Frequently Asked Questions

What is bad breath?
A: Bad breath, also known as oral malodour or halitosis, is [usually] caused by sulphur gases produced by bacteria in the mouth. These gases smell unpleasant, and this odour may be noticeable when speaking or breathing out. Often this is worse after sleeping this common phenomenon is known as 'morning breath'. Morning breath can usually be resolved by cleaning the teeth and rinsing with an alcohol-free mouthwash such as Dentyl pH.
How common is bad breath?
A: Research shows 55% to 65% of people have halitosis chronically and 95% at some time or other.
What causes bad breath?
A: Bad breath is most commonly caused by volatile sulphur compounds which are produced by the bacteria that feed off dead cell tissue and debris in the mouth. These compounds smell unpleasant. Bad breath can also be affected by illnesses, not drinking enough fluids, stress and xerostomia (dry mouth / lack of salivary flow).
Do 'I' have bad breath?
A: People may be unaware that they have halitosis, or think they have a problem when they don't. The best way to check is to ask a family member or close friend for their opinion. Alternatively lick your wrist, starting from the back of the tongue to the tip. Allow the saliva to dry for 10 seconds and then smell the area for any unpleasant odours.
Even though I brush my teeth daily, I still have bad breath. Why?
A: Bad breath is caused by bacteria in the mouth. Just brushing will not remove all the bacteria, so floss daily (to clean between the teeth), use a tongue cleaner to remove bacteria and food debris and rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash that is clinically proven to help combat bad breath. If your gums are red, swollen or bleed when you brush or floss you may have gum disease, which can also cause bad breath. If the problem persists speak to your dentist or oral hygienist for expert advice.
Can mouthwash cure my bad breath?
A: Alcohol-free Dentyl pH mouthwash is clinically proven to help combat bad breath for up to 18 hours. It the same pH as saliva, contains three anti-bacterial agents to remove oral bacteria and contains fluoride to strengthen teeth and prevent decay. An average of 350 million is spent annually in the UK on mouth fresheners that simply disguise one odour with another and last less than 20 minutes.
Can food cause bad breath?
A: Yes, certain spices and foods, including onions and garlic, can cause bad breath. By simply not eating those foods you can solve the problem. Likewise, many kinds of medication can have a similar effect.
Why do people on diets or fasts sometimes suffer from bad breath?
A: Normally the mouth is kept moist with saliva, which is produced when we eat. Skipping or reducing the amount of meals we eat dries out the mouth, creating ideal conditions for the bacteria that cause bad breath. Drink lots of water and use an alcohol-free mouthwash to combat this problem.
Why is it important to use an alcohol-free mouthwash?
A: An alcohol-free mouthwash does not dry out the mouth. The bacteria that cause bad breath thrive in dry mouths, so a mouthwash with alcohol can exacerbate the problem.
Can my tongue be a cause of bad breath?
A: Yes. A 2004 study demonstrated that more than 40% of bad breath comes from material such as plaque and food debris on the tongue, and that 75% of bad breath compounds are removed by cleaning the tongue. (Pedrazzi, et al. J Perio. 75: 1009, 2004)
Can I use my toothbrush to clean my tongue?
A: A normal toothbrush can help but a tongue scraper will more effectively dislodge and remove bacteria and food debris.
What is a tongue scraper?
A: A tongue scraper has two rows of plastic serrated scrapers on one side and two rows of bristles on the other. The scrapers gently clean the tongue, while the bristles reach into the tiny grooves on the surface to dislodge bacteria and debris.
My dentist recommended a mouth wash with chlorhexidine. What is it?
A: Chlorhexidine is an antibacterial agent that can be used to treat gum disease and problems after dental surgery for a short, specified period of time. GUM® Paroex Alhohol-Free Mouthrinse contains chlorhexidine, and is alcohol-free. It is safe to use, even by pregnant women and recovering alcoholics. Some toothbrushes and interdental cleaners are coated with chlorhexidine.
Can oral hygiene affect pregnancy?
A: Yes, studies have shown that a mother's oral health can directly affect the health of her unborn baby. According to the US Journal of Periodontology, a pregnant woman with periodontal disease is seven times more likely to have a baby that is pre-term (born too early) or has a low birth weight.
How can periodontal disease cause a pre-term or low birth weight baby?
A: The cause is thought to be a labour-inducing chemical called prostaglandin that is found in oral bacteria. Very high levels of prostaglandin are found in women with severe periodontal disease. Another recent study has also found a possible link between periodontal bacteria and pre-eclampsia*. The study found that 50% of placentas from women with pre-eclampsia were positive for one or more periodontal pathogens, compared to just 14.3% in the control group.
What is pregnancy gingivitis?
A: More than half of pregnant women develop pregnancy gingivitis related to hormonal changes. The result is red, inflamed and tender gums that may bleed or be uncomfortable. The best way to try and prevent this is an effective oral care routine. And if you are planning to start a family go for a dental check up before you become pregnant.
How can I treat pregnancy gingivitis?
A: It is important to ask your dentist or oral hygienist for expert advice. Using a mouthwash can help but make sure it is alcohol-free, such as Dentyl pH or GUM® Paroex Alhohol-Free Mouthrinse.
I suffer from morning sickness. Is it OK to brush after vomiting?
A: If you experience morning sickness don't brush immediately afterwards, to 'freshen up', as this can damage your teeth. Vomit contains stomach or gastric acid, which erodes the enamel, thereby weakening the teeth. Rather rinse your mouth with water, or ideally with an alcohol-free mouthwash. Dentyl pH has the same pH as saliva, and also contains fluoride, which strengthens the teeth.
What age should children start brushing?
A: Teeth should be brushed as soon as they appear, usually from about six months old. The GUM Parent Brush has a longer handle to fit parents' hands and rubber edges on the brush head that are soft and gentle for baby's gums. This allows parents to slowly introduce brushing and whilst showing the child how to use a toothbrush.
How can I encourage my children to brush regularly?
A: Try to make the whole routine fun by giving your children disclosing tablets. These safe, cherry-flavoured tabs reveal plaque by dying it pink. Get them to use it before they floss and brush to show them how much plaque and bacteria is in their mouth, and then after to see how effectively they have removed it.
Children's toothbrushes are marketing gimmicks; can't they simply use a regular adult brush?
A: In most instances children's toothbrushes have been designed with smaller heads, to accommodate smaller mouths and with softer bristles for safe and gentle cleaning. They often have a soft rubber handle to provide better control and a comfortable grip. Yes, some children's toothbrushes do feature fun characters but this is simply to encourage early brushing habits.
Should children also use the 45O method when they brush their teeth?
A: From as early as five years old children should be encouraged to apply the 45O method, also known as the Bass Technique (see more under brushing). The GUM Kids Technique Toothbrush has been especially designed to help develop this good brushing technique. It has a non-slip quad-grip handle to help guide the child's hand to correctly position the toothbrush at a 45O angle, so that that the bristles clean under the gum line.
At what age should children start flossing?
A: Flossing is important once the teeth begin to touch, usually around age two. Initially parents will need to floss their child's teeth but from about five the child may be dextrous enough to use a GUM® Kids Flossbrush, which is easy to use with a self-dispensing handle. By around eight to ten a child could be able to manage floss themselves.
How can I encourage my child to floss?
A: Learning to floss can be difficult for children, so we recommend a floss brush or floss handle to get them started; these are suitable for children of around five and older. The GUM® Kids Flossbrush is small, easy to handle, and has a self-dispensing handle. With fun colours and a fruit blast flavour floss to appeal to children. Floss brushes are also ideal for people with limited dexterity or arthritis, as they make it possible to floss with one hand.
Is if safe for children to use a battery, electric or sonic toothbrushes, and what age can they start?
A: Yes, it is safe and it also encourages brushing! Kids can use the Philips Sonicare for example from as young as five-years old. Battery, electric and sonic operated toothbrushes clean better than manual toothbrushes so there is less risk of decay (caries) and gum disease or later problems.
How often should I change my child's toothbrush?
A: We recommend that adults replace their toothbrush every three to four months, when you notice the bristles looking worn, splaying or after illnesses such as colds or flu. Children's brushes tend to wear quicker because children may brush with uneven strokes or sometimes chew or bite on their brush.
How long should I spend brushing my teeth each day?
A: Dental professionals recommend that the minimum time you should spend brushing your teeth is two minutes twice a day. Use an egg timer or play a favourite song while brushing your teeth to get used to brushing for a full two to three minutes. Some electronic and sonic toothbrushes have timers that let you know when time is up.
My dentist/oral hygienist says I should use the 45O method when I brush my teeth for best results. What is this and how do I do it?
A: Also known as the Bass Technique it is a method of brushing whereby you hold your brush at a 45O angle against your gum line. Gently brush where the tooth and gum meet in small circles. Brushing too hard can cause receding gums, tooth sensitivity, and, over time, tooth loss. If the Bass Technique is applied correctly the bristles can reach under the gum line and thereby more effectively remove plaque and debris. If this sounds too complicated, there are toothbrushes especially designed to improve your brushing technique. Special non-slip thumb grips are uniquely positioned on the GUM Technique toothbrush so that the bristles are effortlessly directed under the gum line.
How often should I replace my toothbrush?
A: Manual toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months, when the bristles look worn or splayed and after illnesses such as colds or flu.
Why do I need to replace my toothbrush so frequently?
A: The constant brushing causes bristles to breakdown and lose their effectiveness. In fact toothbrushes should be replaced before they look worn. Worn bristles are more likely to damage the gums. Did you know that a new toothbrush is 30% more effective at removing plaque?
How often should I replace my battery operated/Sonicare toothbrush head?
A: Standard industry practise is to replace battery or electric operated toothbrushes every 2-3 months and Sonicare toothbrushes every 6-12 months; refer to recommendations included with the safety instructions when you purchase the toothbrush to be sure.
How do I know if I'm brushing too hard?
A: If the bristles look worn or splayed prematurely you may be brushing too hard. You should apply just enough pressure to feel the toothbrush bristles against the gums. Your dental professional will be able to advise. Most people brush too hard, using a big, hard toothbrush. Rather use a soft toothbrush with a small head.
My teeth are extremely sensitive what can I do?
A: Brushing too hard removes the hard white enamel that protects the teeth, exposing the soft dentin that is more sensitive. If you have sensitive teeth use a soft bristled toothbrush. Go for regular fluoride treatments. And use toothpaste for sensitive teeth that contains potassium nitrate and fluoride.
Since I had dental surgery my gums are extremely sore and sensitive. Is there a less painful way to brush my teeth?
A: Try using a delicate post-surgical brush. Using Gum® Paroex Dentifrice Gel or rinsing with Gum® Paroex Alcohol-Free Mouthwash with chlorhexidine can help gums to heal quickly. If the problem lasts longer than two weeks speak to your dental professional.
I find it hard to reach the back of mouth when brushing, how can I solve this?
A: Try using a toothbrush with longer bristles at the end like a GUM Super Tip Toothbrush or the GUM Silhouette, which has a smaller head and long thin handle to help reach the back of your mouth.
What sort of brush should I use with orthodontic braces?
A: Toothbrush bristles tend to wear down quicker when they come into contact with orthodontic braces as they tend to break down and fracture bristles. However, toothbrushes such as the Gum® Orthodontic Brush are specifically designed to facilitate cleaning around orthodontic braces. Instead of a raised centre, they have shorter centre bristles that form a "V" shape, which allows for normal cleaning around the braces.
What is an interproximal brush?
A: These are triangular or cylindrical shaped small brushes, which resemble small bottle brushes. They are extremely useful for cleaning between the teeth and available in varying sizes. The interproximal brush is best suited for teeth that have spaces between them. They're also ideal for people with bridges, braces, food traps or implants.
How do I use an interproximal brush?
A: Select the size of brush that is best suited for you and then gently push back and forth in between the teeth.
Can a brush have antibacterial bristles?
A: Yes, some GUM toothbrushes and interproximal brushes have bristles that are coated with chlorhexidine, an antibacterial agent that can significantly reduce bacterial contamination, thereby keeping the brush cleaner.
How can I keep my toothbrush clean?
A: A toothbrush cover keeps the brush clean for on-the-go use and at home. GUM toothbrush covers contain triclosan, an antibacterial ingredient that is active for up to eight weeks to protect the brush between uses. Try to ensure that the cover is ventilated so that it keeps bristles dry and straight. Alternatively dip your toothbrush into an antibacterial mouthwash (such as GUM® Paroex Alcohol-Free Mouthrinse) on a weekly basis.
I brush my teeth twice a day so why do I need to floss too?
A: Ninety percent of dental problems start between the teeth, where brushing cannot reach. So in addition to brushing twice a day it is important to floss at least once a day. Flossing removes food debris and bacteria from between the teeth and under the gum line.
How long and how often should I floss?
A: Floss daily - it should only take a few minutes. Floss at night, when you are less rushed than in the morning. And keep to a regular pattern so you don't miss any teeth. Start at the top and work from left to right, then do the bottom teeth in the same direction, not forgetting the very back molars.
What is the difference between dental floss and dental tape?
A: Dental floss is thinner than dental tape: there are many different types of floss and tape available now including waxed, flavoured, wide and regular. Choose the one that is most comfortable to use. The GUM Butler-Weave floss is made of special fibre that glides easily between the teeth and doesn't shred. People with wider gaps between their teeth may find dental tape or an interproximal brush most effective.
How much floss should I use and what is the best method?
A: Use approximately 30-40cm length of floss. Hold it taut between your thumbs to floss the top teeth, and between your forefingers to floss the bottom teeth. Leave about 5cm of floss between the fingers. The floss must be taut when it is used. Guide the floss between the teeth using a very gentle sawing motion. Move up and down to clean gently under the gum line. Don't be too rough and be careful not to cut your gums.
I started flossing recently and my gums bleed, why is this?
A: Your gums may bleed a little at first, or if you haven't flossed in a long time. The more regularly you floss, the less they should bleed as you will be removing the plaque (bacteria) that irritates and causes the bleeding. If the bleeding persists or is accompanied by pain or swelling visit your dental professional immediately.
When flossing I often find it hard to reach some of the back areas of my mouth, how else can I clean in-between my teeth?
A: You may find floss brushes or floss handles holders easier to use. They are ideal for people with limited dexterity, the use of only one arm or arthritis.
What is plaque?
A: Soon after brushing, a thin, sticky layer of bacteria forms on the surface of all the teeth. This layer of bacteria is called plaque.
What is the difference between plaque and tartar?
A: When plaque is allowed to remain on the teeth for too long, it collects close to the gums and turns into a hard substance called tartar (or calculus, which is old plaque).
What is gingivitis?
A: Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease and reversible if treated in time. The symptoms include red, swollen and / or bleeding gums. If not treated gingivitis develops into periodontitis, which is irreversible.
What is periodontal disease / periodontitis?
A: Periodontal disease is when the ligaments that hold the tooth and gum together break down. The ligaments don't grow back so this is an irreversible condition.
What are the signs of gum disease?
A: As it is often painless, many people may not know that they have gum disease. Some common signs include: bleeding gums, loose teeth, receding gums and bad breath. You may have only one sign.
My gums are bleeding, what can I do?
A: If you have just started flossing you may find your gums bleed a little at first. If the bleeding persists or is accompanied by pain or swelling, visit your dentist/oral hygienist immediately for a professional scale and polish. Using GUM® Paroex Alhohol-Free Mouthrinse mouthwash with anti-bacterial agents will also help.
How often should I have a dental check up?
A: Ideally have a dental check up and clean with the oral hygienist every six months, or at least once a year.
My teeth are yellow compared to my friends, why is this?
A: Substances including red wine, coffee, tea, smoking and even iron tablets can cause the teeth's surface to become stained. As we age the hard white enamel wears down revealing more of the soft, yellow dentine underneath. Tartar, a hard yellow, brown or black substance forms when too much plaque collects close to the gums. Some people have staining inside the tooth, which may have been caused by certain medication or when the teeth were developing during childhood. Professional bleaching by your dental professional is the most effective method of removing stains, but this can be costly. There are several other ways to help remove stains or help the teeth look whiter. A professional clean and polish at the oral hygienist can help remove stains. There are also whitening toothpastes available, although many have very harsh abrasives in them, which can damage the tooth's surface. GUM Original White toothpaste is gentle, does not contain bleach or harsh particles and contains fluoride to help build up the enamel. It also contains stain clear ingredients to prevent stains from returning.
How can I clean my dentures?
A: Use a denture brush with Polident, Steradent or Sunlight soap. Make sure you brush your dentures every day, just as you would your own teeth. Thoroughly clean all surfaces with a GUM denture brush. Don't use any other cleaning agents or even toothpaste as they are abrasive and therefore damaging. Be sure to take out your dentures when you go to sleep to avoid fungus on the gums and mouth ulcers. Always rinse them before putting them back in your mouth. If you notice a build up of stain or tartar ask your dental professional to have them professionally cleaned by the dental lab.