Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adult Americans and most adults deal with it at one time or another, and increasingly as we age. While it is largely preventable with regular dental visits and good oral hygiene, certain factors – like genetics and hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy – make some people more susceptible to periodontal disease than others.
In its earliest stages gum disease is called gingivitis, characterized by puffy, bleeding gums. In its most advanced stages it’s called periodontitis and is characterized by the breakdown of the bone and tissues that support teeth.
Basically, what we’ve probably all heard since childhood is true. The mouth is a pretty dirty place, host to many, many different kinds of bacteria. That bacteria mixes with left over bits of food, saliva and mucous to form a sticky substance called plaque. If the plaque stays on your teeth long enough it hardens into tartar.
Tartar gives bacteria a place to shelter and flourish, and left long enough teeth become loose and begin to shift and the body begins reabsorbing the alveolar bone that supports teeth, creating a perfect storm that ends up with dentures.
Be sure to check out the following links for more information on periodontal disease:
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm
While the airways are clogged with ads for dental products, most of us are left wondering if there are more natural solutions for periodontal disease than the alcohol and chemical-laden drug store pastes and rinses we see on TV. Fortunately, alternatives do exist. A solution of hydrogen peroxide and water can be a simple and economical rinse to use twice daily to reduce bacteria in the mouth.
Neem, a natural antibacterial from the tree of the same name, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Before the invention of disposable plastic toothbrushes, people would chew the tiny branches of the neem tree to clean their teeth.
A fascinating study from India estimates that 80 percent of the nation’s rural poor still use neem sticks for oral care. Remarkably, the study concludes neem sticks to be just as effective as regular tooth brushing at reducing plaque and gum inflammation.
If you care to read the whole report, it can be found here: http://www.ispcd.org/~cmsdev/userfiles/rishabh/09%20ajay%20bhambal.pdf <http://www.ispcd.org/%7Ecmsdev/userfiles/rishabh/09%20ajay%20bhambal.pdf>
Neem sticks may be a little hard to find in the United States, but plenty of Ayurvedic toothpastes contain it. Try your local health food store.
Another common ingredient in natural dental pastes and rinses is extracts from Salvadora persica, or as it is commonly known, the toothbrush tree. Native to Africa, the World Health Organization recommends using branches of this tree for brushing as equal to or better than traditional Western methods. You can read more here: http://www.fao.org/docrep/x5327e/x5327e1j.htm
Of course, if you do end up having to get dental work done, it’s best to stock up on plenty of smoothie ideas and ingredients since most dentists recommend soft, nutritious foods during recovery.
- 1 cup fat-free milk
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons vanilla yogurt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 small banana, sliced and frozen
- 2/3 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/2 cup chopped peeled mango, frozen
- 1-1/4 cups frozen unsweetened sliced peaches
In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses; serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.