Natural Tips for Healthy Gums and Good Breath

As the year comes to a close, ask yourself, "Have I seen my dentist lately?" Over 50% of Americans over 13 years-old suffer from some form of gum disease. Gum disease can lead to tooth decay and, if not treated, to the complete loss of teeth. Some symptoms of gum disease include tooth and gum pain; red, shiny, bleeding gums; receding gums; visible plaque between the teeth; and loose teeth. Severe gum disease often requires periodontal surgery, causing a lot of grief and suffering. Avoid the pain by taking steps now.

Regular visits to your dentist are essential for maintaining gum health; brushing and flossing can only protect you from periodontal disease in a limited way. I have worked with dentists and periodontists to develop a program that helps patients reverse gum disease—with great results! Here are 5 simple steps to healthy gums and good breath.

Step 1: Brush, floss—and massage
Nothing replaces brushing and flossing on a regular basis to prevent gum disease. Besides brushing and flossing, your mouth needs oral massage twice a day. Use a tonic oil consisting of the essential oils of eucalyptus, wintergreen, and peppermint, which have antiseptic properties and stimulate blood flow. How to: Wash your finger with soap, dip it in the oil, and massage your gums in small circular motions inside and outside, on the upper and lower jaw.

Step 2: Lightly bite to activate blood flow
After the massage, bite down gently, making a clicking sound when your teeth meet, 30 times. Do this routine to activate blood flow once a day as a preventative or twice a day if your gums already show deterioration.

Step 3: Gargle with natural mouthwash
Gargling with baking soda (dissolved in water) after brushing your teeth will alkalinize the gums, which will temporarily discourage bacteria.

You can also use warm salt water or diluted food grade hydrogen peroxide as an antibacterial mouth rinse. Or make your own mouth wash by mixing equal parts of sage, peppermint, and mint oils in a glass of lukewarm water. Stir well and use it to rinse your mouth.

Finally, folic acid as mouthwash has been shown to prevent and heal gum disease. If you want to try as a mouthwash, use a 0.1% solution.

Step 4: Eat right for gum health
Try these bacteria-busting tips to keep your oral environment alkaline:

  • Eat a varied diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits, leafy vegetables, organic lean meats, and whole grains.
  • Fish oil and flaxseed oil contain a rich supply of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are good for gum disease.
  • Cut out sugar. The ubiquitous sweets of holiday time are doing your teeth no favors. Sugar is the worst culprit for tooth decay and gum disease! Avoid sugars, soft drinks, and refined processed foods.
  • Avoid acid foods. Until the situation improves, avoid coffee, wine, tomato sauce, vinegar, and pineapple, which can cause imbalances in the oral pH balance and irritate the gums. Also, reduce consumption of spicy, greasy, and deep-fried foods.

Step 5: Focus on digestion
The gums are an extension of the digestive system, and according to Chinese medicine, they reflect the condition of the stomach. Gum disease is caused by excess heat in the stomach-due to improper diet, lifestyle, or emotional stress. Excess anger, frustration, and worry can disturb the digestive rhythms, causing food to stagnate and ferment and contributing to bacteria overgrowth--a prescription for unhealthy gums and bad breath.

Keep your digestion on track with these tips:

  • Change the way you chew. Chew your food well to allow proper enzyme secretion and healthy digestive function. Eat more meals with smaller portions throughout the day, and never skip a meal.
  • Natural herbs can help improve the gum situation by improving your digestion. Abundant energy is a formula of Chinese herbs that stimulates digestion. Indigestion is a Chinese herbal formula used for bad breath, indigestion, and belching, which may be perfect for holiday overindulgences. As always, work with your physician or herbalist if you are pregnant or taking other medication.
  • Manage your stress with techniques like tai chi, yoga, and meditation.

Step 6: Drink Green Tea
Green tea is a great antibacterial that can cleanse your oral cavity and help reduce fermentation. Besides helping out your gums, it also freshens your breath. In fact, a 2008 study from the University of British Columbia found that green tea, because of its disinfectant and deodorant activities, showed the largest reduction of bad breath-causing compounds produced in the oral cavity. So drink green tea often!

As a final step, the best thing you can do for your gum health is to stop smoking.

I hope this advice gives you the steps for an overall healthy mouth! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

-Dr. Mao

This blog is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

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