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Herbal and Natural Remedies for Common Tooth and Gum Ailments
While you can best achieve and maintain good tooth and gum health naturally with a long-term preventative, holistic approach that combines herbs and other natural substances with a healthy diet, an effective daily oral hygiene routine, and regular dental check-ups, for those times when you still experience tooth and gum discomforts or ailments, a wide variety of herbs can soothe the mouth, lessen the pain, and aid in healing the condition. If you are experiencing tooth and gum problems, the best first step is to begin and maintain a routine as described above (see my previous article, “Enhance Your Dental Health Naturally: A Holistic Approach to Herbs for Healthy Teeth and Gums” for a wealth of information and possibilities). In addition to your regular oral hygiene routine, you can also apply specific herbal and natural treatments for all manner of tooth and gum ailments, ranging from bad breath and canker sores to discomfort from dental procedures to gum disease, toothaches, and abscesses.
It is important to exercise care when using herbs. Some herbs can be toxic if used for too long or in too great amounts. In addition, the active ingredients in some herbs are not recommended for certain health conditions and can react negatively with prescription medications or other remedies. It is therefore recommended, especially if you are pregnant or nursing, wish to treat a child, have special health conditions, or are taking prescription medications, that you research the remedies that interest you before using them, and consult a qualified professional if you have questions or doubts. For more severe tooth and gum ailments, it is recommended that you combine any at-home treatment with a trip to the dentist.
In addition to good oral hygiene, you can also freshen your breath by chewing whole fennel seeds, clove buds, whole cinnamon bark pieces, peeled cardamom pods, or parsley leaves. A mouthwash containing rosemary, diluted essential oils of anise, cinnamon, fennel, peppermint, or tea tree essential oil, or teas made from basil, chocolate mint, fennel, juniper berries, lavender flowers, parsley, peppermint, pineapple sage flowers, rose petals, sage, or thyme and used as mouthwash, also improve the breath. If bad breath remains a problem, you can take chlorophyll capsules or acidophilus supplements, and drink parsley or wheatgrass juice daily. It also helps to eat apples and celery often, since they are natural breath fresheners. Eating a sprig of parsley or a small piece of lemon peel will freshen the breath after eating garlic. Although some texts advise against ingesting essential oils, others suggest that you can also drink a cup of peppermint tea or add two drops of anise, fennel or peppermint essential oil to a full glass of water before drinking it to freshen your breath.
Herbal and natural remedies can also soothe and heal mouth sores. Mouth sores are often linked to food allergies or nutritional deficiencies, especially of iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid, so good vitamin and mineral supplements help. Acidophilus is taken internally and used as a mouth rinse also eases mouth sores. Since canker sores stem from the breakdown of connective tissue, the herb Gotu kola, ingested daily as a tea, is an effective remedy since it heals connective tissue. Chamomile mouthwash treats mouth sores resulting from chemotherapy. Other good rinses for mouth sores are an alum, Milk of Magnesia, and teas of marigold, sage, or chinchona bark. You can also apply myrrh gum powder directly to the sore. Licorice root, a strongly anti-inflammatory tissue healer, is considered the best remedy for mouth sores. You can apply a pinch of licorice-root powder directly to a sore, or suck on a lozenge of DGL (de-glycyrrhizinated licorice). Aloe vera also soothes sores in the mouth when applied directly. A mouthwash of chickweed, violet, or rockrose also soothes pain from mouth sores. You can rub tea-tree oil directly on a cold sore to promote healing; apply as soon as the developing sore begins to tingle. A salve of thyme, myrrh, and goldenseal can treat mouth sores caused by oral herpes.
Sore and Receding Gums
You can massage certain essential oils directly into sore areas of gums. These include tea tree, clove, eucalyptus, evening primrose, summer savory, and wintergreen oils. You can also rinse the mouth with fennel or chamomile tea, a mouthwash of goldenseal, marigold, sage or diluted tea-tree oil, or apply aloe vera or a naturally antibiotic ointment made of steeped red clover leaves and blossoms, directly to the gums. A preparation of myrrh, tea tree and peppermint essential oils in vodka or apple-cider vinegar can be massaged directly into the gums to strengthen them. A mixture of yerba mansa, echinacea root, myrrh tears and prickly ash bark, steeped in vodka or apple-cider vinegar and massaged into the gums after brushing, encourages regeneration of receding gum tissues. For more severe gum disease, packs containing ingredients such as turmeric, aloe, willow bark, licorice root, the antioxidant vitamin E, and powdered alum, wrapped together in gauze and placed in the corners of the mouth nightly, have been known in some cases to heal the condition in a just few months.
Applying a powder of blackened eggplant and salt directly to the tooth will lessen a toothache. Rinsing the mouth with hydrogen peroxide, chewing a clove bud, or even applying just plain salt to the tooth will also help. Saturating a cotton ball in an essential oil such as cayenne, clove, peppermint, summer savory, wintergreen, or tincture of hops, and placing it directly on the tooth will also ease toothaches in an emergency. Since a persistent toothache often signals a more severe condition, it is wise to visit the dentist when this symptom occurs.
Infections and Abscesses in the Mouth
Garlic, a natural antibiotic for bacterial and fungal infections, and immune system strengthener help heal mouth infections. Fresh oil of garlic or raw cloves are the most effective form, but you can also find odorless garlic extracts in health-food stores. A mouthwash of the horsetail herb or witch hazel also treats infections of the mouth and gums. The common weed dandelion, a blood purifier, as well as echinacea combined with myrrh and licorice root, and the ointment of red clover leaves and flowers, are good treatments for mouth abscesses. A salve or ointment of sanicle, a powerfully antioxidant herb, can also heal septic wounds. In the event of an infection or abscess in the mouth, it is best to combine any at-home treatment with a trip to the dentist.
Healing After Dental Procedures
After tooth extraction, gum surgery, or other dental procedures, you can apply annato-seed pulp to the area to enhance healing. The fresh tops of St. John’s wort (also known as shepherd’s purse) help stop any bleeding. A chamomile poultice reduces pain and swelling. Elderberry mouthwash following gum surgery or suture placement helps the gums to heal properly, preventing scars. Antibiotic red clover ointment, or marigold or yarrow mouthwash also enhance the healing process.
For further information on healing tooth and gum conditions, including recipes for specific remedies, consult the sources listed below.
- “Herbal Care of Teeth and Gums,” by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, in The Herb Quarterly, Issue 79, Summer 1998.
- “A Natural Remedy for Gingivitis, Toothaches, and Mouth Sores,” by Rudy Silva, on EzineArticles.com.
- “Herbs for Dental Health” by Christopher Hobbs L.Ac., A.H.G., on www.healthy.net.“Periodontal Disease” by Janet Zand L.Ac., O.M.D. on www.healthy.net. “Herbal Therapy in Dentistry,” by Flora Parsa Stay D.D.S., from The Complete Book of Dental Remedies.
- Beauty By Nature, by Brigitte Mars.
- Living on the Earth, by Alicia Bay Laurel.