Modern studies and centuries of use show that a wide variety of herbs, essential oils, and other natural substances improve oral hygiene and help prevent and heal many tooth and gum disorders. Many herbalists advocate a preventative, holistic approach to mouth care that combines herbs with an improved diet and an effective daily oral-hygiene routine.
Dental-health professionals agree that the most important factor in tooth and gum health is diet. Since the bacteria in the mouth thrive on sugar, it is best to reduce or eliminate refined simple sugars from the diet, and eat primarily fresh foods free of chemicals, additives, and preservatives. Eating whole grains and high-fiber foods like raw carrots, and chewing them thoroughly, stimulates the gums.
Nutritional supplements also improve dental health. Antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, zinc, selenium, and beta carotene improve oral health, and folic acid reduces plaque, inflammation, and bleeding in the mouth. Daily doses of Coenyzme Q10 combat receding gum lines. Supplemental vitamins and minerals are important, since the body takes needed calcium from the jaw bone first in the event of a deficiency, which can lead to loose teeth. Eating kelp daily promotes healthy teeth and gums, since it is rich in vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
In addition to diet, a thorough, consistent oral-hygiene routine is important for healthy gums and teeth. Since gum disease and tooth decay stem largely from excess bacteria residing between the teeth and gums to form plaque and tartar, the main goal of oral hygiene is to remove excess bacteria from the mouth. Dental professionals recommend brushing your teeth at least twice, and flossing at least once, daily. Since bacteria can also collect on the tongue, cleaning the tongue with a toothbrush, a commercially-available tongue scraper, or even an upside-down soup spoon, eliminates twice as much bacteria from the mouth as just brushing the teeth. It is also beneficial to thoroughly brush the gums, as well as the insides of the cheeks. Over time, bacteria can inhabit your toothbrush and reenter your mouth with each brushing, so dental-care professionals advocate changing your toothbrush twice a month. You can also buy a toothbrush sterilizer, or soak your toothbrush in an antibacterial mouthwash between uses. Electric rotary brushes have been shown to remove significantly more plaque than regular brushes.
Many traditional cultures make natural, disposable toothbrushes and gum stimulators from the twigs or roots of healing plants. Bay, fir, juniper, eucalyptus, oak, willow, and neem-tree twigs have served this purpose, as well as the roots of marshmallow, horseradish, alfalfa, and licorice. Health-food stores often sell a rough equivalent, wooden toothpicks soaked in healing essential oils. You can even make your own by placing undyed wooden toothpicks in a glass jar and covering them with a dental-health-enhancing essential oil. Let them soak in the oil overnight, then allow them to air-dry.