Herbs for oral health

The main ingredient of most commercially available toothpastes and mouthwashes is fluoride. While fluoride serves to protect the enamel, excess fluoride may cause white spots to develop on the teeth (also known as mottling of the enamel).

Taking a back-to-basics approach may help us overcome any potential hazards of fluoride as well as other synthetic chemicals present in various dental products.

Certain herbs have proven benefits not only in protecting your teeth and gums, but also in maintaining overall oral health. Our ancestors may have been right about gnawing on the sticks, after all. Know these nine herbs to keep your dental worries away.

1. Bloodroot
Herbalists have made use of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) in mouthwashes and toothpastes for years and have seen beneficial results [1].  Sanguinarine, an alkaloid, constitutes the primary active compound in bloodroot. Studies have shown that Sanguinarine is effective in preventing plaque formation [2].  Bloodroot extract can be easily found at your supermarket or health store or can also be purchased online.
How You Can Use It: Make a quick mouthwash with 1tsp of powdered bloodroot and a few spearmint leaves in water. Make sure you strain this mixture thoroughly before using.

2. Stevia
It is profoundly used as a natural non-caloric sweetener and is about 300 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). Invitro studies have highlighted the antibacterial activity of stevia extracts on preventing the growth of mouth bacteria like Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus sobrinus and Lactobacillus acidophilus, all of which are associated with dental plaques and therefore help in preventing tooth decay [4].
How You Can Use It: Add a few fresh leaves instead of sugar to sweeten your tea or other beverages. Dried leaves can be powdered and further used in cooking desserts, sauces and soups.

3. Wheatgrass
Studies done by Japanese scientists have indicated that wheatgrass can help in neutralizing as well as eliminating toxins from the body. Rinsing the mouth with wheatgrass juice helps in drawing toxins out of the gums, thereby improving their overall health [6]. Wheatgrass is also beneficial in treating pyorrhea (bleeding gums) [3].
How You Can Use It: Mix fresh wheatgrass juice with water each time you plan to rinse your mouth. Alternatively, mix fresh wheatgrass with some water and use it for rinsing every morning.

4. White Oak Bark
For gum problems, white oak bark can be very helpful [3,6].  It is rich in tannins, which help in tightening gums and/or loose teeth as well as improving the elasticity of gum tissue. It also has a high content of magnesium, calcium and zinc, which help in strengthening your teeth and jaw. Both capsules and powder can be bought online.
How You Can Use It: White oak bark capsules can be opened and the powder can be applied directly on the gums. Alternatively, you can make a tea with the herb powder and use it to rinse your mouth once cooled. Do this on a daily basis to relieve aching gums.

5. Cloves
These red buds have more than just culinary use; cloves have long been used to treat toothaches. They are also used as mouth and breath fresheners [3,6]. While the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of cloves help in fighting infections causing tooth decay, their anesthetic property is associated with alleviating any tooth pain [7]. (Related article: Clove Oil: King Of Analgesics)
How You Can Use Them: You can either eat them raw or put them in your tea. Place a bud on your affected tooth to relieve pain. Alternatively, make a paste of ground cloves with a few drops of olive oil and apply directly to the aching tooth.

6. Holy Basil
This highly valued plant is well known for its various medicinal properties. Basil displays strong antibacterial action and helps prevent gum disease [8,9], plaque build-up and bad breath. (Related slideshow: 9 Reasons Basil Is Good For Your Health)
How You Can Use It: Brush your teeth with some dried powdered leaves to see the effects.

7. Licorice
Glycyrrhizol A, a compound amply present in licorice has strong anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. This herb helps prevent the buildup of mouth bacteria and protects against gum disease as well as cavities [10,11].  Licorice also exhibits marked anti-inflammatory property and can help in soothing mouth ulcers. (Related article: 6 Ways To Heal Naturally With Licorice Root)
How You Can Use It: Massage your teeth and gums gently with sun-dried licorice powder or just chew on a root for oral benefits.

8. Eucalyptus Oil
Cineole, an ingredient present in eucalyptus oil, kills the harmful bacteria responsible for bad breath. It is also found to improve oral health by reducing plaque formation, strengthening gums and preventing any gum bleeding [13]. (Related article: Natural Congestion Relief: Eucalyptus Steam)
How You Can Use It: Simply add a drop of eucalyptus oil onto your toothbrush or a few drops in your mouthwash to see improved results.

9. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has potent anti-microbial properties that can help gum infections. It also freshens bad breath[12].
How You Can Use It: Put a drop of this oil on your toothpaste before your brush every morning or rinse your mouth by gargling with a few drops of tea tree oil added to your mouthwash.

Use these natural, herbal remedies to strictly maintain oral health—and don’t skip trips to your dentist!


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