John C. Chao, DDS, MAGD

Research Associate Professor, Post Graduate Program in Periodontics, SUNY – Buffalo (University at Buffalo)
Anxiety Management, Faculty, USC School of Dentistry

(626) 308-9104

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John C. Chao, D.D.S., M.A.G.D
Anxiety Management,
Behavior Science,
Faculty, USC School of Dentistry

Gum Disease: Rubber Tipping Better Than Antibiotics

A recent study showed that massaging the gums with a rubber tip (found at the other end of some tooth brushes) is actually more effective in reducing germ count than a regimen of antibiotics!

Bacteria that cause gum disease are like vampires. They must live in the dark. Oral bacteria are "anaerobic," meaning that they cannot live in the presence of oxygen. They thrive in dark spaces between the gum and the roots of the teeth called gum "pockets." Brushing and flossing are effective in part because oxygen is introduced into these pockets.

Vigorous massaging of the gums with the rubber tip introduces fresh air into these dead spaces. In comparing the percentage of bacteria between those who massage their gums with the rubber tip and those who took antibiotics, the rubber tipping group actually had slightly more reduction in bacterial count. Both groups brushed and floss their teeth during the experiment.

The additional benefit of massaging your gums with the rubber tip is that plaque and cellular fluids are flushed out and circulation in the gums is improved.

This is not to say that you should only massage your gums, and not brush and floss your teeth. In fact you should only massage your gums after your have thoroughly brushed and flossed your teeth. As a precaution, if you have moderate to severe gum disease, it may not be a good idea to massage your gums before you talk to your dentist.

Here is how you can massage your gums: Grasp the handle firmly in your hand and place the rubber tip between the spaces between two teeth. Point the rubber tip toward the center of the teeth. Gently press the rubber tip upward if you are massaging the upper arch, and downward if dealing with the lower arch. If you encounter bleeding from the gums, you are either massaging too hard, or you have a gum condition that should be checked by your dentist. Continue to massage every space between the teeth for 10 to 15 seconds. Do not massage the spaces between the front teeth. Slight temporary soreness is to be expected. This soreness will likely disappear over two weeks. If soreness persists, then you should consult your dentist. Do not massage your gums if there is heavy plaque formation. Under certain circumstances your dentist may ask you to massage your gums vigorously. In other circumstances your dentist may instruct you not to use the rubber tip at all.

And if you are still unsure of how to use the rubber tip properly, ask your hygienist or dentist for a demonstration.


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