A four year old boy from Portland came in with his mother, complaining of swelling around his baby molar.
When I looked at it, I noticed that there was an infection around the last molar, next to where the permanent tooth develops.
Since it could be either an infection of the tooth that spread to the gingiva (gums) or an infection of the gums that could affect the developing teeth, we took an x-ray.
The x-ray showed no tooth infection but a big infection next to the growing permanent molar. Feeling around, I could tell that the gums were very infected because lots of food was stuck under the gums, in particular a popcorn kernel.
Popcorn kernels are almost the same shape as a tooth and can easily slip under the gums and start an infection.
After cleaning out the infection, I gave the boy a plastic syringe that can easily fit under the gums. His mother will mix salt with warm water and gently irrigate the infected area several times daily for a week.
Salt tastes bad and is uncomfortable in wounds but it is especially uncomfortable for bacteria. Germs do not like it so salt water rinses help heal infections. Rinsing sores with salt water is an old home remedy, but it works!
Of course, other medicines work with gum infections too. Listerine has alcohol and plant oils that have been shown to kill germs.
A prescription mouthwash that works great has chlorhexidine in it. Rinsing or brushing with chlorhexidine has a dramatic improvement in gum health.
The basics of brushing and flossing gets rid of most mouth bacteria that cause gum infections and bad breath but mouthwash will only help.
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