Healthy teeth and gums not only give you a beautiful smile, but they also indicate good oral health and hygiene, which play a very important role in your life. Undermining a healthy oral routine can get you stuck with cavities, stained or yellowed teeth, and bad breath, all of which can negatively influence your general appearance and social impression.
Studies suggest that in addition to oral problems, oral bacteria and inflammation can lead to many other health problems, including heart disease, strokes, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney disease, diabetes, and oral cancer. Women with oral disease also show higher incidences of preterm and low-birth-weight babies.(1)
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay refers to the gradual destruction of the structure and integrity of the tooth. The hard outer coating, or enamel, of the teeth, tends to get covered with a thin film of bacterial plaque over time.
Every time you eat anything starchy or sugary, the bacteria present in the dental plaque release an acid that adversely affects the mineral density of the enamel. Because plaque is essentially sticky in nature, the acid adheres to the enamel quite easily and continues to eat away the enamel and the layer underneath, called dentin.
This continued exposure to the corrosive acid gives way to cavities. The foundational step towards preserving your teeth is to prevent dental plaque buildup. Practicing adequate oral hygiene by brushing and flossing your teeth regularly can help in this regard.
However, once a cavity forms, only a dentist can set the damage right.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is the inflammation or infection of the soft tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth.
Much like tooth decay, gum diseases also spring from an accumulation of bacterial plaque in the oral cavity. The sign of healthy gums is that they form a tight cuff around your teeth, allowing hardly any space for plaque bacteria to grow.
Healthy gums are vital for strong teeth. However, unchecked plaque buildup over time compounded with inadequate oral hygiene can cause the gingival tissue to become inflamed and increasingly prone to bleeding while brushing or flossing.
The gums, or gingiva, are made of soft tissue, similar to that of the skin, and cover the bones that support your teeth. A form of relatively mild gum irritation called gingivitis is perhaps the first warning sign indicating the onset of periodontal disease.
The gum damage associated with gingivitis is still quite superficial and nascent and thus can be reversed with professional treatment and proper oral home care.
If gingivitis is not treated in a timely manner, the persistent gingival inflammation causes the seal between the gums and teeth to give way and the formation of a space, or a “pocket,” between the two. These spaces in the gum margins allow further accumulation of debris and plaque, which is much harder to get rid of by your regular dose of brushing and flossing.
Moreover, this breach in the gumline grants easy entry for the bacterial infection to penetrate deeper into the gumline and ravage the supportive tissue and bone structure that anchor the teeth in place.
The plaque bacteria release toxins that, along with the infection-fighting enzymes produced by the body, trigger a chronic inflammatory response that leads to the destruction of the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone.
As the supportive base of the teeth gradually weakens and the damage becomes irreversible, the chances for tooth loss become more and more imminent.
Risk Factors Associated with Oral Diseases
The following factors can further precipitate the onset of developing gum disease:
- Hormonal changes in girls and women undergoing puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Certain medicinal drugs
What Makes for a Good Oral Hygiene Regimen?
- Make sure to brush your teeth twice daily, preferably with a fluoridated toothpaste.
- Brushing your teeth after eating sugary or sticky foods can be particularly helpful in removing the residual gunk.
- Replace your old toothbrush with a new one every 2 to 3 months.
- Use alcohol-free mouthwash to rinse away bacteria. Moreover, people who are prone to developing cavities can benefit from using mouthwashes with fluoride content.
- Clean your tongue with a tongue scraper or toothbrush once daily to dislodge and remove bacteria and toxins from the tongue and thereby prevent bad breath.
- Because food particles tend to get stuck between your teeth and in the hard-to-reach recesses of the mouth, brushing your teeth alone may not prove enough to check plaque accumulation. In order to give your teeth a more comprehensive sweep, it is recommended to floss along with the daily dose of brushing.
- Because the bacteria present in dental plaque react with the sugar content of your food to release a corrosive acid responsible for tooth decay, it will help to limit the consumption of high-sugar foods.
- Using your teeth as tools for cracking hard-cased nuts, removing bottle caps, or rip opening packages can lead to chipping of the enamel, which renders the teeth more susceptible to potential denting and other damage. Try not to put your teeth through such trauma, and use your teeth only for chewing.
- Rinse your mouth with warm water after eating your meals.
- Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal can also improve oral health as it helps clean your teeth and stimulates saliva production.
- Eating cheese can help reduce cavities as it neutralizes plaque acid.
- Drinking fluoridated water between meals can help mitigate the risk of cavities. Unlike tap water that is usually fluoridated, packaged drinking water may or may not contain fluoride. Thus, always check the label on the bottle to be completely sure.
- Do not smoke or use smokeless tobacco.
- Acidic drinks eat away at your teeth enamel by dissolving its mineral content over time. So, if you wish to stave off potential cavities, try to limit your intake of acidic drinks such as colas, packaged fruit juices, and cordials.
- Include more foods rich in vitamin C in your diet.
- Take a vitamin D supplement, after consulting a doctor, to improve oral health.
- Eat crunchy fruits and vegetables such as guava, apples, carrots, and cucumbers after eating your meals.
- Wear a mouth guard while playing sports to shield your teeth from any impactful injury.
- Make sure to get regular dental checkups every 6 months. Routine oral exams and teeth cleaning by a professional are mandatory for safeguarding your oral health.
Gum disease, tooth pain, and other oral issues are usually not assigned the importance they deserve. A cursory understanding would have you believe that neglecting oral health is likely to have little to no impact on your overall state of well-being.
However, the evidence points to the contrary, so far as suggesting that these fairly common detriments can have far-reaching psychological implications.
The health of your teeth and gums has a direct influence on how you look, speak, chew, and taste food. Moreover, oral diseases and the noticeable discomforts associated with them can take a toll on your confidence and make some people shy away from socializing with you.
So, instead of brushing off these concerns as insignificant, you might want to brush away the culprits that are causing them in the first place. Given the burgeoning costs of dental treatments, steadfastly adhering to a strict and regular oral health regimen can help you save hundreds of dollars.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to keep your teeth and gums strong and healthy from childhood to old age. For good oral health, the first step is to maintain proper oral hygiene.
It means brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing once or twice a day (preferably after dinner), rinsing your mouth after each meal, and using mouthwash at least once daily.
Tips and Remedies for Strong Teeth and Gums
Here are 10 ways to get strong teeth and gums.
1. Perform Oil Pulling Technique
Oil pulling, also known as oil swishing, is an age-old practice used in Ayurveda that helps strengthen the teeth, gums, and jaw while preventing tooth decay.
It helps to draw out bacteria from the mouth, keeps your gums healthy, and brightens your teeth.(2)
According to a 2015 study published in the Nigerian Medical Journal, oil pulling using coconut oil could be an effective adjuvant procedure for decreasing plaque formation and reversing plaque-induced gingivitis.(3)
In addition, oil pulling detoxifies and cleanses the body, which is good for your oral as well as overall health.
Illustration Showing the Complete Oil Pulling Process:
- Put 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in your mouth.
- Gently swish it around for about 20 minutes.
- Spit it out.
- Rinse out your mouth with warm water. Use salt water for added antimicrobial benefits.
- Brush your teeth as usual.
- Do this daily in the morning, on an empty stomach.
You can also do oil pulling with coconut oil.
2. Use Turmeric Paste to Brush Your Teeth
Turmeric contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help keep the gums healthy and the teeth free from bacterial infection.
This was further corroborated by a study published in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, which found turmeric mouthwash to be considerably effective in controlling plaque and preventing gingivitis.(4)
- Add a little water to ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder to make a paste. Brush your teeth with this paste a few times a week.
- Alternatively, prepare a paste with 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and ½ teaspoon each of salt and mustard oil. Massage this paste on your teeth and gums once daily.
- You can also boil a ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder in 1 cup of water. Allow the solution to cool and use it as a mouthwash once daily.
3. Chew on Some Guava Leaves
A review of studies published in Pharmacognosy Review in 2014 expounded upon the potential of guava leaves for effectively treating a case of periodontal disease.(5)
They also help keep your breath fresh and clean. Herbalists recommend using tender leaves or tender twigs of guava trees for the promotion of oral health.
- Chew on a few well-washed tender guava leaves thoroughly, and then spit them out.
- You can also grind some tender guava leaves and use it as toothpaste to brush your teeth.
- Another option is to prepare a mouth rinse by boiling 4 to 6 guava leaves in 1 cup of water for about 5 minutes. Strain the water and allow it to cool. Use it as a daily mouthwash.
4. Trust the Healing Potential of Indian Lilac
A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene reported that a neem-infused mouth rinse was as effective as a chlorhexidine mouth rinse when used as an adjunct to toothbrushing for reducing plaque and gingival inflammation in patients with gingivitis. However, more extensive research is called for in order to equitably establish these claims in a nonpartisan manner.(8)
- Grind 2 or 3 neem leaves into a paste. Use this paste to brush your teeth a few times a week.
- You can also rub the juice from neem leaves on your teeth and gums, allow it to sit for 5 minutes, and then rinse it off with warm water. Do this daily.
- You can even use a twig from a neem tree to brush your teeth.
5. Drink a Cup of Green Tea Daily
This was supported by the findings of yet another study, which reported that green tea can play a positive role in maintaining adequate oral health by reducing the incidence of dental caries through different mechanisms including enzymes activity and curbing bacterial growth.(10)
The natural fluoride, polyphenols, and catechins in green tea can destroy the bacteria that cause tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. They also prevent bad breath.
- Drink 3 to 4 cups of green tea every day. To promote oral health, drink green tea without sugar or honey.
- You can even chew sugarless gum made with green tea.
6. Brush Your Teeth with Licorice Root
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine demonstrated the beneficial anti-inflammatory, antiadhesive, and antimicrobial properties of licorice, all of which help counter the onset of oral diseases such as dental caries, gingivitis, periodontitis, aphthous ulcers, and oral cancer.(11)
Scientists attributed these health-promoting properties of licorice to two of its predominant compounds, namely, licoricidin and licorisoflavan A, which help kill the major bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease, the leading causes of tooth loss in children and adults.
- Use a soft licorice stick like a toothbrush to brush your teeth daily.
- You can also use a little bit of dried licorice root powder to brush your teeth on a regular basis.
7. Reap the Benefits of Basil
Basil is good for oral health, too. It works as an excellent mouth freshener and oral disinfectant. It can help destroy germs and bacteria in the mouth that are responsible for cavities, plaque, bad breath, and more.(12)
A study found a mouthwash containing holy basil to be as effective as chlorhexidine with respect to their antiplaque action, with no statistically significant difference reported between the two.(13)
In addition, its astringent properties help contract gum tissue, allowing for a tighter and firmer hold over the teeth.
- Dry a handful of fresh basil leaves in the sun for a couple of days, and then make a powder from the dried leaves. Use this powder to brush your teeth.
- Chew 4 to 5 basil leaves daily.
- You can also use cooled basil tea as a mouth rinse.
8. Rince Your Mouth with Peppermint Solution
The antibacterial and antiseptic properties in peppermint contribute to oral health by combating oral bacteria and keeping your gums and teeth in top shape for years to come.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry found that using a peppermint mouthwash can have a significant effect on the elimination of halitosis (bad breath).(14)
- Put a handful of peppermint leaves in 1 glass of hot water for 30 minutes. Strain the water, and then use the solution to rinse your mouth. Do this regularly.
- Alternatively, put a few drops of peppermint essential oil in 1 glass of water, and then use it to rinse your mouth.
9. Add Indian Gooseberry to Your Diet
Indian gooseberry, also known as amla, also promotes oral health. The vitamin C and other nutrients in amla can help strengthen the gums, support connective tissue health, combat bacteria in the mouth, and prevent tooth decay and cavities. Additionally, it prevents bad breath.(15)(16)
- Thoroughly chew 1 to 2 fresh amla fruit daily.
- Also, you can prepare a mouth rinse by mixing 1 tablespoon of amla juice in a ½ cup of water. Rinse your mouth with this solution once daily.
10. Salt Water Mouthwash can Help
Salt can also help strengthen the gums and teeth. Its antiseptic and antibacterial properties inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth.(17) Moreover, a saline mouthwash works as an effective astringent to bring down gum swelling and thereby accelerate recovery from gingival tissue damage.
- Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 glass of warm water. Use this homemade mouthwash to rinse your mouth at least once daily.
- You can also prepare a mixture with a ½ teaspoon of salt and enough mustard oil to make a paste. Use this paste to brush your teeth, and then rinse it off with warm water. Do this daily in the morning.
- Masthan MK, Anitha N, Jacobina JJ, Babu NA. Oral Infections Causing Systemic Diseases. Biomedical and Pharmacology Journal. http://biomedpharmajournal.org/vol9no2/oral-infections-causing-systemic-diseases/. Published August 21, 2016.
- Shanbhag VKL. Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198813/. Published January 2017.
- Peedikayil FC, Sreenivasan P, Narayanan A. Effect of coconut oil in plaque-related gingivitis – A preliminary report. Nigerian Medical Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4382606/. Published 2015.
- Mali AM, Behal R, Gilda SS. Comparative evaluation of 0.1% turmeric mouthwash with 0.2% chlorhexidine gluconate in the prevention of plaque and gingivitis: A clinical and microbiological study. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3498709/. Published 2012.
- Ravi K, Divyashree P. Psidium guajava: A review on its potential as an adjunct in treating periodontal disease. Pharmacognosy Reviews. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4127827/. Published 2014.
- Jain D, Dasar P, Nagarajappa, S. In vitro activity of ethanolic and water extract of guava leaves at various concentrations against Lactobacillus acidophilus. Journal of Indian Association of Public Health Dentistry. http://www.jiaphd.org/article.asp?issn=2319-5932;year=2014;volume=12;issue=3;spage=232;epage=236;aulast=Jain. Published November 15, 2014.
- Lakshmi T, Krishnan V, Rajendran R. Azadirachtaindica: A herbal panacea in dentistry – An update. Pharmacognosy Reviews. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4441161/. Published 2015.
- Dhingra K, Vandana KL. The effectiveness of Azadirachtaindica (neem) mouthrinse in plaque and gingivitis control: a systematic review. International Journal of Dental Hygiene International Journal of Dental Hygiene. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/idh.12191. Published February 15, 2016.
- Sharma S, Bhuyan L, Ramachandra S. Effects of green tea on periodontal health: A prospective clinical study. Journal of International Oral Health. http://www.jioh.org/article.asp?issn=0976-7428;year=2017;volume=9;issue=2;spage=39;epage=44;aulast=Sharma. Published April 13, 2017.
- Ramesh, Rajesh E, Devi GN. Green Tea in Oral Health – A Review. Biomedical and Pharmacology Journal. http://biomedpharmajournal.org/vol9no2/green-tea-in-oral-health-a-review/. Published August 5, 2016.
- Sidhu P, Shankargouda S, Rath A. Therapeutic benefits of licorice in dentistry. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0975947617305107. Published November 1, 2018.
- Bhateja S. Therapeutic benefits of holy basil. Review Article. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263463997. Published November 5, 2012.
- Hosamane M. Acharya AB, Vij C. Evaluation of holy basil mouthwash as an adjunctive plaque control agent in a four-day plaque regrowth model. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4312674/. Published December 1, 2014.
- Haghgoo R, Abbasi F. Evaluation of the use of a peppermint mouth rinse for halitosis by girls studying in Tehran high schools. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3894100/. Published 2013.
- Torwane NA, Hongal S, Goel P. Role of Ayurveda in the management of oral health. Pharmacognosy Reviews. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931197/. Published 2014.
- Grover H, Deswal H, Singh Y. Therapeutic effects of amla in medicine and dentistry: A review. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287972436. Published January 2015.
- Aravinth V, Narayanan A, Kumar R. Comparative evaluation of salt water rinse with chlorhexidine against oral microbes: A school-based randomized controlled trial. Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry. http://www.jisppd.com/article.asp?issn=0970-4388;year=2017;volume=35;issue=4;spage=319;epage=326;aulast=Aravinth. Published 2017.