By Gemma Hurditch for CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine)
A healthy smile and pleasant breath is not only an aesthetic goal, but a crucial one.
Evidence is growing all the time that the health of our mouths predict and influences our general health, too.
‘Periodontal disease’ means advanced gum disease. Forty five percent of the UK population have periodontitis of varying severity.
So how can we support the natural health of our teeth and gums?
Foods for gums and teeth
- Lower levels of the nutrient CoQ10 are found in gums with periodontal disease. Increase your levels by eating more parsley, broccoli, avocado, extra virgin olive oil. If periodontal disease is a problem, you would be best to take supplements along with increasing natural food sources.
- Vitamin B deficiencies can cause poor oral health, including receding gums and overall sensitivity of the mucous membranes in the mouth and tongue. Rich food sources of B vitamins include mushrooms. Try shiitake mushrooms as they are immune stimulating and include lentinan, a compound which fights bacteria that causes plaque formation. Sardines, mackerel, and beans such as cannellini beans, chickpeas, lima beans and pinto beans are also good.
- Raw onions have powerful antibacterial properties, and are also rich in quercetin, an anti-inflammatory compound which works synergistically with vitamin C to strengthen and heal the gums.
- Green tea may promote periodontal health by reducing inflammation, preventing bone resorption and limiting the growth of certain bacteria associated with periodontal diseases. It is high in natural, (rather than synthetic) fluoride, and can inhibit caries as well as increasing acid resistance in teeth.
- Green leafy vegetables are high in vitamin C, which reduces inflammation. Leafy greens require more chewing, thanks to their high fibre content, which is great for gums because the chewing action creates more saliva. Saliva flushes out food particles, bacteria, and plaque that may be sticking near the gum line. Broccoli and kale are particularly rich in minerals such as calcium and magnesium that are wonderful for teeth and bones.
- Crunchy carrots, celery and cashews are excellent at scraping away stuck-on food and plaque. Nuts also provide vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, which is very beneficial to the gums, without the sugar that mouth bacteria feed on. Make crunchy vegetables your go-to snack or end to a meal.
- Strawberries and bell peppers are rich in both vitamin C and bioflavonoids vital for gum health, and are less acidic than citrus. Acid can be damaging to tooth enamel. Citrus is excellent but be sure to swish and rinse your mouth with water or green tea to reduce acid build up.
- Drink plenty of water, it rinses the teeth and mouth of acid, and removes some bacteria. Some claim that rinsing with water is as effective as mouthwash for bacteria removal, but without the chemical nasties. Water helps the body to rid toxins which put additional strain on the immune system – and a healthy immune system is better at fighting against bacterial infection in the mouth, and the rest of the body.
- Use a natural mouthwash that is free of damaging and drying ingredients such as alcohol, triclosan and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Alternatives can be made using Himalayan salt, cooled boiled water and therapeutic food-grade essential oils. You will find plenty of recipes to choose from online.
- Use a natural toothpaste: there are a host of toxic chemicals in regular toothpaste. Try SLS and paraben-free brands. Sprinkling baking soda on the top of your natural toothpaste can help gently remove surface stains.
- Oil pulling can help reduce plaque. Sesame oil is the traditional Ayurvedic choice, or you can try coconut oil. Take one tablespoon of oil in your mouth and pull and push it through your teeth and around your mouth, spitting it out after about 10 minutes. Oil pulling is recommended first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking.
- Regular dental hygiene should include brushing twice a day and flossing nightly. Brushing your teeth prior to eating can be better for your teeth as some foods can weaken tooth enamel, which can become worn-down by brushing too soon after eating. Leave brushing for 30 minutes, or try brushing before your breakfast.
- Investigate a natural or naturopathic dentist in your area for more holistic care of your oral and overall health.
Naturopath Gemma Hurditch lectures at CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine).
CNM is the UK’s leading training provider in a range of natural therapies, with colleges across the UK and Ireland. To find out more about CNM courses, visit www.naturopathy-uk.com