If you’ve been practicing a good dental hygiene regimen your whole life, but you still find yourself dealing with receding gums, or worse, bleeding ones, you’re not alone.
No less than half of all American adults suffer from some form of gum disease. Receding gums are common in people over the age of 40, and bleeding gums often occur with people over the age of 35.
Having either doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suffering from periodontal disease, however.
For example, excessive brushing or rough brushing can cause both. They can also be brought on by a host of other non-oral diseases: everything from diabetes to menopause to a bad smoking habit.
In fact, your family’s genes may simply be to blame!
It’s still important to visit your dentist whenever you see evidence of either, because gum disease, not tooth decay, is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults.
Your Favorite Mouthwash May Not Be the Best Mouthwash for Gums
Your dentist may recommend a mouthwash for you as part of an overall dental hygiene plan to fight back. But not all mouthwashes are created the same — and some can even make the problem worse.
What’s the best mouthwash for gums? The best way to pick one that works for you is to know what ingredients you should and shouldn’t be looking for.
What They Should Contain
The best mouthwash for gums, whether natural or not, should contain at least one of the following ingredients:
- Essential Oils. This is the main ingredient that kills off the bacteria that produce gum disease. Depending on the mouthwash, they can contain menthol, eucalyptus, thyme or methyl salicylate. Natural mouthwashes often contain essential oils such as cinnamon, peppermint, spearmint, lemon, clove, and rosemary
- Chlorhexidine Gluconate. FDA approved and stronger on gum disease than natural oils, but only available by prescription.
- Sanguinarine. Like chlorhexidine gluconate, this natural extract stays potent in the mouth longer than any of the essential oils… although the jury is still out on its effectiveness. Available over-the-counter.
- Cetylpyridinium Chloride. Another OTC mouthwash ingredient which is safe yet unproven.
What They Shouldn’t Contain
Although not necessarily bad for your health, these ingredients can blunt the efficacy of a mouthwash for gum disease:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Derived from coconut oils and palm oil and also containing sodium, this compound is sort of a detergent for the mouth, but it’s mostly used because it thickens the mouthwash and makes it foam. Unfortunately, it also cuts down on the saliva in your mouth, which allows the bacteria that cause gum disease to grow!
- Alcohol. Ethanol, to be precise. Not only does it also dry your mouth, it’s one of the main factors in making your mouthwash burn and is hard on sensitive gums.
- Poloxamer 407. A polymer that’s used as an emulsifying agent. It does nothing for your gums, but may be somewhat toxic to your internal organs when absorbed through the mouth.
- Methylparaben/Propylparaben. Found in many cosmetics, these two ingredients can be toxic to your reproductive and immune systems, as well as triggering certain allergies.
What They Don’t Need
Many of the best mouthwashes for gums contain these ingredients, but they won’t do anything for bleeding or receding gums:
- Fluoride. We’ve been trained to want fluoride because of its success at preventing tooth decay, but it doesn’t really matter if it’s in your mouthwash or not. If you’re brushing correctly, your toothpaste already has plenty of fluoride in it for protection. It definitely won’t do anything for your gum disease, however.
- Chlorine Dioxide. This is an oxidizing agent that’s the main ingredient when it comes to freshening your breath. Whether you want to put it in your body is up to you.
- Dyes and Sweeteners. Likewise, there’s a lot of debate on these additives. It all depends on whether or not you need your mouthwash to look and taste good. Certain natural mouthwashes can be sweetened and colored naturally… but none of it has anything to do with your gums.
What They Can Have
The following ingredients may or may not fight gum disease, and some come with side effects of their own:
- Hydrogen Peroxide. It’s well known for its ability to clean out wounds, but hydrogen peroxide, when diluted, also has indications for oral cleansing. Trouble is, it’s essentially a bleach and can be very harsh on sensitive gums and other mouth tissues. It’s generally not something you want in your mouthwash — especially if you already have other problems.
- Oxygenating Agents. These are bad breath fighters and not necessary for fighting gum disease.
- Cetylpyridinium Chloride. This is an old-school mouthwash ingredient that’s also mainly used to fight bad breath. It supposedly has some efficacy against bacteria, but results are inconclusive.
- Stannous Fluoride and Chlorhexidine. Neither of these ingredients can be found in over the counter medications; you can only get them through a prescription. The reason for that is simple: while they’re often cited as being more effective against gum disease than essential oils, they also tend to stain the teeth of some users. The trade-off may not be worth it. Speak to your dentist first.
- Sea Salt. It’s got a higher mineral content than other forms of sodium, which is why sea salt not only won’t dry your mouth out as badly, it can also help to reinforce your teeth and also reduces inflammation of the gums. But it doesn’t do much for bleeding or receding gums.
- Sodium Bicarbonate. Otherwise known as good old baking soda, this was the toothpaste of choice before toothpaste became a thing. It’s a natural stain fighter, it reduces plaque, and keeps your breath fresh… but you’re probably better off sticking with the essential oils when you need the best mouthwash for gums.
Speak to Your Dentist Today
Remember, your mouthwash is only one of the tools you can use to help fight gum disease. But mouthwashes are formulated for several different reasons: they’re not one-size-fits-all.
Speak to your dentist today if you’re suffering from receding or bleeding gums and let them assess just how bad the situation is.
No matter what, you will know that your mouthwash is helping, especially when used as part of a comprehensive dental hygiene plan.