If you’re over age 30, there’s about a 50-50 chance that you have gum disease, according to new data from the CDC. And if you’re over age 65, those odds jump to 64%. Yikes.
Even people who brush and floss and avoid sugar can get gum disease, because some risk factors (such as aging and having certain genes) are unavoidable. And as you know, oral health is connected with overall health—gum disease raises your risk for systemic health issues, such as stroke, diabetes and cancer.
The news I’m bringing you today is that there are two natural strategies that can prevent and/or treat gum disease, as I learned recently from Mark A. Breiner, DDS, a holistic dentist in Fairfield, Connecticut. I bet your own dentist hasn’t told you about these…
KEEP YOUR GUMS IN THE PINK
Here are Dr. Breiner’s natural ways to prevent and/or treat gum disease.
1. Rinse with an herbal mouthwash. Herbs such as echinacea, eucalyptus, lavender and thyme are good at killing harmful bacteria, so they help prevent gum disease and help heal gum tissue if gum disease has already developed. So look for a mouthwash that lists at least one of those herbs on the label (ideally all of them). While you’re checking the ingredient list, make sure that the mouthwash is alcohol-free, because some studies have found an association between alcohol-based mouthwash and oral cancer. For example, you could try a brand called PerioWash ($9 for 16 ounces at Drugstore.com) after brushing and flossing each morning and night—it contains all four herbs mentioned above and no alcohol.
2. Take certain supplements.
• Vitamin C. Whether you have gum disease or not, ask your doctor about taking 500 milligrams (mg) daily of vitamin C because the nutrient builds collagen, a connective protein that is the foundation of gum tissue.
• Coenzyme Q10. This supplement is good for those who already have gum disease because it provides cellular energy that helps repair gum tissue. Ask your doctor what the best amount for you is—standard daily dosages range from 30 mg to 200 mg daily.
• Magnesium. Grinding your teeth can worsen existing gum disease (and cause all sorts of other dental problems, such as tooth decay, even if you don’t have gum disease). So ask your dentist whether you should also take 50 mg to 100 mg of magnesium one hour before bedtime to relax your muscles—this helps lots of his patients who are grinders, said Dr. Breiner.
One final tip from Dr. Breiner: It sounds obvious, but make sure that you see your dentist at least twice a year, whether you have gum disease or not. Plaque that isn’t removed by brushing and flossing can harden and form tartar…tartar build up can lead to gum disease (or worsen it)…and only a professional cleaning can get rid of tartar. If you already have gum disease, you may need more frequent dental visits or you may need to see a specialist, such as a periodontist, in addition to your general dentist.