Case Studies: Gum Disease Prevention

Herbal remedies for healthy gums

| September/October 2000

Gum disease is one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States, affecting about 35 percent of adults age thirty and over. Most tooth loss comes not from bacterial attack on the teeth themselves but from gum disease, so prevention is the key to keeping your gums healthy and saving your teeth.

The teeth are covered with a tough coating of enamel and usually aren’t easy for bacteria to get into. But at the gumline, bac-teria feed on sugars left in the mouth after eating and produce a sticky substance called plaque. As this sticky, tough film begins to grow and thicken, it starts to pull the gum away from the tooth and create pockets where food can become trapped. Bacteria love these little warm pockets, away from our natural protective enzymes and immune cells, where they can multiply freely, creating inflammation and tissue destruction. Eventually the disease progresses to the point where bone loss becomes significant, undermining the tooth’s firm foundation. Tooth loss can and does result.

Two gum disease cases

A while back I had two patients at once dealing with gum disease and impending tooth loss. One was only thirty-two years old. When I examined the first patient, Sally, I saw that her gums were red, puffy, and glistening. She told me they were very sore, and they bled after she ate.

Sally went to her dentist, who wanted his hygienist to scrape the roots of Sally’s teeth with a sharp metal instrument. If that didn’t control the inflammation, he told her, he would cut away pieces of her gum to open up the areas that were harboring bacteria. This didn’t sound too inviting to Sally, who twisted her face into some very interesting positions while she told me about the process. I got the idea that she was hoping there would be an alternative. “I’m really willing to apply myself,” she said. And I knew she meant it; pain is a great motivator.

The second patient, Guy, was over sixty but had very nice-looking teeth. Guy told me he was on the verge of losing several teeth due to gum disease. I looked more closely at his teeth, which looked perfect. “Well, most of them have crowns; they do such nice ones today,” he said. I could see an area in his mouth that looked very red, and he could wiggle one tooth back and forth. His dentist wanted to pull three of his teeth, but a friend had told him that herbs might be able to help.

Good hygiene and vigilance are the best ways to reverse gum disease. 

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