“Bloody hell!” exclaimed Patrick in mock horror as he gazed into the sink at my pink post-brush spittle.
“Oh, my gums always bleed when I brush,” I assured him.
“That can’t be right,” he replied. “You need to take care of yourself, woman. It’s considered hip these days to keep your own teeth.”
He was right. Mama Gums (mamagums.com; 1-866-626-2486) to the rescue. That’s the unofficial title held by Sheila Wolf, RDH, an oral-health consultant who has worked as a dental hygienist since 1971. “Over the years,” she says, “I’ve been cleaning teeth and empowering people to take control of their mouths. There was a Surgeon General’s report in 2000 that backed up something I’d been seeing for years — it linked the health of the mouth to the overall health of the body. Any kind of chronic inflammatory condition can be dangerous. Other studies have connected heart disease and stroke with periodontal infections.”
The familiar term “gingivitis,” she says, “is the name for the early stages of gum infection. You might have tender or swollen gums, pain or itching, a receding gum line, or blood when you spit in the sink after brushing. If blood comes out, then bacteria can get in. Periodontal infections are open wounds in your mouth. If bacteria get into your bloodstream they can travel to your other organs, and even cross the placenta in a pregnant woman. We’ve been taught to brush and floss and see our dentists twice a year, but that doesn’t address the whole issue of bacteria.”
As she says, “It’s not just cleaning the teeth, it’s disinfecting the mouth. On my website, I have a formula for what I call Mama Gums’ Magic Mix. It’s a tooth powder that you make yourself, mixing a half-cup of baking soda with a teaspoon of salt. Then you mix hydrogen peroxide — which kills germs on contact — with water, half and half. Wet your toothbrush with the peroxide mix, put some of the powder into the palm of your hand, make a paste-sludge, and brush with that. It’s so simple and cost-effective, and you will have amazing results. It kills germs on contact!”
Of course, tools aren’t enough — there’s also technique. “You need to brush your gums as well as your teeth. And you need to brush at a 45-degree angle, so that you are actually forcing the Magic Mix between the tooth and gums. That’s why I say to use a soft or very soft bristle toothbrush. I show patients how to do this during my consultation.” The consultation, or “oral wellness session,” runs for three to four hours and costs $390, “though I never turn away someone who cannot pay that amount. I do many things in the session; one is taking a plaque smear from the person’s mouth. I’ll put it under a phase-contrast microscope and let them see all the little critters that are living in their mouths. It’s not just bacteria — we could see things like red blood cells, yeast cells, parasites. If we see lots of white blood cells, there’s likely an infection. Once patients see what’s in their mouths, it becomes a motivation for them to take control.”
For all those places a toothbrush can’t reach — e.g., between the teeth — “you should use something else. I don’t stress dental floss, because only 10 to 12 percent of people ever floss. But if you’re driving a lot, I’ll teach you how to use a toothpick while you’re in the car. Or if your job entails being on the phone, I’ll show you how to use a little brush that goes in between.”
The capper to all this disinfecting is a good old hosing down — irrigation. “It’s a huge part of oral hygiene because it massages the gums, it flushes out food debris, and — if you put a little hydrogen peroxide or other antiseptic in the basin with the water — it delivers medication under your gums. You can buy an inexpensive Water Pik, or if you prefer, I sell a really good Swiss-made brand on my website: Hydrofloss [$98]. It’s the Cadillac of irrigators, but a Ford will get you to the store as well. So get what you can afford.” For morning multitaskers, she also sells the Plaque Blaster ($29.95), which hooks up to your shower.
Wolf is a true believer in her simple routine; she says it can reverse even bad conditions in the mouth. “If someone starts using my protocol — Magic Mix and irrigation — they can reverse gingivitis in 10 to 14 days. They will notice that they have no more bleeding gums, their mouth feels fresher, and their breath is nicer. I even had one patient who was told she needed $6600 worth of gum surgery. Within two weeks of using my protocol, she had her gum problem under control, and she avoided the surgery. And we have turned severely infected gums into healthy gums in three months.”