tips to Get Rid of Gingivitis
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If you’ve noticed that your gums are red and puffy, or that they bleed whenever you brush your teeth, you may have gingivitis.

Toothbrush with ToothpasteGingivitis is defined as an inflammation of the gums without any loss of the attachment to the tooth.  When the gums start to recede from the tooth, gingivitis has advanced to a disease known as periodontitis.  Please note that in this article, I am referring to gingivitis caused by plaque build-up.  There are many other causes of gum enlargement you can read about here.

Luckily, gingivitis is completely curable.  It is important to remember that gingivitis doesn’t just spontaneously occur, it is usually associated with poor oral hygiene.  The secret to curing gingivitis lies in improving oral hygiene.

Four Tips to Cure Gingivitis

1. Brush Your Teeth. Brushing helps remove plaque.  Since most gingivitis is caused by plaque, you can reduce the gingivitis by removing the cause — plaque.  It is a good idea to try to brush twice daily.  If you brush too much, you can end up irritating your gums.

2. Floss Daily. Flossing can remove a lot of the plaque that gets stuck under the gum line.  If you let the plaque grow under the gums, it can really irritate your gums and cause gingivitis.  By removing this sub-gingival plaque, the swelling in your gums will go down.

3. Using an irrigation device such as a WaterPik will drastically reduce gingivitis by flushing the bacteria out of your mouth.  Irrigation devices can reach under the gums and dislodge plaque that might otherwise be inaccessible.  This hard-to-remove plaque is one of the main causes of gingivitis and removing it will greatly improve gingival health.  Many devices provide a pulsating stream of water, which has been shown to be ideal.

Once your gums return to a nice coral-pink color, it is not necessary to use a WaterPik or other irrigation device unless your gingivitis returns.  The main benefit of these irrigation devices is in reducing gingivitis, not maintaining gum health.

4. Use a Mouth Rinse. The book Primary Preventive Dentistry by Norman O. Harris recommends using “over-the-counter products with essential oils, such as Listerine, or dentist prescribed chlorhexidine mouthrinses.”

Many mouth rinses have antibacterial properties that will help your gums return to health.  The best rinse to help fight gingivitis is chlorhexidine (marketed in the USA under the brand name Peridex.)  However, it can sometimes be expensive.  If you are open to trying new things, there have been some studies to suggest that oil pulling may be a cheaper alternative to chlorhexidine in fighting gingivitis.

Good Luck

It is fortunate that gingivitis can be cured.  Unfortunately, after about a month of not brushing, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis which can cause you to lose your teeth.

If you follow the tips above, you should get your gums back to good health in a week or two.

If you have any questions or comments about gingivitis, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.

Swollen Gums

Throughout your life, you may notice that your gums may sometimes get bigger from time to time.  There are many different reasons that your gums may be enlarged.

While it is widely known that if you don’t brush your teeth and floss regularly, you can develop gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums.  However, there are also many other reasons your gums may be getting bigger.

I mention seven of the more common reasons below, and then in the final paragraph I mention a few more less common causes of gingival (gum) enlargement.

Seven Reasons Your Gums May be Getting Bigger

Gums1 – You Have Gingivitis – Gingivitis is when the gums are overwhelmed by the amount of plaque on the teeth that they become red and puffy to try to fight the bacteria.  Without proper brushing, gingivitis won’t go away.  If you have red and puffy gums, you might want to see your dentist.  Your dentist will be able to prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash that can help reduce the swelling and get your gums back to their healthy coral pink color.

2 – Drugs are Causing Your Gums to Get Bigger – There are several drugs that can cause your gums to get bigger.  This condition is known as drug-induced gingival hyperplasia and can cause your gums to look like they are squeezing out of the spaces between your teeth and growing over your teeth.  There are a few categories of drugs that can cause this:

  • Anticonvulsants.  For example primidone, phenytoin, phenobarbital, topiramate, ethosuximide, valproate, lamotrigine, and vigabatrin.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers.  For example nifedipine and verapamil.
  • Immunosuppresants such as cyclosporine

3 – You Breathe Through Your Mouth A Lot – If find yourself breathing through your mouth very often, you can be irritating your gums.  If you have a stuffed up nose and can only breathe through your mouth, you may notice your gums getting slightly bigger.  It is presumed that since the air you breathe in is drying your gums, they compensate by enlarging the blood supply and getting puffier to ensure that they don’t dry out.

4 – Hormones can make your gums bigger.  Adolescents that are going through puberty are extremely susceptible to gingivitis.  Also, pregnant women are very susceptible to gingivitis due to the high levels of progesterone in their bodies.  Progesterone increases the permeability of the blood vessels in the gums.  Women taking birth control may also notice enlarged gums.

5 – Stress -If you are stressed out a lot, try to reduce it somehow.  If you need some help, here’s a resource to help you reduce stress.

6 – Vitamin C Deficiency – If you aren’t getting enough vitamin C in your diet, your gums can get really puffy and red.  I have seen this, and it’s not very pretty.  You can get vitamin C from most fruits, especially citrus fruits or from a multi-vitamin.

7 – Diseases can cause enlarged gums.  Certain diseases such as diabetes mellitus, leukemia, cancer, sarcoidosis, Wegener’s granulomatosis, and autoimmune diseases can all cause your gums to get bigger.


There are of course other reasons that can cause your gums to get bigger, but they aren’t too common.  For example, if a dentist puts a crown on a tooth and the crown has to go below the gum line, that can cause your gums to get irritated and big.  Heavy metal poisoning, immune disorders, substance abuse, and Down Syndrome are some other causes of bigger gums.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.  Thanks for reading!

Oil Pulling for Teeth
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Oil pulling therapy is an ancient medicinal technique that is used to improve oral health.

Oil Pulling therapy involves putting a tablespoon of vegetable oil (usually sunflower or sesame seed oil) into your mouth and swishing it around like mouthwash for an extended period of time.  It is recommended to do this on an empty stomach at the beginning of the day.  After you’ve rinsed the oil through every little crevice in your mouth which takes about 10-20 minutes you spit the oil out.  According to the remedy, the oil is supposed to remove the toxic bacteria in your mouth.  You can find more information on oil pulling from this website.

Vegetable Oil Used for Oil PullingOil pulling therapy has been used for many years as an Indian natural remedy to prevent teeth decay, bleeding gums, bad breath, dry mouth, dry throat, and chapped lips.  It was also used because it was believed to strengthen the teeth, gums, and jaws.  This remedy had been passed on and used because the Indians believed it worked, not because of scientific evidence.

However, in the last decade there have been some studies published that address the issue of whether or not oil pulling is effective.  I found the results rather surprising.  Here’s an easy-to-read summary of the four studies that I was able to find that discussed oil pulling and oral health.

Study #1: 20 Adolescent Boys

This study aimed to find out if oil pulling could reduce the amount of streptococcus mutans (one of the major bad bacteria in plaque) in people’s saliva.

They took 20 boys and divided them into two groups.  One group rinsed their mouths with chlorhexidine (a prescription antiseptic mouthwash marketed under the name of Peridex in the U.S.) and the other group rinsed their mouth with sesame oil for 10 minutes every morning.

The researchers collected plaque and saliva samples from both groups four times during the study.  Both groups showed a significant decrease in the levels of bacteria in their mouth.  Using either oil or chlorhexidine along with brushing was much better than brushing alone.  Here’s what the researchers had to say:

In this study the chlorhexidine group showed a greater statistically significant reduction of S. mutans count in plaque and saliva at different time periods than the oil pulling group. However, sesame oil has certain advantages over chlorhexidine: it does not stain, it has no lingering aftertaste, and causes no allergy. Sesame oil is 5-6 times more cost-effective than chlorhexidine and is, moreover, readily available in the household. There are no disadvantages in oil pulling therapy except for the extended duration of the procedure compared with chlorhexidine. Though oil pulling therapy cannot be recommended for use as a treatment adjunct as of now, it can be used as a preventive home therapy to maintain oral hygiene.

Study #2:  10 People Do Oil Pulling

This study had two objectives: to find out if oil pulling could reduce plaque & gingivitis and to find out if oil pulling was safe for the mouth.

10 people performed oil pulling in addition to their normal oral hygiene routine.  They used refined sunflower oil.  The researchers measured their plaque and gingival scores periodically throughout the 45-day duration of the study.

This study found that oil pulling did significantly reduce plaque and gingivitis.  In the words of the researchers:

In a study by Tritton CB and Armitage GC(3) tooth brushing has reduced plaque scores by  11-27% and gingivitis by 8-23%. By oil pulling, in the present study plaque scores have reduced by 18-30% and gingivitis has reduced by 52-60%. Hence reduction in plaque is comparable to previous studies, whereas reduction in gingivitis has been far superior. Being an indigenous procedure of Ayurveda this has a wide scope if properly utilized.

I don’t think this study is as accurate as the first one because there was no control group.  They just took 10 people and started the study.  Those 10 people probably started taking much better care of their teeth since they knew that researchers would be measuring plaque and gum inflammation.  That fact alone could have biased the study.

Study #3: 10 Other People Do Oil Pulling

This study simply had 10 people do oil pulling using sesame oil for a period of 40 days.  Their oral bacteria was measured before and after.  The bacteria in the subjects’ mouths decreased an average of 20%.

Study #4: 20 Adolescent Boys with Gingivitis

This study took 20 boys with Gingivitis and had one group use oil pulling with sesame oil and the other group use chlorhexidine, much like the first study I mentioned.

Once again, both groups showed an increase in oral health following through with their regimens.  The researchers concluded that:

1. A statistically significant reduction in the plaque index score was seen in both the oil pulling and chlorhexidine groups.
2. A statistically significant reduction in the modified gingival index score was seen in both the oil pulling and chlorhexidine groups.
3. A considerable reduction in the total colony count of the microorganisms was seen in the plaque sample in both groups. Though the reduction was more in the oil pulling group, there was no statistically significant difference between the groups.

Possible Harmful Effects of Oil Pulling

Although studies have indicated that oil pulling is wonderful, there still hasn’t been enough scientific studies to prove that it should be prescribed.

Last December, in a letter to the editor of the British Dental Journal, a dentist reported that he was treating a patient with gingitis and bleeding gums.  This patient had been practicing oil pulling for a few months and noticed that her condition had worsened.  Upon stopping oil pulling for three weeks, the dentist noticed that her gingivitis was reduced.  The patient was subsequently treated using traditional methods and her gums returned to health.

This dentist believed that she was retaining oil particles in her gum tissues and that this was causing her gingivitis.

It is important to keep in mind that none of the studies reported any harmful effects, and it is quite possible that this woman’s gingivitis was due to something other than the oil pulling and it was just a coincidence that her gingivitis subsided when she quit practicing oil pulling.


It is still too early to tell scientifically if oil pulling should be used.  In developing countries, such as India, it may be a great option since it is cheap and readily available.

Oil pulling has been around for many years as a folk remedy and seems to have withstood the test of time.  The four studies that have been done have also shown its effectiveness.

So, if you’re looking for a cheap way to keep your mouth healthy, you might want to try oil pulling.  If you do, let us know how it goes in the comments.