A Holistic Approach to Herbs for Healthy Teeth & Gums
by Debbie Hart |
Modern studies and centuries of use show that a wide variety of herbs, essential oils, and other natural substances improve oral hygiene and help prevent and heal many tooth and gum disorders. Many herbalists advocate a preventative, holistic approach to mouth care that combines herbs with an improved diet and an effective daily oral-hygiene routine.
Dental-health professionals agree that the most important factor in tooth and gum health is diet. Since the bacteria in the mouth thrive on sugar, it is best to reduce or eliminate refined simple sugars from the diet, and eat primarily fresh foods free of chemicals, additives, and preservatives. Eating whole grains and high-fiber foods like raw carrots, and chewing them thoroughly, stimulates the gums.
Nutritional supplements also improve dental health. Antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, zinc, selenium, and beta carotene improve oral health, and folic acid reduces plaque, inflammation, and bleeding in the mouth. Daily doses of Coenyzme Q10 combat receding gum lines. Supplemental vitamins and minerals are important, since the body takes needed calcium from the jaw bone first in the event of a deficiency, which can lead to loose teeth. Eating kelp daily promotes healthy teeth and gums, since it is rich in vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
In addition to diet, a thorough, consistent oral-hygiene routine is important for healthy gums and teeth. Since gum disease and tooth decay stem largely from excess bacteria residing between the teeth and gums to form plaque and tartar, the main goal of oral hygiene is to remove excess bacteria from the mouth. Dental professionals recommend brushing your teeth at least twice, and flossing at least once, daily. Since bacteria can also collect on the tongue, cleaning the tongue with a toothbrush, a commercially-available tongue scraper, or even an upside-down soup spoon, eliminates twice as much bacteria from the mouth as just brushing the teeth. It is also beneficial to thoroughly brush the gums, as well as the insides of the cheeks. Over time, bacteria can inhabit your toothbrush and reenter your mouth with each brushing, so dental-care professionals advocate changing your toothbrush twice a month. You can also buy a toothbrush sterilizer, or soak your toothbrush in an antibacterial mouthwash between uses. Electric rotary brushes have been shown to remove significantly more plaque than regular brushes.
Rubber-tipped gum stimulators also further aid in cleaning, stimulating and massaging the gums to keep the tissues healthy. Brushing and flossing alone cannot always remove enough bacteria from deeper gum pockets, so dental-care providers often recommend oral-irrigation devices such as the “Water Pic” and “proxi-brushes,” very small brushes resembling bottle-brushes or pipe cleaners. These tools can clean hard-to-reach areas between teeth, around braces and other dental work, and inside spaces caused by receding gums.
If you wish to maintain healthy teeth and gums naturally, you can easily incorporate natural and herbal tools and preparations, such as natural brushes or picks, powders, pastes, teas and mouthwashes into your daily oral-hygiene routine. Many preparations are easy to make at home, and health-food stores sell their own varieties that include the same herbs and ingredients. It is important to exercise care when using herbs. Some herbs can be toxic if used for too long or in too great amounts. In addition, the active ingredients in some herbs are not recommended for certain health conditions, and can react negatively with prescription medications or other remedies. It is therefore recommended, especially if you are pregnant, wish to treat a child, have special health conditions, or are taking prescription medications, that you research the herbs that interest you before using them, and consult a qualified professional if you have questions or doubts.
- “Herbal Care of Teeth and Gums,” by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, in The Herb Quarterly, Issue 79, Summer 1998.
- “A Natural Remedy for Gingivitis, Toothaches, and Mouth Sores,” by Rudy Silva, on ezinearticles.com.
- “Herbs for Dental Health” by Christopher Hobbs L.Ac., A.H.G., on www.healthy.net.
- “Periodontal Disease” by Janet Zand L.Ac., O.M.D. on www.healthy.net.
- “Herbal Therapy in Dentistry,” by Flora Parsa Stay D.D.S., from The Complete Book of Dental Remedies.
- Beauty By Nature, by Brigitte Mars.
- Living on the Earth, by Alicia Bay Laurel.