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Should you use a gum brush?

If the idea of using a brush on your gums sounds odd, you can massage them with your fingers.
If the idea of using a brush on your gums sounds odd, you can massage them with your fingers.

Many people have no idea how critical it is to have a healthy mouth. If you slack off on brushing and flossing, you'll not only have a grungy set of choppers and possibly nasty breath, but you can have all sorts of health problems. And we're not talking simple gum disease and tooth loss, but serious stuff like heart disease and pancreatic cancer [sources: Medical News Today, Treatment of Gingivitis].

Luckily, it's pretty easy to maintain good oral hygiene. The American Dental Association recommends you:

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  • Brush your teeth twice a day.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
  • Floss daily.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
  • See your dentist regularly.

In addition, dentists often recommend you brush your tongue and gums. Brushing the tongue helps remove bacteria and freshen your breath, while gently brushing your gums stimulates them to keep them healthy [sources: Earthority, Mother Nature]. The brushing also helps get rid of old cells -- it's basically exfoliating your skin [source: Sherman]. If you don't like to brush your gums, or if it's painful, you can also use your fingers to massage them. Grab your gums between your thumb and index finger -- placing your thumb on the inside of your gums and your index finger on the outside -- then rub [source: Mother Nature].

We've told you how to brush your gums; on the next page, learn about the gum brush itself.

There are a few gum brushes on the market that you can use. A relatively new dental product, gum brushes resemble toothbrushes, although their heads are generally smaller and the bristles are much softer and thicker. They cost roughly $5 to $10 and may be easiest to find online. Gum brush proponents say toothbrush bristles are designed to remove plaque from teeth, not massage gums, so you shouldn't use a toothbrush to massage your gums. Further, since the major cause of gum recession and injury is brushing too hard, using a toothbrush to massage your gums can actually be harmful [source: Earthority].

Additionally, there are gum brushes for infants, which are typically designed as a combination teething ring-gum brush to stimulate infants' gums as they chew on the piece [source: Baby Center]. Since massage is a recognized practice for developing healthy gums (and it's recommended to wipe infants' gums clean before teeth emerge to help rid the mouth of bacteria), it seems gum brushes can be helpful at any age.

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It can be difficult to find gum brushes, however, and even dental professionals often don't know much about them. Some believe gum brushes may be more of a marketing ploy than a truly beneficial device. Others believe they may be helpful but are so new they haven't been popularized yet.

Bottom line: Good oral hygiene is very important, and massaging your gums is helpful. Use your fingers, your toothbrush, a gum brush -- whichever you prefer. Just make sure you're doing the massaging gently.

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More Great Links

Sources

  • American Dental Association. "Cleaning Your Teeth & Gums." (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.ada.org/2624.aspx
  • Baby Center. "How to care for your baby's gums and emerging teeth." (Sept. 1, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-care-for-your-babys-gums-and-emerging-teeth_126.bc
  • Centers for Disease Control. "Oral Health: Preventing Cavities, Gum Disease, Tooth Loss, and Oral Cancers. At A Glance 2011." (Sept. 1, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/AAG/doh.htm
  • Dentist. "The Doctors DentalMate Vibrating Gum Massager." (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.dentist.net/doctors-dentalmate.asp
  • Dr. Tung's. (Aug. 30, 2011) http://drtungs.com/about/index.php
  • Earthority. (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.earthority.com/healthcare/oralcare/rejuvgumbrush.php
  • Gum Brand. "Gum Health." (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.gumbrand.com/gum-health/
  • Herbal Remedies. (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.herbalremedies.com/progumstmbrush.html
  • Mandala Organics. "Born Free Soft Silicone Teether Gum Brush." (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.mandalaorganics.com/products/Born-Free-Soft-Silicone-Teether-Gum-Brush.html
  • Medical News Today. "Pancreatic Cancer Linked To Poor Oral Hygiene." Jan. 17, 2007. (Sept. 1, 2011) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/60995.php
  • Mother Nature. "21 Remedies to Stop Gum Disease." (Sept. 1, 2011) http://library.mothernature.com/l/the-doctors-book-of-home-remedies/gingivitis_2639.html
  • Perio. "Assess Your Risk of Gum Disease." (Sept. 1, 2011) http://www.perio.org/consumer/4a.html#
  • Quit Smoking. "Dr. Tung's Compact GumBrush." (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.quitsmoking.com/dental/progumsbrush/index.htm
  • Reach Max Tooth and Gum Brush. (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.toothbrushexpress.com/page/TE/PROD/RH06
  • Sherman, Lori. Registered dental hygienist, Dr. James Amstadt & Associates. Personal interview. Aug. 31, 2011.
  • Treatment of Gingivitis. "Gingivitis and Heart Disease." Sept. 13, 2010. (Sept. 1, 2011) http://www.treatmentofgingivitis.com/gingivitis-and-heart-disease/
  • VeriFresh. (Aug. 30, 2011) http://www.verifresh.com/gummassager.php

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