Swishing with salt water reduces gum disease

I have a new dental hygienist, Melissa, and one of the things I love about my dentist is that she hires people who are really experienced and good at what they do. Turnover is really low in her office.

The excellent hygienist she replaced went on to a job teaching dental hygiene. Her students are lucky to have her.

I’ve written about my dental issues before: the one back molar that had a pocket that kept getting deeper…4, 5, 7, 8…

Short version of how it happened: When I had my wisdom teeth extracted ages ago, the dentist did not remove the extra gum tissue. Years after, I got a piece of popcorn kernel stuck between the now-back molar (tooth #2) and that extra gum tissue. I could not get it out, went to sleep, and the next day I couldn’t feel it any more. It softened from saliva.

I forgot about it, but that gum tissue slowly became infected from bacteria drawn to the stuck food, and it eventually affected the bone.

I finally had the tooth extracted and bone treated a couple of years ago. Problem solved. Whew.

The thing is, having one deep pocket affects the entire microbiome of the mouth. Those inflammatory bacteria spread and deepen other pockets.

I still had some recovery to do.

My new hygienist gave me a very valuable tip. She said that if I swished salt water in my mouth for one minute after brushing and flossing, and did that every night for six months, my pockets would go down two points (millimeters).

She says a pocket 4 mm deep is consider borderline. Better to get 1, 2, or 3. A depth of 5mm or greater is serious, requiring more frequent cleanings and treatments.

I starting doing the saltwater swish, using about 1/8 teaspoon of Real salt (my favorite for cooking as well) and a tablespoon or two of warm water.

My setup for salt water swishing

Although I was not as consistent as she prescribed, I did it frequently enough that my pockets did indeed go down. Last week, a year after I started salt water swishing, Melissa took a look in my mouth and didn’t even bother to measure the pockets…they were all 1s and 2s.

My mouth feels deeply clean after the salt water swish. The reduction in bacteria helps your breath stay fresh longer, too.

Another bonus: the dental office is now scheduling my cleanings every 6 months instead of every 4 months.

Swishing with salt water after brushing and flossing is simple, inexpensive, and easily obtainable.

How does it work?

Salt pulls fluids out of tissues, reducing inflammation and swelling.

Salt alkalizes the pH of the mouth, reducing harmful bacteria that prefer an acidic environment to thrive. Thus, it is anti-bacterial, killing bacteria causing gingivitis and bad breath and reducing plaque on teeth. You can skip the mouthwash.

The swishing action also loosens any food particles not removed by brushing and flossing (and if you don’t have time to floss, swishing will at least keep your mouth cleaner).

It reportedly helps with canker sores and soothes toothaches.

Salt water swishing also promotes healing after dental procedures, preventing painful “dry socket” after an extraction.

If you gargle the salt water before spitting it out, it soothes sore throats and prevents colds, upper respiratory infections, and virus transmission.

Precautions? Don’t swallow it, spit it out! Don’t overdo it, either. Once or twice a day is enough. Overuse could irritate inflamed gums. Also, use warm water if your teeth are sensitive to cold.

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