Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond. ~Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1605
Oral hygiene is a subject encompassing a wide range of topics and medical conditions. For the purpose of this article we therefore propose to focus on the causes of poor dental health and unpleasant breath, provide tips to improve the condition of your mouth and teeth, and discuss some natural products and treatments that are available.
WHAT YOUR TEETH AND GUMS SAY ABOUT YOUR HEALTH
Some experts feel that there is an association between periodontal diseases and other chronic inflammatory conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms of disease may manifest in the teeth and mouth and the condition of the mouth can indicate this. Here is a list of some health problems that can sometimes show up in the teeth or gums.
Poor diet is a primary factor in tooth decay. Many people rely heavily on refined, synthetic or highly-processed foods because they afford convenience and speed in rustling up quick meals. Dr. Weston Price and his wife studied communities in Switzerland, the Hebrides and Alaskan Indian tribes and wrote a book called ‘Nutrition and Physical Degeneration’. The communities that they studied only had access to natural foods and they had 93-94 percent less tooth decay than people who eat processed or refined foods.
Some of the foods that help with maintaining a good diet include fresh fruits and vegetables, especially crunchy foods. Thy aid in enzyme production and the natural chewing of the crunchy foods stimulates the gums. Apples, pears, celery and carrots are good suggestions. Drinking plenty of water will keep your mouth moist and avoid dry mouth syndrome, which is a precursor of dental disease. Popular sports drinks may also not be a good idea. They may re-hydrate the body, but can cause irreversible damage to the dental enamel.
Other reasons for tooth decay include abscessed or impacted teeth and oral piercing. Jewelry in the mouth can damage the soft tissue around the teeth causing the gums to recede, and the constant clicking of the jewelry against natural and/or restored teeth can cause the enamel or veneers to crack or chip.
In dry mouth syndrome or ‘xerostomia’, a lack of saliva makes it more difficult to neutralize damaging acids. Gingivitis and periodontitis are gum conditions which can lead to the loosening and subsequent loss of teeth.
Poor dental hygiene (a lack of flossing, brushing, and regular dental check-ups), however, is the biggest single factor responsible for tooth decomposition.
Eroded Tooth Enamel: Eating Disorders
Bulimia, a common eating disorder, can lead to the erosion of tooth enamel. The primary cause of this is the corrosive effect of stomach acids which can come into contact with the teeth during vomiting. Severe erosion can lead to changes in the way you bite, or in the way upper and lower teeth come together. Back teeth can be reduced in size and some teeth can even be lost eventually. Tooth erosion can take about three years to become obvious, but not all bulimics experience this.
Thrush: HIV, Diabetes
Oral thrush and other candida infections can manifest when the immune system is weakened. People with immune-related disorders, including HIV, are consequently susceptible to thrush. This condition can also be caused by drugs like prednisone or other antibiotics, which interfere with the natural balance of microorganisms in your body. Oral thrush can cause painful lesions and dry mouth syndrome which can increase the risk of tooth decay and make chewing, eating, swallowing, or talking difficult. Diabetes is another disease which can encourage the growth of candida due to the saliva containing large amounts of sugar.
Losing Teeth: Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a condition affecting all bones in the body, including the jaw bone. Consequently, this can cause tooth loss. The alveolar bone, which surrounds the roots of the teeth is susceptible to osteoporosis and can erode quickly when calcium is depleted from the body.
Pale Gums: Anemia
Your mouth may be sore and pale if you’re anemic, and your tongue can become swollen and smooth. When you have anemia, your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, or your red blood cells don’t contain enough hemoglobin. As a result, your body doesn’t get enough oxygen.
Gum Disease: Rheumatoid Arthritis
People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are much more likely to have gum ailments than people without this autoimmune disease. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body’s tissues. To make matters worse, people with RA can experience difficulty in brushing and flossing because of damage to finger joints. The good news is that treating existing gum inflammation and infection can also reduce joint pain and inflammation.
Tooth Loss: Kidney Disease
Adults without teeth may be more likely to have chronic kidney disease than those who still have teeth. Exactly how kidney disease and periodontal disease are linked is not entirely clear yet, although researchers think that chronic inflammation may be the connecting factor.
Scientists have also discovered a link between gum disease and pancreatic cancer in men. Dr. Dominque Michaud, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, conducted research on the connection between periodontal disease and pancreatic cancer. He discovered that men with a history of periodontal disease had a 64 per cent increased risk of pancreatic cancer than men with no such history. People with periodontal disease have an increased level of inflammatory markers such as C reactive protein (CRP) in their blood. These markers are part of an early immune system response to persistent inflammation and have been linked to the development of pancreatic cancer. It is the high levels of carcinogenic compounds present in the mouths of people with periodontal disease that increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.
WHY DO TEETH BECOME DISCOLORED?
Teeth can become discolored for many reasons. Some of the primary contributory factors include coffee, tea, and tobacco. Other conditions or habits that can lead to tooth discoloration include alcoholism (drinking immoderate quantities of red wine for example stain the teeth); cancers such as esophageal, pharyngeal, oral tumors, leukemia, pulmonary and stomach cancer and certain medications used in the treatment of these cancers; and drug abuse (dentists have described the teeth of some methamphetamine users as rotting, black, stained and literally falling apart).
TOOTHPASTES AND FLUORIDE
Your choice of toothpaste is vital. Most of the commercially available toothpastes do more harm than good. An ingredient commonly used in many commercially available toothpastes is fluoride. It is now acknowledged by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that fluoride is NOT an essential ingredient in toothpastes. As pointed out by Michael Connett, when interviewed by Tomas O’Caomhanach, we do not need fluoride in our diet to keep our teeth healthy. (www.thebadbreathreport.com).
Connett, who is the Project Director of the Fluoride Action Network, also mentioned in the interview that the incidence of dental fluorosis has increased dramatically over the last 50 years due to an increase in fluoride exposure from multiple sources (water, processed food/beverages, toothpastes, pesticides etc). Dental fluorosis is a mineralization disorder of the tooth enamel caused by excessive ingestion of fluoride during the tooth-forming years. This enamel damage can be seen in the form of white spots in mild cases to brown or black staining in moderate or severe cases.
More alarmingly, Connett went on to say that fluoride can actually damage the brain, a fact corroborated by over 30 animal studies since 1992 while 5 studies on fluoride-exposed humans in China have reported a correlation between fluoride and reduced IQ. A similar observation was made by the Greater Boston Physicians For Social Responsibility who reviewed this research and went on to say that though no final conclusions may be reached from the available data, the findings are “provocative and of significant public health concern.” There are other horrifying side effects pointed out in the interview, including DNA damage, bone cancer, and male infertility. This is because fluoride is a mutagen meaning that it can cause mutation or change in the genetic material of living cells. Since many mutagens are also carcinogens (compounds that cause cancer), the National Toxicology Program (NTP) went on to postulate that there is a ‘biological plausibility’ for a fluoride-osteosarcoma (bone cancer) connection.
NATURAL PRODUCTS FOR ORAL HEALTH AND HYGIENE
There are many natural products which play a contribution to improving dental health. They include the following:
Home Treatments for Toothache
A well-known remedy is to apply ground cloves or pure food grade clove oil on the affected tooth or teeth. Echinacea, which is widely used to relieve cold and flu symptoms, is also efficacious for relieving toothaches, either in tincture form or as fresh roots. Other remedies for toothache include tea tree essential oil, calendula, and myrrh. If a filling comes out, a paste of slippery elm and water can be applied to the surface till an appointment with a dentist can be made.
Neem is very well known in India for its properties in maintaining and enhancing mouth hygiene. It is very effective for destroying cavity-producing bacteria and preventing tartar and plaque buildup. Neem is also known for its efficacy in treating pyorrhea. Neem twigs have been chewed by people in India for centuries as a way of maintaining total mouth hygiene. Neem-based toothpastes are also commonly found in good health stores.
Micro-organisms found in inflamed gums are often resistant to antibiotics but not to antibacterial plant extracts like Neem. And unlike synthetic antibiotics, antibacterial plant extracts produce no allergy in the gingival that could inhibit their effectiveness.
Besides, neem, clove, and babul (described below), there are several vital herbs and natural oils that work wonders for tooth and gum health. A mixture of eucalyptus, clove, and spearmint is extremely potent in eliminating harmful bacterial build-up in the mouth and is a very good cleansing agent.
The medicinal properties of the Babul tree (Acacia Arabica) are also well known. This natural ingredient strengthens the roots of teeth and cleans and maintains the whiteness of teeth.
Ginger and Lemon
Ginger is an excellent astringent wash for the teeth while lemon is an effective whitener.
As described earlier, cloves and clove oil are a well-known home remedy for toothaches and gum disorders. They are an excellent pain reliever and are often used by dentists to numb the gums prior to administering a shot. Clove oil is also useful in relieving sore throats and is a powerful breath freshener.
Magnesium is instrumental in forming the kind of hard enamel that resists decay and not calcium. Hard enamel is essential to offset decay-producing acids. Calcium and phosphorus on their own cannot do the job and dental structures beneath the surface can even dissolve when additional amounts of calcium and phosphorus diffuse through the enamel at different rates. Thus milk, poor in magnesium, but high in the other two elements, not only interferes with magnesium metabolism, but also antagonizes the mineral responsible for decay prevention
There is a widespread belief that osteoporosis and tooth corrosion in western countries can be prevented with a high calcium intake. However, Asian and African populations with low intakes of calcium daily (about 300 mg.) have very little osteoporosis. With a low magnesium intake, calcium moves out of the bones to increase tissue levels, while a high magnesium intake causes calcium to move from the tissues into the bones. Thus high magnesium levels leads to bone mineralization.
Clay and Bicarbonate
Clay is also an excellent ingredient for cleaning the teeth and maintaining optimum oral hygiene. It can be used just like toothpaste and there are several types of bentonite clay powder available in health food stores which are marketed as toothpastes. You can sprinkle the dry clay powder on your toothbrush and brush your teeth as normal. For extreme oral problems, you can cover the gums with a pre-made thick clay paste, which will absorb poisons from deep within the oral tissues. The clay also provides healing sustenance to the entire gastrointestinal tract. For further information on our recommended source of clay, please visit our page on Therapeutic and Cosmetic Clays.
Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda is also helpful for overall pH control. Its alkaline properties neutralize the acidic environment in your mouth. It also helps in removing tough stains and plaque that are embedded deep in tooth surface crevices by dissolving into these areas. Its efficacy in doing so can be increased by combining it with a little table or Himalayan salt which acts as a safe and gentle abrasive.
While there are a number of products on the market for safely cleaning teeth, while protecting the enamel, and optimizing oral hygiene, there are two that we would like to recommend to our readers. One is a toothpaste that we have personally used and can recommend and the second is a modern formulation of a time-tested Ayurvedic healing technique that effectively cleans and whitens teeth, while supporting gum health and mouth tissue. To learn more about these products, please visit our page at:
Key Reference Sources
- Breyer, Melissa. What Your Teeth and Gums Say About Your Health (http://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-your-teeth-gums-say-about-your-health.html)
- Michaud, Dominique S., Kaumudi Joshipura, Edward Giovannucci, and Charles S. Fuchs. “A Prospective Study of Periodontal Disease and Pancreatic Cancer in US Male Health Professionals.” In J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 2007 (Vol. 99, No. 2): 171-175
- O’Caomhanach, Tomas. Bad Breath Report.
- Rodale, J.I., and Harald J. Taub. Magnesium, The Nutrient That Can Change Your Life. (http://www.mgwater.com/rod10.shtml)
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is only intended to educate and inform our readers. It is in no way intended to provide medical advice or to diagnose or treat any disease. If you have a health problem, you should consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any substances for medicinal purposes.