The human mouth is a warm, damp place with approximately 100 to 200 bacterial species (that we currently know of) in residence at any given time. It also happens to be a very busy place – producing saliva, tasting, chewing and absorbing nutrients.
Oral health has consequences far beyond the mouth; any breach in the integrity of the tissues of the mouth, such as mouth ulcers, inflammatory gum disease or trauma (burns, cuts or biting the inside of your cheek), provides a potential route for microbes to enter the bloodstream and access the rest of the body.
Just like the rest of your body, the health of your mouth reflects the health of your diet. Sticky or sugary foods encourage bacteria in the mouth to produce acids, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Crunchy fruit and vegetables (apples, carrots, celery, etc.) can increase the flow of cleansing saliva; raw onions and garlic have powerful antimicrobial properties; pomegranate, in addition to its antibacterial properties, is known to ease gum inflammation; foods that need more chewing encourage jaw muscle tone; green and black tea and other herbal teas contain compounds which inhibit the growth and activity of bacteria associated with tooth decay. So try to incorporate as wide a variety of such foods in your daily diet.
Poor dental health is also a matter of lifestyle; try to keep your teeth clean between meals by brushing half an hour after you’ve eaten but, if you’re out and about, swishing water in your mouth after a meal is effective at removing most food particles which might encourage bacteria growth.
Replace your toothbrush regularly; go for a medium-hardness-bristle, sustainable, recyclable brand. Worn toothbrushes are less efficient at removing food and plaque. Brush at least once daily before bed, and ideally half an hour after each meal, downwards on the upper teeth, upwards on the bottom ones and with circular brushing movements across the biting surfaces of the back teeth.
You can make your own tooth powder; mix 3 parts baking soda (the cleanser and sweetener) with 1 part salt (the abrasive) which will leave your mouth feeling very fresh; you can add cinnamon, peppermint or clove extract for flavour.
Alcohol can dry the mouth allowing bacteria an opportunity to invade. Avoid mouthwashes in general but if you must use one, opt for alcohol-free. Certain herbal teas such as chamomile, calendula flowers, nettle and peppermint can help with minor gum inflammation as would aloe vera inner leaf gel. Brushing with turmeric powder can whiten teeth (and no, it does not stain them orange); mashed strawberries have a reputation for reducing plaque and inflammation as well as whitening teeth. “Oil-pulling” is an effective Ayurvedic tradition for improving gum and teeth health and may help overall detoxification.
Vitamin D, magnesium and Omega 3 oils help support teeth health; vitamin C and folate promote gum health; zinc and selenium strengthen the immune system overall. Bleeding gum sufferer may benefit from supplementing with CoQ10.
If you have mercury amalgam fillings consider having them replaced with a BPA-free, fluoride-free alternative. They increase heavy metal toxicity in the body.
As the mouth is the very beginning of the digestive system, it is a good indicator of your overall gut condition and any “localised” issues may have their root deeper in your digestive health. Chronic gum inflammation, loose teeth, excessive plaque, halitosis (offensive breath), lack or over-production of saliva, a coated and/or cracked tongue, etc., might be indications you’d want to address with the help of a naturopathic practitioner.