Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the gums, jawbone, and connective tissue that’s caused by not taking care of your teeth properly.
TREATMENT: If patients already have gum disease, I educate them on how to remove the bacteria by giving them “irrigation” tools that deliver herbal antiseptics (like the lavender-based Tooth & Gums Tonic) to the deep pockets below the gum line, where anaerobic (oxygen-hating) bacteria thrive. I also suggest pouring hydrogen peroxide on a toothbrush, then scrubbing the gum line to eliminate bacteria.
EXPERT TIPS: To prevent periodontal disease in the first place, brush, floss, and scrape your tongue twice a day, and get a professional cleaning twice a year. You can also keep harmful bacteria from infecting your gums by supporting your immune system with acupuncture, a mostly vegetarian diet, and supplements like omega-3s, CoQ10, vitamin B, and calcium.
—Lewis Gross, D.D.S., a holistic dentist in New York City
an INTEGRATIVE NUTRITIONIST says:
Gum disease begins with poor dental hygiene and is often exacerbated by a weakened immune system and an overactive inflammatory response.
TREATMENT: To slow the progress of gum disease, I prescribe a plant-based diet high in flavonoids (which help to reduce inflammation and strengthen gums), zinc, copper, folic acid, vitamins E, C, D, selenium, and vitamin A or beta-carotene. Eat foods like mushrooms and garlic and drink green tea—all have been shown to have powerful antiviral and antibacterial benefits. Get a good dose of probiotics from fermented foods and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (high in antioxidants) and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, cumin, and
EXPERT TIPS: Exercise regularly to banish “bad” bacteria and maintain a healthy weight. (Excess body fat can be a source of inflammation.)
—Beth Reardon, M.S., an integrative nutritionist at Duke
an HERBALIST says:
The mouth is a microcosm of the body—gum disease can reflect an overall lack of herbs, vitamins, and minerals.
TREATMENT: I give patients gotu kola to support connective tissue, horsetail for bone, turmeric for inflammation, and astragalus for immune
function, and have them apply topical applications like licorice root gum packs and aloe rinses. I also recommend taking one to two grams per day of the Chinese herb Xu Duan (Dipsacus or teasel root)—it’s superb for healing damaged connective and structural tissue. I also prescribe 1,000 mg of calcium, 1,200 mg of magnesium, and 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily, and suggest patients eat plenty of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories like turmeric, berries, and colorful vegetables.
EXPERT TIPS: Brush and rinse every day with herbal gum rinses such as aloe and echinacea to keep periodontal disease at bay.
—Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, D.N.-C., R.H., a clinical herbalist in Eugene,