As our planet goes though the challenges of ever-changing viral strains, there is greater awareness of important yet basic actions that make a difference in added protection. Certainly, the practice of thorough hand-washing, surface cleaning and covering coughs and sneezes will never be taken for granted again.
We are also more attuned to the need to keep the immune system at its peak. When the body is able to efficiently combat viral and bacterial invaders, the potential to overcome worsening conditions is much higher.
As a Macomb County dentist, I follow a great deal of research surrounding oral health and particularly its role in overall health. Over the years, extensive studies have shown how periodontal (gum) disease bacteria can trigger inflammatory reactions that reach far beyond the mouth.
For instance, it has been shown that diabetics are better able to control blood glucose levels when their gums are in a healthy state. By lowering inflammation in the mouth, the immune system has less of an overall burden to manage. This also applies to people who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as inflammatory oral bacteria that travels to other areas of the body is limited.
Good dental hygiene has always included twice-daily brushing, daily flossing, regular dental check-ups, and limiting sugar. Oral moisture also plays a big part in helping to control bacteria levels in the mouth. Thus, we urge drinking lots of water, limiting caffeine and alcohol, and using an oral rinse designed to replenish oral moisture (especially helpful when taking medications with drying side effects).
Although eating a balanced diet of protein, vegetables and grains is beneficial, a few immune boosters are probably right there in your kitchen cabinet. Think of these when you are selecting ingredients for cooking as natural ways to increase your potential for healthy gums. These include…
Cloves – This spice has antibacterial properties that can halt the growth of oral bacteria, thus lowering the risks for gum disease. Clove oil can also be used as an effective pain reliever with its natural analgesic and antiseptic properties. Parents can even use the oil to ease the pain of emerging teeth in their toddlers since it reduces pain and inflammation and has a powerful numbing effect.
Cinnamon – This popular and versatile spice can do much more than add flavor and pep to oatmeal. For your smile, it has extracts that fight bacteria in the mouth and protect against organisms that contribute to cavities, gingivitis, and bad breath. Cinnamon also has properties that are antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal. It is rich in calcium as well, which is beneficial for teeth and jaw bone structures.
Holy Basil – is believed by some to be an aid that “purifies” the body and spirit. Factually, however, Holy Basil has antibacterial and astringent properties that help in managing bacteria in the mouth. It can also be used to relieve mouth sores and freshen breath.
Turmeric – For centuries, Ayurveda practices have advised Turmeric to heal problems related to the gums. With powerful anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can reduce the growth of gum disease bacteria and reduce associated pain. It has also been shown to significantly reduce gingival inflammation, which is a symptom of early-stage gum disease.
Cayenne – This potent spice contains a substance called capsaicin. When capsaicin comes in contact with gum tissues, it triggers the release of a chemical that causes the body to detect injury. This signals the nervous system to respond to an injury when there is actually no injury to tend to, resulting in a healing action. Capsaicin is also an ingredient in many topical preparations for muscle and joint aches.
Garlic – This popular bulb guards against oral infections and kills bad bacteria in your mouth. Garlic is a good source of vitamin C and also comes with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, garlic has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties, which are helpful in controlling harmful oral bacteria.
Ginger – With its excellent antioxidant properties, ginger has an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial presence that helps fight off oral bacterial infections while reducing swelling.
Honey – Sugar is not only harmful to your teeth and gums, it triggers harmful reactions throughout much of the body. Although the recommendation is no more than 6 teaspoons a day, processed foods can easily sneak past that guideline. Sugar content is often hidden in catsup, salad dressings, sauces and ‘natural’ juices (making it a good reason to read labels). Although honey has a high sugar content, its antibacterial properties help control growth of harmful strains of bacteria. It also has a low pH level, which is important for maintaining a healthy smile.
Although your 6-month dental cleanings and exams are important parts of maintaining a healthy mouth, what you do between visits is very important. Be committed to your at-home oral hygiene regimen and don’t skip those dental check-ups. If you’re behind on your dental visits, call us at 586-739-2155. New patients are always welcome at our Shelby Twp dental office!