Natural Ways to Reduce Gum Inflammation
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In holistic and traditional dental offices, it is known that there are over six hundred species of microorganisms in the oral cavity. While most of the tiny microbes are harmless, some present as destructive pathogens that contribute to tooth decay and gum disease (1). And if left undisturbed, they can wreak havoc to the body’s overall system. The biological markers of inflammation are neutrophils, lymphocytes, spirochetes, and gliding rods. In Dr. James Balch’s book, The Super Antioxidants, the term inflammation is defined as, "the body's natural reaction to infection and/or injury.” (2).
Inflammation in patients' gingival tissues is seen every day in the dental office. Common clinical observations of inflamed gums are redness, puffiness, and the presence of blood. A patient with inflamed gums may complain of painful, tender to the touch gums and noticeable malodor. Unfortunately, when a patient flosses one’s teeth, he/she may often stop due to bleeding gums and the fear of “causing harm to my gums”. A major concern is that chronic inflammation can contribute to bone loss and receding gums, which in turn, can lead to teeth losing support, becoming mobile and ultimately, falling out. Often, the bone loss is visible on radiographs signaling alarms. The second major concern is that bacterial invasion can cause systemic bacteremia and reduce the body’s ability to suppress other diseases.
In biological dentistry, a plaque sample is taken prior to tooth scaling to observe under a microscope for potential bacteria that could produce inflammation. Upon detection, this will open a new dialogue in terms of how to approach it in the dental office and as a home care protocol.
In the early 1900’s, Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who also had an interest in nutrition, discovered that after years of researching, traveling, and studying the diets and nutrition of various cultures, that eating locally grown foods and avoiding industrialized processed foods (particularly flour, sugar and modern processed vegetable fats) aids in maintaining straight teeth and a strong jaw bone (3).
Studies show the correlation between non nutritious foods and gum inflammation with the “bad” fats and sugar being the main culprits. Dr. Barry Sears, author of The Zone Diet, writes, “Trans-fats block omega-3 can cause inflammation.” (4) Trans fats such as liquid vegetable oils used in fried foods, margarine, chips, cookies, and doughnuts are to be avoided. Dr. Walter Millett, of the Harvard School of Public Health, writes, "Trans fats are a type of mostly human-made fat that industries love, but our hearts and blood vessels don't."(5). He has observed inflamed gums and bleeding on patients who consume mostly pork and non-grass-fed beef. Comparatively, patients whose diets are vegetarian, organic, or grass-fed beef consumption, have less or no inflammation. To further add, “bad fats” are not the only causative factor for red, puffy, inflamed gums. It is well known that sugar consumption can have detrimental effects on the tooth’s enamel resulting in carious lesions, but it also promotes a breeding ground for damaging inflammation of the gums. Packer and Colman wrote in The Antioxidant Miracle, “collagen that supports gum tissue is destroyed by free radicals, which has a cumulative effect” (p,27)/ (6). Free radicals are byproducts of inflammation, and if they are not kept under control, an imbalance result.
To prevent or reduce gum inflammation, besides brushing twice a day and flossing, it is recommended to follow up with a traditional Indian medicine practice of oil pulling. This type of preventative care is called Kavala Graha and uses organic coconut and unrefined oil. The lauric acid content in the oil fights bacteria, viruses and even fungi and Candida, by reducing oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides (Dr Axe.com). One teaspoon of coconut oil, swished through the teeth for seven to twenty minutes minimum, then spit out and followed with a mouth rinse. It helps combat gingival inflammation. This routine is to be repeated daily for four to five weeks. Another option is using sesame oil with a drop of oregano oil, clove, thyme or tea tree oil. This could become a long-lasting lifestyle routine.
Spices such as turmeric and ginger are also used to fight and prevent inflammation. Consuming alkaline foods are also helpful (7). Recommended alkaline foods include acai fruits, fish, garlic, onions, leeks, barley, broccoli, cabbage, hot peppers, nuts, sprouts, and yogurt. Antioxidants such as lipoic acid, vitamins C and E, glutathione (the master antioxidant), lycopene, CoQ10 and flavonoids are beneficial as well. Nutrients and good bacteria such as prebiotics and probiotics are found in fermented foods. According to Dr. Josh Axe, a Doctor of Chiropractic, certified doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist, prebiotics and probiotics collectively help destroy “bad” bacteria and harmful yeast that is found in the intestines. (9) They also improve digestion, boost immunity, and provide minerals that help build bone density. A few examples of these powerful inflammation busters are plain yogurt, sauerkraut, tofu, kimchi, and pickled vegetables. Alternatively, there is a new toothpaste recommended by Dr. Axe that contains probiotics which act as a natural adjunct in neutralizing acid present in saliva.
Another major cause of impaired immunity and gingival bleeding is stress. Helpful practices include meditation, breathing techniques, EFT/ tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique), (8)Reiki or Qigong ( use of energy as healing), aromatherapy ( using essential oils), hiking, gardening, birdwatching, listening to music or taking a short vacation. A new trend for naturally reducing stress is Grounding or Earthing. According to Dr. Axe, Earthing is a source of beneficial negative energy that one can “plug” into to counteract the positive charge that is built up from the typical, stressful modern society in which people live.
Preventive visits to a biological and holistic dental office, where the top priority is healing and finding the root cause of disease as emphasized in Eastern medicine, is essential. The doctor's priority is to avoid and eliminate toxins from dental materials and use only biocompatible and non-toxic elements that support the patient’s health and well-being. While at the same time, encouraging patient’s good oral habits along with healthy, natural, and organic eating habits!
- Wilkins Esther DDS. Clinical Practice of The Dental Hygienist, 7 th ed. Pa (A Lea Books 1994)
- Balsh, James MD. The super Antioxidants (p.28), 1999; M Evans & Company, NY
- Price Weston DMD. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Price- Pottenger Foundation, 2012, Ca
- Sears, Barry PhD. The Zone diet, 2005, World of Books, USA
- Millett, Walter PhD. Harvard School of Public Health, 2004 (Harvard Health Publishing)
- Packer Lester &Colman Carol. The antioxidant miracle. (John Wiley & Sons.1999, Canada)
- Mindell, Earl MD. 1999, Vitamin Bible for the 21 Century (NY, Warner Books)
- Baker A.H & Siegel, Ma 2010 Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), 6th. ed, Ma
- Websites - Dr Axe DC. CNS. Axe.com
About the Author
Florentina Galla is a registered dental hygienist with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in holistic nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health. She has been practicing part time for over ten years at a biological dental office in New Jersey. Ms. Galla became a Reiki Master practitioner in Holy Fire II. She is also the author of Confessions of a Holistic Hygienist in a New Era of Wellness available at Amazon.com.