How To Clean Your Gums At Home

clean gums at home

If you have swollen gums that are red and bleed, or perhaps you’ve heard gum disease can put you at risk of developing other health conditions, gum recession and loose wobbly teeth, you might be interested to know how you can clean your gums at home.

As 47.2% of American adults over 30 years of age have some degree of gum disease (1),   “how do I clean my gums” is a question that a considerable number of people ask. 

The good news is that there has been lots of research carried out on the best way to keep the mouth healthy and the gums clean. 

The expert dentists here at the Gum Disease Guide are some of the best in the industry to give you advice on gum health and how to clean your gums at home. Below we give you techniques and top tips on how to keep the gums in immaculate condition and prevent gum disease. 

Knowledge is power where beating gum disease is concerned. Gum Disease: Solved online education tool arms you with the information to understand why you have gum disease and how you can beat it in only 10 minutes per day at home, without the need for costly and ineffective dental visits.

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The Best Way to Clean your Gums at Home

The best way to clean your gums is with daily self-performed care – oral hygiene that’s first-class and consistent. This will also help prevent tooth decay as well.

Most of us clean our teeth every day, we often go on autopilot. However, if you’re anything like me, your human autopilot setting might not be quite as good as the computerised system used to control the flight path of an aircraft or space rocket.

To keep your gums as clean as possible, the techniques below work best if you’re 100% present and fully conscious of what you’re doing. 

Standing close to the bathroom mirror ensures you can see the gum line and how well you’re really cleaning your teeth. Try it – you’ll be amazed at the difference. 

Brush Twice a Day

To keep your gums and teeth healthy it’s important to clean your teeth with either a manual or an electric toothbrush. It doesn’t matter which as long as you use them properly.

Use fluoride toothpaste – Using fluoride is the most effective way to prevent dental cavities (2). It can also prevent the growth of harmful oral bacteria that cause gum disease (3).

Use a soft-bristle brush – The general advice is to replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every 3 or 4 months. Swap it sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn-out, limp toothbrush won’t do a very good job of cleaning your teeth and gums.

Why not hard or medium bristles? – Whilst medium and hard toothbrushes will remove more dental plaque they also cause damage to the gum tissue, so soft is generally best (4 & 5).

Oral B suggests you choose a toothbrush with a small brush head so you can get to the hard-to-reach places of your mouth (6). Cleaning around the molars at the back of your mouth can be very tricky if you’re using a large toothbrush. 

2 Minutes, Twice a Day – To ensure your teeth and gums are cleaned correctly, spend at least two minutes, twice a day brushing your teeth. 

Try to clean all the surfaces of your teeth, along the gum line and your tongue – spend 30 seconds cleaning each section of your mouth (upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left).

Your tongue can harbor a lot of bacteria so give that a quick brush as well. 

How to Brush the Teeth and Gums

The movement and friction of brushing teeth are crucial to removing plaque from along the gum line and teeth. There are several techniques you can use. Asking your dentists which is best for you would be a good idea.

But in the meantime….

  • Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. 
  • Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes. 
  • Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  • To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
  • Brush gently along the gum line
  • Gently brush your tongue from back to front, spitting any saliva generated out. 

Here’s a video from the American Dental Association on the technique they recommend. 

When Should I Brush my Teeth?

It’s recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day. But depending on which organization you ask this question too, you get a slightly different answer.

The UK’s NHS suggests that you clean your teeth last thing at night and at one other time during the day (7). The ADA just states twice a day. 

The general advice is to avoid brushing your teeth straight after you’ve eaten acidic food or drink. Wait 30-60 minutes after eating these foods. 

There is also debate about whether it’s best to clean before or after breakfast. The debate stems from the advice above that you should wait after eating acidic foods. 

The exact timing may be partially down to personal preference and your specific oral health needs. But whatever time you choose – brushed is best! 

Don’t Rinse With Water Straight After Toothbrushing

If you rinse your mouth out with water after you’ve brushed with fluoride toothpaste you rinse the fluoride away. The general advice is to spit the toothpaste out but don’t rinse. 

Some people choose to use mouthwash such as Listerine. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ask your dentist if they recommend you use mouthwash. 

Clean Between the Teeth

Dentists recommend that you clean between the teeth regularly – to remove plaque and food particles. This keeps the gums really clean. Use a product designed for this job as they can reach the places where toothbrushes can’t reach.  

There are several products available – floss, interdental brushes, gum pocket brush, wooden or plastic picks, and water flossers.  You may have a personal preference for one method, some people may choose to use a combination of tools. 

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Do You Need to Scrape Your Tongue?

It’s recommended that you brush your tongue in a back-to-front sweeping motion to remove food particles, debris, and dead cells. It helps to remove odor-causing bacteria and freshen your breath. 

Special tongue-scraping devices are available. One study suggests that the tongue scraper is more effective than a toothbrush (8) but another study showed that brushing and scraping were both just as effective at removing bacteria on the tongue (9). 

Why Do You Need To Keep Your Gums Healthy?

Failure to keep your gum line clean of plaque and tartar will result in unhealthy gums and bad breath. Gingivitis characterized by red, inflamed gums may develop.

This early gum disease, when left untreated may evolve into periodontitis, where the alveolar bone is affected putting you at risk of receding gums and missing teeth. 

Research has linked gum disease to many health conditions, including diabetes, heart, and kidney disease, osteoporosis, cancer, asthma, and Alzheimer’s. Keeping your gums clean may help prevent these conditions from developing. 

Removing Tartar And Deep Cleaning Gums At Home

If you’ve developed plaque harboring pockets in your gums, the plaque can access the tooth roots. It’s impossible to clean the tooth roots at home. The best way clean and remove the bacteria is by visiting your dental hygienist who can clean below the gum line.

Whilst the hygienist’s dental equipment are all available to buy, without professional training and being able to see what you’re doing, you risk damaging your gums – which could lead to further irritation and infection. 

What To Do When You’re Ill

If you’re ill it’s still really important that you still make the effort to clean your gums at home. Gingivitis can develop within as little as 5 days, so cleaning your teeth and gums needs to be a priority even when ill. 

What to do if you have Limited Hand Motion

If you have arthritis or other conditions that affect your hand mobility you may find it hard to hold and use a toothbrush. Some people find that an electric toothbrush makes it easier to take good care of the oral cavity.  

If you struggle to use an electric toothbrush have a word with your dentist about how you can best maintain good oral hygiene. 

Should You Worry If Your Gums Bleed?

If your gums bleed it may be a sign of trauma to the gum when cleaning your teeth or using dental floss etc. However, if your gums are swollen it could be a sign of gum disease. 

If this is the case, don’t stop cleaning your teeth and make sure you clean the problem areas well. 

If you want to treat gum disease or ensure you’re using the best technique for healthy teeth and cleaning your gums at home we can help! 

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  1. Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010
  2. The rational use of fluoride toothpaste
  3. Antimicrobial actions of fluoride for oral bacteria
  4. Biofilm removal and gingival abrasion with medium and soft toothbrushes
  5. Comparative analysis between hard- and soft-filament toothbrushes related to plaque removal and gingival abrasion
  6. Medium or soft bristle toothbrush
  7. How to keep your teeth clean – NHS.
  8. Tongue‐Cleaning Methods: A Comparative Clinical Trial Employing a Toothbrush and a Tongue Scraper – Pedrazzi – 2004 – Journal of Periodontology – Wiley Online Library
  9. The Comparative Evaluation of the Effects of Tongue Cleaning on Existing Plaque Levels in Children – PMC
Sharon Fyles image

Written by Sharon Fyles

Periodontitis Expert & Writer

Sharon Fyles, BSc (Hons, SW), MSc, Dip,  is a Manchester-based expert dental writer specialising in periodontal diseases and their treatment.


Medically Reviewed and Verified by Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons), MFDS (RCPS Glasgow)

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