Would you believe that you can add years to your life just by taking care of your mouth? Many people can. That’s because the disease processes that lead to heart problems, stroke and even lung disease often first present themselves in the gums, teeth and tongue.
What few people realize: To avoid gum disease and tooth decay, you need to do more than brush your teeth and floss. These practices may keep your mouth clean, but they do not address one of the underlying causes of oral health problems — nutritional deficiencies.
Good news: Easy, natural treatments, as well as a type of laser therapy that is becoming more popular, can treat severe gum disease and help ward off medical conditions that may shorten your life. These treatments can help not only people who want to prevent gum disease, but also those who already have it.
Defeating GUM DISEASE
Why is poor oral health so dangerous? Harmful bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream via blood vessels in the mouth and then travel throughout the body, wreaking havoc. Infected gums quadruple your heart attack risk and triple your stroke risk.
Frighteningly, about 75% of adults have some form of gum disease, including gingivitis, which occurs when a bacteria-laden film accumulates on and irritates the gums at the base of the teeth.
The more advanced form, periodontitis, occurs when infection and/or inflammation of gum tissues is accompanied by tissue destruction. Warning signs include persistent bad breath, gums that bleed while brushing and/or tender or receding gums. Here are several natural treatments that can help…
• Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Found naturally in the body, though not always at a high enough level, CoQ10 is linked to reduced risk for heart disease. However, CoQ10 also strengthens gum tissue and promotes faster tissue repair and healing. It is available as a supplement. Typical dose for oral health: 200 mg daily. If you take a blood-thinning drug, such as warfarin (Coumadin), consult a doctor before taking CoQ10 — it can reduce the drug’s blood-thinning effect.
• Calcium. This mineral helps rebuild bone, which can be destroyed by gum disease. Strive for 1,000 mg daily if you are age 19 to 50 and 1,200 mg daily if you are age 51 or older by eating calcium-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables and canned sardines with their bones, and/or taking a calcium supplement. To enhance calcium absorption, look for a formula with vitamin D.
• Goldenseal, myrrh and calendula. These herbs work together to inhibit bacteria, stimulate immunity and reduce inflammation. Combine equal amounts of each herb in tincture form. After brushing your teeth, rinse your mouth with one teaspoon of the liquid and spit it out. Store the mixture in a brown bottle in a dark place.
• Massage your gums. To increase blood supply and bring more oxygen and nutrients to the area (as well as infection-fighting white blood cells), gently rub your gums a few times a day with clean fingers.
• Laser therapy. Lasers are used in dentistry to treat gum disease. This type of therapy targets the infected area to get rid of bacteria. Since gum disease can promote bone loss, the lasers also can stimulate the body to regrow bone. Laser treatment, which often is accompanied by nutritional therapy, can last for six months to a year, depending on severity. Check with your insurer to see if laser therapy is covered.
BATTLING TOOTH DECAY
Cavities are a consequence of acid and bacteria eroding the enamel or outer coating of the tooth. This creates openings and holes that can penetrate to the inner layers of the tooth and eventually kill the nerves. Cavities aren’t just the result of poor brushing skills, but rather a signal that the body is overwhelmed by acid-producing bacteria (often from excess sweets, dairy products and most fats).
Important: Many people are allergic to dairy products, which, when consumed, can weaken their immune system and produce even more acid-producing bacteria. Best remedies to prevent tooth decay:
• Natural toothpastes that contain herbs are just as effective as mainstream toothpastes at cleaning the teeth but are more gentle. In fact, most mainstream toothpastes have a warning on the label telling users to seek medical attention if more than a pea-sized amount is swallowed.
Remember: The main purpose of using toothpaste is to keep your teeth and mouth clean. Natural toothpastes to try: Nature’s Gate, Homeodent and Vicco. In addition to regular flossing, brush after every meal. If you’re at a restaurant and can’t brush, simply rinse your mouth with water after eating.
• Alfalfa, dandelion and horsetail. These herbs have minerals that are absorbed by the teeth, making them stronger and more decay-resistant.
To help strengthen enamel: Open 200-mg capsules of each herb and mix the contents with water, making a sludgy paste. Place a small amount of the paste at the gumline, and rub it around your teeth. Repeat after brushing, twice daily. You can make a few days’ supply and refrigerate.
All natural remedies in this article are available at health-food stores. Always talk with your doctor before using any herbs or supplements. For more advice on natural remedies for oral health, contact the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine to find a holistic dentist near you.