HomeNatural remedies for preventing gum disease

Natural remedies for preventing gum disease

gum disease natural remedies cover photo

The term disease means an abnormal condition that negatively affects an organism. Its first meaning was literally a ‘lack of ease’. This describes how the body moves into a state of unease through a manifestation of symptoms being produced by an unknown cause of imbalance in the body. 

Through time, humans have used herbs for health issues and disease to maintain and re-balance the body system and bring ease and health back. Through civilisation and industrialisation and separation from nature, we have lost knowledge of the plants that can heal and protect us from disease. However, the information is still out there and widely used today by practitioners of natural medicines as well as individuals. 

We have put together a list of plants that science has found to have beneficial effects on oral health and diseases. 

A little bit about the body

You may or may not know that we are not alone! We have co-evolved with millions of microbes (viruses, bacteria, fungi and yeasts) for millions of years and we are in fact a diverse and abundant host for several ecosystems. Much like a forest has layers of different plant and animal species that all maintain a delicate balance so do the microbes that cover us from inside and out live in harmony making up what is called our microbiome. They live on our skin, protecting us from pathogens (disease causing microbes), they live in our gut digesting our food and producing vitamins for us, and they live in our mouth as well. 

Studies report we have 700-800 species of bacteria that colonise the hard surfaces of teeth and the soft tissues of the oral mucosa. Modern-day diet, chemical exposure and lifestyles can have detrimental consequences for our general and oral health causing dysbiosis (an unbalance of the microbiome). If the finely-tuned equilibrium of the oral ecosystem is disrupted, disease-promoting bacteria can manifest and cause conditions such as tooth decay, gingivitis and periodontitis.  

Other things microbes do for our body:

  • Energy generation
  • Metabolic regulation and control of fat storage
  • Processing and detoxification of environmental chemicals
  • Maintenance of skin and mucosa barrier function
  • Development and regulation of the immune system 
  • Prevention of invasion and growth of pathogens.
 

SOURCE: British Dental Journal: The oral microbiome – an update for oral healthcare professionals | British Dental Journal (nature.com)

While we want to leave our natural biological functions and this diverse ecosystem to its own balance as much as we can, we do sometimes need to keep numbers in check and reduce numbers by using external products. In this article, we concentrate on plants and natural compounds derived from plants rather than ‘conventional medicines’. The main difference between natural plant medicines and ‘manufactured, refined or lab-made’ medicines is the strength, form and methods they use.

Some chemicals used commonly in mainstream products can negatively affect our own tissues as well as the microorganisms, this also causes microbe death which damages the delicate balance allowing pathogens to grow and resistant strains to form. Whereas herbalists believe plant medicines tend to be more in whole form containing chemicals as well as molecules like antioxidants that protect cells from damage. They are also more subtle and maintain a balanced environment, keeping microbes in check but without completely destroying them. For this reason, they often have positive but more subtle effects over time without negative impacts, so they are best used as overall health and preventative medicine to be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. 

There are many natural medicines that have shown to work specifically for oral health and while we cannot guarantee they will cure or prevent a specific disease, let’s look at what science says and the results they can have on the body and health. 

All recommended dosages are a guide only and may need to be changed/checked for individual use. While they do not come with the side-effects of commonly used chemicals, anything can be toxic if used in excess so it’s best to start small with ½-1 tsp and build up to a safe amount. Consult your dentist or doctor if you have any concerns, are on medication which could be interfered with or have any health problems. 

Oral health and disease 

Here are some common terms and their meanings.

Periodontitis: When the protective gum layer is broken and bacteria reaches the periodontium (the name given to the group of structures that surround and support the teeth). Periodontitis is the inflammation of the periodontium, caused by the bacteria in plaque and the body’s immune response to it. 

Gingivitis: Gingivitis is a build-up of plaque along the gum line and the start of gum disease. It affects the surface layers of the gum, particularly where the gum meets the tooth. At this stage, there is no damage to the deeper parts of the gums, teeth or bone. 

Gum disease: Gum disease is inflammation caused by the immune system’s attempt to remove built up plaques. The two stages of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis.

Cavities, caries, tooth decay: Tooth decay, also known as dental caries or cavities, is the breakdown of teeth due to acids made by bacteria.

Dental plaque: layers of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, yeasts) that form over teeth and harden with time. 

Herbs and other remedies for dental care

Turmeric has been shown to have a number of medicinal properties and it has been used traditionally as a remedy for stomach and liver ailments, as well as topically to heal sores. Its well-documented qualities of being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiseptic make it useful in dentistry in the treatment of periodontal diseases and oral cancers according to The Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine. Turmeric can also be used as a mouthwash and is effective in reducing bacteria that cause gum disease.

Recommended dose: Add a tsp to your jar of homemade toothpaste or mouthwash. Add a pinch to coconut oil before swishing around the mouth for 10-20 minutes and eat daily for overall health. Beware it can stain surfaces, wash with a little dish soap immediately to remove from skin, clothes or surfaces. 

Warnings: Can stain clothes and skin. 

SOURCE: Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine: Role of curcumin in systemic and oral health: An overview (nih.gov)

Garlic may not be something you necessarily want to wash your mouth with but has some surprising benefits so it will be included in this list just for interest value. Its antimicrobial action blocks an enzyme which is responsible for infection, says a 2013 study in The Journal of Health Science. It also has antimicrobial effects on a wide spectrum of microbes such as Staphylococcus. A study also found mouthwash containing garlic extract has shown to be more effective in reducing bacterial strains in the mouth than synthetic mouthwashes. It was even shown to be effective against antibiotic-resistant strains. It also has antifungal and anti-inflammatory effects.

Recommended dosage: Just add garlic to your cooking when you can. 

Warnings: Beware, garlic breath may occur! Excessive garlic consumption may also cause gas and bloating. 

SOURCE: Nitte University Journal of Health Science: 17-22 harini K.pdf (nitte.edu.in)

Coconut oil has been identified to have antimicrobial activity against a range of microorganisms, reducing dental caries and therefore gum disease. Oils like coconut and sesame have shown to have a similar effect against bacteria and sesame oil was found to be just as effective and safer than chlorhexidine in mouthwashes in preventing gum disease and halitosis (bad breath) which is caused from sulphide producing bacteria. 

Recommended dose: Use a tbsp for oil pulling or make the recipes under external links on the dare page. 

SOURCE: International Journal of Health Sciences: Oil pulling and importance of traditional medicine in oral health maintenance (nih.gov)

Bentonite clay is composed of volcanic ash and as many clays, have been used for many years for their health benefits. It has the ability to bind to pesticides, metals and toxins in the body, removing them from the system as well as reducing lesions and ulcers on skin and gums. When used orally it has antibacterial properties as well as killing antibiotic-resistant strains. It also has an abundance of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, silica, sodium, copper, iron and potassium. Check out this recipe 

Natural Homemade Toothpaste Recipes & Tips From a Dentist – Oh, The Things We’ll Make!.

Recommended dose: take ½-1tsp of powder a day in water, or see the recipes under external links on the dare page. 

Warnings: Don’t take within an hour of food and 2 hours of taking supplements or medication as it can interfere. Consult your doctor before taking if you have any medical issues. 

SOURCE: Iranian Journal of Public Health: Bentonite Clay as a Natural Remedy: A Brief Review (nih.gov)

Diatomaceous earth is another powder used to add bulk to homemade pastes and has some interesting health benefits. It is a powder form of diatoms which are single-celled microorganisms from sedimentary rock. It is often fed to farm animals to fight intestinal parasites and is known for its detoxifying properties and some studies have displayed its effects in health such as lowering blood cholesterol.  

Recommended dose: take 1-2tsp of powder a day in water, or use in toothpaste recipes like this one DIY Diatomaceous Earth Toothpaste – Homemade Natural Recipe (diycosmetics.net)

Warnings: Don’t take within an hour of food and 2 hours of taking supplements or medication as it can interfere. Consult your doctor before taking if you have any medical issues. 

SOURCE: European Journal of Medical research: Diatomaceous earth lowers blood cholesterol concentrations. – Abstract – Europe PMC

Mineral salt is a great natural preservative for mixtures and aids in the healing of cuts. Mineral salt can also contain many nutrients that are beneficial for health such as calcium, iron and magnesium. However, it is unclear how much you can derive from mineral salt in toothpaste, but it’s added to the recipes found under external links if you would like to try a paste that is actually good for you if swallowed! 

Bicarbonate of soda (Baking soda) is also a great preserver for toothpaste, is good at getting rid of stains on teeth and has a slight abrasivity which serves to remove plaque build-up. It also has some antibacterial effects, these properties together help to reduce plaque buildup that causes cavities. It’s added to the recipes under external links if you would like to add to toothpaste.

Warnings: According to the Relative Dentin Abrasivity scale (RDA) baking soda has low abrasivity and whitens teeth and removes plaque without damage to the enamel and is very safe to use. For a list of abrasivity of different dental products compared with baking soda look here

131248_rdh sheet.pdf (prosites.com).

SOURCE: The journal of the American Dental Association: Stain removal and whitening by baking soda dentifrice: A review of literature – ScienceDirect

Clove oil or powder is an excellent antibacterial agent and can be used instead of tea tree oil, studies show it can prevent periodontal disease through its anti-plaque and anti-inflammatory agents and can cure toothache and infection

Recommended dose: you could try adding a tsp to your homemade toothpaste, and find some clove food recipes to increase its use in your diet. 

SOURCE: South African Dental Journal: Potential of clove of Syzygium aromaticum in development of a therapeutic agent for periodontal disease: A review (scielo.org.za) 

Peppermint, tea tree and thyme oil can act as an effective antiseptic solution against oral pathogens.They have antibacterial properties and are described as good therapeutic and preventive agents for various oral diseases. Other oils also mentioned are lavender, cinnamon, eucalyptus, peppermint and lemon oil. 

Recommended dose: you could try adding 10-15 drops to your homemade toothpaste or mouthwash, or follow some of the recipes under external links. 

Warnings: Can be an irritant if applied directly to skin or gums, always dilute first. Do a patch test to check for allergic reactions before first use. 

SOURCE: European Journal of Dentistry: Antimicrobial efficacy of five essential oils against oral pathogens: An in vitro study (nih.gov) 

Aloe vera can also be an effective ingredient in the prevention of gum disease and has been found to be comparable to commonly used chemical chlorhexidine along with tea tree oil. A study reported a statistically significant reduction in plaque and bacteria was found after 4 weeks of using tea tree, aloe vera and chlorhexidine mouthwashes with no significant difference between them. 

SOURCE: The European Archives of Pediatric Dentistry: The effect of aloe vera and tea tree oil mouthwashes on the oral health of school children | SpringerLink

Studies explain chlorhexidine kills bacteria effectively but can cause microbes to evolve and develop new, resistant strains, which can cause new illnesses and disease. Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic and reduces plaque, which is formed by microbes by breaking the cell walls of bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeasts, destroying them. The common mouthwash ingredient also acts however on our own cells and can cause discolouration of teeth, taste changes, sore throat and erosion of the mucus membranes. Other conventional washes use alcohols which can effectively kill bacteria but dry the mouth and actually increase the risk of cavities. 

You can try some natural mouthwash recipes here DIY Homemade Mouthwash Recipes – Soundview Family Dental

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry: Comparative efficacy of aloe vera mouthwash and chlorhexidine on periodontal health: A randomized controlled trial (nih.gov) 

Other natural ingredients toted for their oral benefits are green tea, neem, pomegranate and the tulsi leaf (or holy basil), which dates back to Ancient Egyptian and Indian practises, due largely to their antimicrobial properties. 

SOURCE: International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences: Microsoft Word – MS 1628 (psu.edu)

What’s the message here?

All these natural products have low abrasivity so they won’t wear away enamel, minimal to no side effects and can have a positive effect on teeth and gum health. Coupled with a soft bristle brush and soft brushing dental health can be all smiles! 

Herbalists recommend using herbs or oils such as those mentioned above to reduce the build-up of plaques as well as maintaining a good diet, full of vitamin C to maintain healthy processes involved with dental health and studies state, ‘A diet high in fruits, vegetables and low in fat and sugars is required for the healthy periodontal tissues’. 

So the message here is if you want to move away from chemicals and negative side effects there are natural options and if you use a natural paste and or mouthwashes and floss, as well as maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle you should be pretty set. 

SOURCE:  International Journal of Health Sciences: Prevalence of periodontal disease, its association with systemic diseases and prevention (nih.gov)