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Why Does Gum Health Matter?

Did you know that your dental health can be an indicator of your overall health?  In other words, the mouth is a mirror to health and disease.  In fact, gum inflammation has been correlated with heart disease.  Paying attention to your dental health can clue you in to imbalances and help you take actions to improve your health before disease progresses.  

The microbiome of your mouth (oral biome) has big implications on your dental health.  The oral biome is the second largest and diverse microbiota, after the gut.  It contains over 700 different types of bacteria, which either promote health or lead to disease.  Imbalances in the oral biome (dysbiosis) can cause oral infections, cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.  Gum issues arise when bacteria-containing plaque buildup on the gums and teeth.  In general, practicing good dental hygiene and routine dentist visits help prevent the buildup of plaque.  When plaque builds up, it creates tartar (hardened plaque), which is harder to remove and leads to further inflammation. 
Inflammation of the gums is referred to as gingivitis.  In fact, 70 to 90 percent of adults have gingivitis, or have had gingivitis in the past.  Gingivitis is most commonly caused by buildup of plaque, and presents as gums that are red, swollen, and bleed easily.  It is vital to treat gingivitis, as the issue leads to periodontitis, which is destruction of the gum and bone structure; over time, the gums recede from the teeth, creating pockets which harbor bacteria.  Gum recession exposes the roots of the teeth, which increases chances of cavities.  The body’s immune system also reacts to inflammation around the gums, which results in the breakdown of bone (teeth).  Left untreated, teeth become loose and may need to be removed. 
Preventative measures are best when it comes to protecting your oral health. Good oral hygiene consists of brushing at least two times a day (once in the morning, and once in the evening).  Always use a soft bristled toothbrush, and preferably an electric toothbrush, which can help ensure proper brushing.  Brush the teeth and gum line in a gentle, circular motion.  Aggressive brushing or using harder bristled toothbrushes can be a cause of gum inflammation.  It is important to replace your tooth brush every three to four months to prevent the buildup of bacteria.  It is also important to floss once a day, and to use a natural mouth wash or practice oil pulling.  You can make your own natural mouth wash by combining water and sea salt, or coconut oil and sea salt.  Rinsing the mouth helps to remove stubborn food particles still left after flossing and brushing.  Oil pulling is the Ayurvedic practice of vigorously swishing either sesame or coconut oil in the mouth for 10 to 20 minutes; at the end of oil pulling, rinse the mouth with water.  Studies show that oil pulling is just as effective as using mouth wash.
While it is best to protect your oral health through the preventative measures of practicing good oral hygiene, there are also actions you can take to help reverse gum disease.  In India, the use of aloe vera in the treatment of gum disease is well-studied.  The studies indicate that simply applying aloe vera to inflamed gums and pockets helps to improve periodontal disease.  Another action you can take is to gently message inflamed gum areas with a mixture of coconut oil and pink Himalayan sea salt (rinse after letting the mixture sit for a few minutes).  The Himalayan sea salt and coconut oil mixture has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacteria properties.  Simply rinsing the mouth with sea salt has also been shown to be beneficial; the rinse is anti-bacterial and helps to remove food from the mouth. 
Last, but certainly not least, it is vital to pay attention to your diet.  It is no secret that sugar is a cause of dental issues, so be sure to limit your sugar intake; it is best to avoid processed foods and aim for a primarily whole foods diet. Research shows that people who are low in Vitamin C are more prone to gum inflammation, so be sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Eating raw fruits and vegetables, such as apples and carrots, can help naturally clean the teeth.  Newer studies indicate omega-3 fatty acids (which are known to have anti-inflammatory properties) help to reverse gum inflammation and protect againstgingivitis.  Wild fish is a great source of omega-3, and it can also be supplemented (DHA is a recommended supplement, due to its high anti-inflammatory properties). 
Practicing good oral hygiene and the above measures can help you protect your oral health and, in turn, your overall health.  As always, consult a qualified health care practitioner to address your individual needs. 

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