Herbs for Dental Health

Herbal remedies have a long history of use for gum and tooth problems.
In many traditional cultures, there are no plastic-bristle brushes, rather,
the use of herbal “chewing sticks” are common. Chewing sticks
are usually taken from plants, shrubs or trees with high anti-microbial
activity. The ends of selected sticks are shredded and they are used to
massage the gums and “floss” the teeth.

In California, the young twigs of any of a number of oaks or willows have
served for chewing sticks, and are still available today.

In Traditional European Medicine, the following herbs have a long history
of use for prevention and in assisting the body to heal itself in gum and
tooth disorders.

Table 1 lists the categories of herbal remedies often recommended by herbalists
for promoting healthy gums and teeth and for helping to reverse pathology.

Anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory resins

  • Myrrh–a resin from North Africa to Arabia, warming, astringent

  • Propolis–a bee product–stimulates production of new tissue, anti-viral,
    useful for mouth sores and ulcers

  • Pine resin (pitch)–use as “chewing gum” when firm

  • Other Anti-microbial herbs

  • Usnea–a common lichen, stronger than penicilin against strep.
    and staph.

  • Bloodroot–an eastern woodlands plant–strongly inhibits plaque and decay-causing

  • Plantain–a common world-wide “weed,” use it fresh for abcesses,

  • Astringents (anti-microbial, tightens tissues)

    *new research shows that tannin-rich plants can be anti-viral

  • Krameria–contains 40% tannin, combine the powder with myrrh
    as a dentifrice for bleeding or spongy gums

  • Oak galls (oak apples)–contain up to 50% tannins, use powder as a dentifrice

  • Tormentil & sage = use as a gargle for chronic gum inflammation

  • Immune strengtheners

  • Echinacea–gargle or rinse with the diluted tincture, activates
    local immunity, induces healing

  • Baptisia–antiseptic, anti-bacterial

  • Essential oils

  • Many essential-oil bearing plants are useful for stimulating
    the blood-flow to gums; they are also anti-bacterial. Examples: peppermint, spearmint, fennel, cinnamon, sage, thyme

  • Diet

    Despite the resistance of modern medicine to the idea that tooth and
    gum disease is related to diet, this idea is widely accepted among herbalists
    and holistically-oriented practitioners. The single most effective method
    of slowing or even stopping tooth decay and gum disease, besides active
    and consistent oral hygeine, is the elimination of refined simple sugars
    from the diet. These are hidden in many processed foods, which should also
    be limited to 5-10% of the diet at most.

    People are often of the mind that honey and fruit juice concentrates are
    natural sugars, and therefor do not have the side-effects of refined white
    sugar products. However, honey and fruit juice concentrates are highly refined products. Honey consists of sucrose and fructose–it is refined naturally
    by the honey bee, but it can have the same effects on the body as artificially
    refined sugar products. For best protection of the teeth and gums into old
    age, try eliminating any sweets except fresh fruit in season. After a few
    weeks, it becomes easy to avoid all other forms of sweets and focus on nature’s
    whole natural fruits.

    References For Further Reading

    Wren, R.C. 1988. Potter’s New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and
    Wigan, England: Potter’s Ltd.

    Felter, H.W. & J.U. Lloyd. 1898. King’s American Dispensatory. Cincinnati:
    The Ohio Valley Co.

    Leung, A.Y. 1980. Encyclopedia of Natural Ingredients. New York:
    John Wiley & Sons.

    Lust, J. 1974. The Herb Book. New York: Bantam Books.Weiss, R.F.
    1988. Herbal Medicine, Beaconsfield, England: Beaconsfield Publishers

    Weiss, R.F. 1988. Herbal Medicine, Beaconsfield, England: Beaconsfield
    Publishers Ltd.

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    Written by Christopher Hobbs LAc AHG

    Explore Wellness in 2021