Humans are social beings. We love holding parties and social events. For many people, it is a chance to have fun, to unwind from a long tiresome week, and for the serious chaps, a time to network and land new clients. But these events are usually fun and relaxing for individuals who have been invited.
For the host(s), there is pressure to have everything going according to plan. If you have ever planned an event you know what I am talking about. But once the soiree is all done and your efforts are acknowledged, the stress and trouble you went through fade away into the distance.
A vote of thanks to you is like a salary at the end of the week or month that erases all your thoughts of quitting the job and moving on to something ‘better’.
Unfortunately, it is not always the case that the efforts of the people behind the scenes are acknowledged. At times they are forgotten and denied the satisfaction of knowing they did well in planning the event. Do you know this feeling of not being appreciated?
You do right? Well, that’s the same pain and frustration we take our gums through!
Yes, gums are unappreciated. The teeth, tongue, and jaw take all the praise and leave nothing for the gums. But the fact that they are not ‘active’ does not mean they are vestigial. On the contrary, they are super important. When you think about it, your teeth would be nothing without the gums.
In this piece, I’ll take you through a crash course on gums and hopefully, we learn to appreciate them more. I’ll also cover gum inflammation and how to deal with it – spoiler alert; it has everything to do with essential oils.
What Are Gums?
Do not skip over this part – you will learn a lot. We all know what gums are.
However, some of us may be clueless about their structure. To appreciate them, we need to understand what they are made of, and their function.
So here goes nothing.
Gums are soft tissues that line the mouth. They surround teeth, provide support and seal them. Gum tissue is similar to the tissue lining of the cheeks and lips.
However, the difference is that gums are bound tightly to the bone underneath them. This helps the gum to resist friction caused by food that glides over them while we eat.
With all these features working for them, healthy gums are effective bacteria barriers and consequently prevent the development of periodontal disease affecting the deep tissues.
Usually, healthy gums are coral pink (this is for light-skinned people). However, those with naturally darker melanin may have darker gums.
With that said, our gums are divided into three areas:
- Marginal gum – this is the edge of the gums that surround the teeth like a collar. In many people, this gum is demarcated from attached gums by a linear depression – free gingival groove.
- Attached gum – this is adjacent to the marginal gums (the two are continuous). Attached gum is resilient, firm and bound tightly to the bone underneath.
- Interdental gum – this gum is located between the teeth. It acts as a shock absorbers and is resistant to the pressure exerted during chewing. The keratin covering the gum reinforces its resistance.
How To Know You Have Healthy Gums – Characteristics Of Healthy Gums
As mentioned above, healthy gums are coral pink (it might be darker depending on your melanin levels, thickness, and blood flow to your gums or medication). If your gums are any other color, like white, blue (very odd – you are not an avatar so this should be an alarm), or red can be a sign of gingivitis.
Since gum color varies, it is usually more accurate to judge the health of gums by the uniformity of their color. Excessive melanin deposits can cause dark patches and spots on the gum (known as melanin gingival hyperpigmentation). To get rid of the discolorations, a procedure known as gum bleaching (gum depigmentation) is carried out.
Healthy gums tend to have smooth curves around individual teeth. Healthy gums usually fill and perfectly fit the space between teeth. They hold tight to the teeth. On the other hand, inflamed gums have rolled or puffy margins.
Healthy gums are firm and resistant to friction. The surface has a stippled texture (this texture is similar to that of an orange peel). But unhealthy gums are less firm and often swollen.
Reaction to Disturbance
Healthy gums will not react to normal disturbances including brushing. Unhealthy gums will, however, bleed when brushed or when probed.
Symptoms Of Swollen Gums
Here is a breakdown of symptoms that manifest when you have swollen gums
- Rolled margin
- Bleeding when flossing or brushing
- Increased sensitivity and pain
- Typically, blue, purple and dark pink
- No papilla or blunted papilla between your teeth
Why Do Gums Swell?
As you go through this section, bear in mind that gums, like any other body part, have a network of blood vessels nourishing the cells. As such, they are ‘alive’ and need to be accorded proper care if they are to serve efficiently and last for long.
Swelling in any body part is abnormal. Consider swelling as a red flag to an underlying problem that needs your immediate attention. Identifying swollen gums early and working on reversing the swelling is key to preventing the worsening of serious gum and teeth diseases that might cause loss of teeth.
It is also not uncommon to develop inflamed gums overnight. Usually, this is as a result of bacteria penetrating the gums. Let’s now find out what causes swelling of gums:
This is by far the most common gum irritation. It occurs as a result of below average oral hygiene. The early stages of this gum disease are characterized by gum inflammation, bleeding when flossing and brushing or redness.
When bacteria and other foreign bodies attack your body, the immune system reacts by deploying white blood cells and lymphocytes to fight the infection. During the fight, inflammation occurs. The gum is at times full of pus (these are the casualties of the war). With regular and efficient cleaning, we can keep the levels of bacteria and other foreign bodies at a minimum.
If gingivitis is the cause of the inflammation you can try spending extra time flossing and brushing your teeth. This will reduce inflammation in about 14 days or less. If this does not help with the swelling and the bleeding you should seek advice from your dentist.
Pregnancy hormones can worsen gingivitis. But even while this is true, remember that the problem is not the pregnancy itself but instead, the bacteria present in your gums. Here is what happens: The hormones released during pregnancy alter the chemical chemistry under the gums. This alteration causes powerful bacteria to thrive. Though powerful, the bacteria can be controlled by high standards of oral hygiene.
Some orthodontic treatment also makes individuals more susceptible to swollen gums and gingivitis. How so?
First, braces make it difficult to get rid of plaque present between teeth and along the gum line.
Second, occasionally, the gum tissues tend to react with orthodontic hardware by overgrowing and swelling. If this is the reason for your swollen gums, your orthodontist will send you to your periodontist for treatment. Your periodontist may, in turn, recommend the use of some special appliances including floss holders and interdental cleaners.
2. Gum Infection
From time to time, a serious gum infection may ensue following entrapment of bacteria related to foreign objects (like popcorn pieces) or gum disease beneath your gum line. This leads to the development of pus-filled abscesses. The condition may or may not be painful.
If you are dealing with a gum abscess, you will need to have it treated by a periodontist or a dentist. The abscess should be drained and you will be provided with antibiotics depending on the cause of the abscess.
3. Pulp infection
Gum inflammation can also mean the presence of tooth decay that has spread from the roots to the gums. If you regularly visit a dentist, this should be a rare occurrence. This is because minor cavities are caught in their early stages and treated before they evolve into problematic infections and conditions.
When tooth decay goes untreated for a long time, it can spread into the deeper areas of the teeth until it gets to the pulp (the soft tissue at the center of a tooth). If the pulp is infected or dead, root canal treatment is imperative to save the tooth. If the infection is as gone too far, the tooth has to be extracted.
4. Nutritional Deficiency
It is not always that gum swelling is a result of poor oral health. At times gum swelling has to do with your nutrition. When your body is not served with all the nutrients it needs, it starts acting up and several diseases and conditions manifest. These range from dental diseases to cognitive disorders.
Some nutrients reinforce the body’s immune system and increase blood circulation to the gums. Vitamins rich in antioxidants help in keeping gum cells healthy. This is by interacting with the free radicals (reactive molecules). These radicals help to prevent infections from attacking proteins, lipids, and DNA. Antioxidants do play a big role in the fight against infections.
Below are some nutrients whose deficiency can lead to swollen gums:
This vitamin is commonly found in vegetables and fruits. It is essential to skin health. Most tissues in the body make use of vitamin C for accelerated repair and growth. Without this vitamin, you become vulnerable to infections and diseases.
Deficiency of vitamin C causes scurvy. The connection between the two was discovered between the 16th and 18th centuries. It plagued sea explorers at the time. Sailors would be away from land for extended periods. During this time they had no access to fresh foods that were rich in vitamin C. As a result, the entire fleet would develop scurvy.
In 1746, James Lind a naval surgeon from Britain discovered lemons and oranges were effective against scurvy. Upon this discovery, all sailors carried along supplies of lemons and oranges to last them through their voyage. Scurvy incidences consequently plummeted. An interesting story right? It makes you appreciate how far medical technology has come.
So, vitamin C is rich in antioxidants which strengthen the immune system and the blood vessels. It is also worth noting that vitamin C is water soluble. Our bodies do not produce this vitamin and as such must be acquired from our diet. A deficiency in it leads to scurvy which is characterized by bleeding and swollen gums.
Folic acid is also water soluble. A lack of it can cause gum inflammation and significantly increase the risk of developing gum disease (more so gingivitis). Folic acid is important for the ‘manufacture’ of erythrocytes, synthesis of proteins, normal cellular function and tissue growth.
In addition to this, folic acid also helps to improve blood flow by dilating blood vessels. You can ramp up your folic acid levels by adding green vegetables, pasta, cereal and seeds in your diet.
Today it’s all about water-soluble vitamins huh? Riboflavin is rich in antioxidants and essential for the health of your liver, eyes, hair, and skin. It plays a big role in the synthesis of red blood cells and helps in strengthening the immune system.
Without riboflavin, your body cannot use folic acid. The thing is, riboflavin helps to ‘activate’ folic acid. Inactive folic acid cannot participate in biochemical reactions. Foods rich in riboflavin include green and leafy vegetables, meat, cheese, yogurt, milk, cereals and enriched bread.
Fortunately, you do not have to worry about nutritional deficiency as a cause of your inflamed gums. Most foods are laced with the above vitamins so the chances of running low on these vitamins are minimal.
5. Systemic diseases
- Conditions like uncontrolled diabetes can affect periodontal health.
- Oral care products – if you have recently switched to new mouthwash or toothpaste, it might cause gum sensitivity, especially if you are allergic to an ingredient in the toothpaste. Luckily, in today’s world, there are strict systems and rules which ensure that any product designed for consumers is safe (if any ingredient can cause adverse effects, companies are forced to state it in their marketing).
Recommended Natural Product For Gum Disease
A completely natural product made from organic ingredients such as herbs, essential oils and clays! Developed by a doctor, this tooth powder formula will help with all types of gum diseases including gingivitis, inflamed and bleeding gums, sensitive gums as well as help prevent cavities.
What Are The Best Essential Oils For Swollen Gums
With essential oils, there are numerous ways to handle swollen gums. But whichever method you choose, remember that most essential oils are not to be ingested. If you are to ingest them, be careful with the amounts you take. Otherwise, always rinse out the essential oils thoroughly.
The essential oil of sage is a classic when it comes to dental, oral health and hygiene. It has a fragrance that is pleasing and the many benefits it features have made it popular in commercial products.
A 2015 study revealed that mouthwash made from sage reduces the amount of plaque-causing bacteria from a whopping 3900 to an impressive low of 300.
Sage essential oil has powerful carminative, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, anti-oxidant antiseptic, anti-bacterial and astringent properties. Therefore, it helps reduce bacteria levels and prevent acids from gnawing at your gums and teeth. In addition to this, sage oil helps in preventing gum soreness, cavities, and bad breath. Its anti-inflammatory effects will soothe the inflamed gums.
This is one of the most powerful anti-microbial extracts. Due to its high eugenol content, most dentists use clove oil as a local antiseptic and anesthetic. When I smell it, it made me think of a dentist’s cabinet. It probably will conjure the same thoughts for you as well.
Clove bud essential oil is best used for gum infection. It kills bacteria and prevents further damage to the gums and teeth. In addition, it also has the added benefit of refreshing your breath and maintaining the fresh breath for long.
When using clove essential oil, bear in mind that it is highly potent and as such, you should always ensure you dilute it in a carrier oil. Did you also know that a 2017 study supports clove oil as an anti-cancer agent.
3. Tea Tree
This is yet another popular essential oil used in aromatherapy. Tea tree oil is known for its antibacterial properties. It helps in preventing swollen gums by protecting against bacterial infections and the development of mouth sores. A 2014 study concluded that a tea tree mouthwash can reduce gingival bleeding significantly.
The protection offered is one of a kind and what’s even better; it can be used on children over 2 years old. Given the potency of tea tree oil, if you suffer from seizures and epilepsy, it is wise to check in with your doctor first before using it.
This essential oil is up to 33 times more powerful than the famed tea tree essential oil when it comes to protection against specific types of bacteria. The Manuka tree features sweetly scented flowers that bees and butterflies love to land on and consequently pollinate. Manuka honey is also one of the best rated natural remedies there is and a study has proven that it can reduce plaque, gingivitis and periodontal diseases.
Manuka essential oil has powerful antibiotic properties that helps deal with diseases and inflammation caused by microorganism infection. It is milder and smells better than tea tree essential oil and last but not least, it is anti-allergenic.
Last but not least on our list is cinnamon essential oil. You would not believe me if I told you it is actually much more potent and effective than clove oil when it comes to dental caries. Well, a 2011 study just proved that against 10 types of bacteria involved in tooth decay.
Not only does this essential oil of cinnamon smell great, but it also has a great taste. Cinnamon bark essential oil has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial and anticancer properties.
In addition, it improves blood circulation to your gums and consequently gives gum regeneration and health a boost. It is not a coincidence that this essential oil is used in various oral health care products. This further testifies to its ability to help improve oral hygiene and prevent gum inflammation.
Cinnamon has also proven to be highly effective in treating neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Other essential oils that you can use for their anti-bacterial properties for gum diseases are myrrh, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, rosemary, oregano, thyme, spearmint and lemongrass.
6 Essential Oil Recipes For Gingivitis And For Sore, Swollen, Inflamed Gums
Recipe 1: Mouthwash recipe for sore and inflamed gums
A homemade mouthwash containing lemongrass oil is very effective in fighting the bacteria that cause plaque, gum disease, swelling and gingivitis.
What you need:
- Lemongrass – 8 drops
- Peppermint – 5 drops
- Tea tree – 3 drops
- Chamomile hydrosol – 2 oz.
- Glass bottle
Hydrosols are also referred to as floral waters. They are by-products of the steam distillation of essential oils. However, they are not as potent as essential oils. They contain water-soluble vitamins and lots of other beneficial molecules that are missing in the oils. Add the essential oils and hydrosol into the glass bottle and shake well before every use.
Swish some of the mouthwash in your mouth and then spit it out. You can have it in your mouth for as long as you like. Do this twice on a daily basis. Use the blend within 2 weeks or if you’ve made a large batch, store it in the fridge.
Recipe 2: Blend for gum pain and inflammation
What you need:
- Peppermint – 4 drops
- Manuka – 6 drops
- Myrrh – 3 drops
- Fractionated coconut oil – 1 oz.
Mix the ingredients together and store in a dark glass bottle. Take a spoonful and swish it in your mouth through the teeth for 3-5 minutes. Once done, spit it out. Repeat twice daily.
To relieve gum pain, you can also add 3 drops of clove essential oil to the above blend to provide a numbing effect.
Recipe 3: Oil pulling for gum swelling
You can use the oil pulling technique if you find it hard to floss or too painful to do so.
What you need:
- Sage – 1 drop
- Clove bud – 2 drops
- Fractionated coconut oil – 1 tablespoon
Mix all the oils, put the resulting blend in your mouth and swish for 10 to 15 minutes for optimal results. But if you don’t have that kind of patience, 5 minutes will do the magic as well. After the swishing, ensure you do not consume anything for 30 minutes. Repeat three to four times a week.
Recipe 4: Serum for gingivitis and heal inflamed gums
What you need:
- Cinnamon – 8 drops
- Peppermint – 5 drops
- Tea tree – 6 drops
- Oregano – 3 drops
- Fractionated coconut oil – ½ cup
- Amber glass bottle
Pour the coconut oil into the glass bottle, add in the essential oils and mix thoroughly. The serum is ready for use.
Take a spoonful and swish it in your mouth and through your teeth like any mouthwash and then spit it out. Use several times in a day to relieve gingivitis and to heal swollen, inflamed gums. You can also apply 1 drop to problem areas to speed up healing.
Recipe 5: Ultimate oral health blend
This potent anti-bacterial blend will fight off any infections in your mouth as well as eliminate bacteria that cause bad breath, periodontal disease and cavities.
What you need:
- Clove – 8 drops
- Frankincense – 6 drops
- Peppermint – 7 drops
- Oregano – 5 drops
- Thyme – 3 drops
- Cinnamon – 3 drops
- Tea tree – 3 drops
- Fractionated coconut oil – 2 oz.
Add each of the essential oils into a 2 oz. (60ml) glass bottle. Then top up the bottle up with fractionated coconut oil. Replace the dropper and cap and give it a good shake before use.
Use 1-2 drops of the blend on your toothbrush every time you brush your teeth. You could also apply a drop of the blend onto swollen and/or painful gums in between the brushing sessions.
Recipe 6: Blend for gum strengthening
What you need:
- Cinnamon – 5 drops
- Spearmint – 7 drops
- Tea Tree – 6 drops
- Clove – 4 drops
- Manuka – 8 drops
- Fractionated coconut oil – 2 oz.
- Glass Bottle
Add all ingredients to a glass bottle. Shake to combine all ingredients. To use, put some medicinal clay on your toothbrush, add 2 drops of the above blend and brush your teeth as normal.
In all the above recipes, you will note that I have used coconut oil as carrier. The reason behind this is because coconut oil has been found to reduce plaque and gingivitis. It is important that you don’t swallow the blend as it contains toxins and bacteria from your mouth.
Swollen gums can really get you down. Imagine having tooth pain or having heightened gum sensitivity when eating your favorite meal…Not pleasant!
The best way to prevent swollen gums is having outstanding oral health. But since no one can guarantee to maintain their oral health at 100%, essential oils and the above-listed DIY blends can bail you out.
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