Maintaining Healthy Gums Naturally

  • Rana Ibrahim Masters of Critical care - Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Egypt

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Introduction

Importance of gum health in overall well-being

Some tissues in our body are taken for granted, although they are fundamental to what makes us human beings. Among these tissues are our gums. Can you imagine a face that smiles without gums? Can you imagine yourself smiling, sighing, eating, or even kissing without your gums? Definitely, you can’t.

Oral health can be impacted by numerous medical disorders and vice versa. For example, diabetes can cause increased destructive tissue changes in the gums as a result of the metabolic changes that happen due to poor glycemic control. Although there have been some other weak links found, such as the one between myocardial infarction (heart attack) and gum disease, research so far has not shown a causative link.1

Shift towards natural remedies in healthcare

There is a general tendency towards replacing synthetic drugs with natural components, and one of the reasons is that using natural substances can be less expensive than artificial ones. Moreover, prescription drugs can have serious adverse effects since they are often strong. Even basic antibiotics that physicians frequently give can lead to dangerous side effects like heart palpitations or seizures, in addition to gastrointestinal problems like cramps and diarrhoea. Natural remedies, on the other hand, are often kinder to the body and provide fewer negative effects when given as prescribed.

Basics of gum health

Structure and function of the gum

The gums (also known as gingiva) are the pink tissue that holds the teeth. It is part of many structures that support the teeth (periodontium). Its tissue consists of collagen fibres (60%), cells such as inflammatory cells and fibre-forming cells, and ground substances (35%). Collagen is important to maintain the integrity of the gum structure, while the ground substances are proteins which regulate the fluid entrance to the gum. The gums also contain nerve endings, so you feel pain when injured. They also have small blood vessels that can easily bleed even if vigorously touched.2

Your gums resemble a mirror of your health. Primarily, they serve as toothholders and supply nutrition and sensation through the blood supply and the nerve endings found in them. Nevertheless, they fight pathogens through their unique inflammatory cells within.3 This acts as a protective barrier between the harmful bacteria that can be found in the mouth and our bloodstream, where these bacteria can lead to internal inflammation and other health issues.

Common gum diseases and their implications

Gum disease, often known as periodontitis (per-e-o-don-TIE-tis), is a dangerous gum infection that damages the soft tissue around your teeth. The gums may bleed, swell, and become red during its initial phase, known as gingivitis. In its more severe form, periodontitis, the teeth may become loose or fall out, the gums may separate from the tooth, and bone may be lost. Most cases of periodontal disease occur in adulthood.4

Warning signs and risk factors for gum diseases

There are some signs that suggest you may have gum disease. These are:4

  • Tooth odour or persistent poor taste
  • Gums that are red or swollen
  • Gums that are sore or bleeding
  • Uncomfortable chewing
  • Teeth that are loose
  • Teeth sensitivity
  • Pulling your gums away from your teeth
  • Any modification to the way your teeth meet when you bite
  • Any modification to the way partial dentures fit

Additionally, there are certain factors that increase your risk of having gum disease. Examples of these are:4

  • Diabetes and Smoking
  • Poor dental care
  • Stress
  • Uneven teeth or broken teeth
  • Immune weaknesses, such as AIDS
  • Fillings that are not functioning properly
  • Using drugs that make your mouth dry
  • Bridges that are no longer properly fitting
  • Changes in a woman's hormones during pregnancy or when using oral contraceptives

Natural remedies for gum health

Herbal solutions for gum problems

Nowadays, patients in developing countries prefer less invasive, more efficient, safe, practical, and economical gum care, which includes treatment with mechanical devices delivered by professionals and patients and alternative treatments like medicinal herbs or phytomedicine.5 It includes herbs, herbal materials, preparations, and goods using plant parts or other plant components as active ingredients. It is used to treat gingivitis and protects against it by creating an alkaline medium in the mouth that kills harmful bacteria that cause inflammation to the gum. Examples of these herbs and their uses are:6

  • Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and can be used as a mouthwash. 
  • Cloves have anti-inflammatory effect and pain relief for gum sores
  • Mints such as spearmint and peppermint are used as a mouthwash and are known for their pain relief effect as well
  • Basil, cilantro, parsley and thyme, when chewed, give quick thorough clean gum
  • Ginger and garlic act as natural antibiotics to treat gum infections
  • Tea tree oil, as it is a potent antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant, thus inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria (P.gingivalis) that cause gingivitis, it can be applied with a cotton swab or diluted for a mouthwash
  • Sumac (a well-known spice) has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties
  • Ginkgo biloba is available as tablets in the market, known for its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects
  • Guava leaves are known for being rich in vitamin C and phenols, which act as antioxidants and can be advised as a mouthwash and an effective gargle for bleeding gums

Nutritional and lifestyle habits to support gum health

Numerous studies have shown that maintaining oral hygiene requires eating a balanced diet. Furthermore, it has been established that the effects of dietary components and nutritional supplements might impact the healing process following dental surgeries. 6 You can easily achieve better gum health by eating a balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Furthermore, reducing sugary drinks and snacks can help lower your risk of gum disease and cavities.

Brushing your teeth twice a day using fluoride-containing toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush will help eliminate germs and dental plaque from your teeth surfaces. Daily flossing aids in the removal of plaque and food particles that become stuck between teeth that a toothbrush may not be able to reach.7

Gum disease might become more likely if you smoke or use tobacco products. Giving up tobacco use and smoking can lower your risk and enhance the general condition of your gums.

Last but not least, make sure you see your dentist regularly. Avoid postponing getting checked out. Early issue detection may result in simpler treatment. Untreated issues may result in damage that is more difficult or maybe unrepairable.

Summary

Gum health’s significance extends beyond just dental concerns; it plays a vital role in our overall well-being. Gum tissues, often overlooked, are essential for various everyday activities like smiling, eating, and speaking. Moreover, they serve as a protective barrier against harmful bacteria in the mouth that could lead to internal inflammation and other health complications.

There's a growing trend towards embracing natural remedies in healthcare, driven by concerns over the adverse effects of synthetic drugs. Natural substances are often gentler on the body and more cost-effective than their artificial counterparts. In contrast, prescription medications, even common antibiotics, may pose serious side effects like heart palpitations or seizures.

Understanding the structure and function of gums reveals their complex role in maintaining oral health. Gums, composed of collagen fibres and various cells, provide structural support to teeth and serve as a defence mechanism against pathogens. However, they are susceptible to diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis, which can lead to serious implications such as tooth loss if left untreated.

Recognising warning signs and risk factors for gum diseases is crucial for early detection and prevention. Symptoms such as swollen or bleeding gums, tooth sensitivity, and changes in chewing patterns should prompt dental evaluation. Factors like diabetes, smoking, poor dental hygiene, and hormonal changes increase the likelihood of developing gum disease.

Natural remedies, including herbal solutions and dietary adjustments, offer alternative approaches to maintaining gum health. Medicinal herbs like aloe vera, cloves, and tea tree oil possess anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can help alleviate gum problems. Moreover, adopting a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and proper oral hygiene practices can significantly contribute to gum health.

Ultimately, prioritising gum health through natural remedies and healthy lifestyle habits can have profound implications for overall well-being and quality of life. Regular dental check-ups and early intervention are essential for addressing emerging issues and preserving optimal oral health.

References

  1. Services I of M (US) B on HC. The connection between oral health and overall health and well-being. In: The US Oral Health Workforce in the Coming Decade: Workshop Summary [Internet]. National Academies Press (US); 2009 [cited 2024 Feb 26]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK219661/
  2. Koller A, Sapra A. Anatomy, head and neck, oral gingiva. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 [cited 2024 Feb 27]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560662/
  3. Gingiva - an overview | science direct topics [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 27]. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/immunology-and-microbiology/gingiva#:~:text=The%20gingiva%20is%20part%20of,a%20keratinized%20stratified%20squamous%20epithelium.
  4. Periodontal disease | oral health conditions | division of oral health | cdc [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2024 Feb 27]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html
  5. Pasupuleti MK, Nagate RR, Alqahtani SM, Penmetsa GS, Gottumukkala SNVS, Ramesh KSV. Role of medicinal herbs in periodontal therapy: a systematic review. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent [Internet]. 2023 Feb 27 [cited 2024 Feb 28];13(1):9–16. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10155875/
  6. Ramesh A, Varghese SS, Doraiswamy JN, Malaiappan S. Herbs as an antioxidant arsenal for periodontal diseases. J Intercult Ethnopharmacol [Internet]. 2016 Jan 27 [cited 2024 Feb 28];5(1):92–6. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4805154/
  7. Najeeb S, Zafar MS, Khurshid Z, Zohaib S, Almas K. The role of nutrition in periodontal health: an update. Nutrients [Internet]. 2016 Aug 30 [cited 2024 Feb 28];8(9):530. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5037517/
  8. nhs.uk [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 28]. Take care of your teeth and gums. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-teeth-and-gums/take-care-of-your-teeth-and-gums/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Rana Ibrahim

Masters of Critical care - Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Egypt

Rana is a qualified medical professional specialising in critical care medicine. She has several years of expertise in the profession and a consistent commitment to clinical excellence and patient care. She has lately been involved in medical writing, driven by her recently discovered passion, using her knowledge and perceptions to teach and educate members of the medical community as well as the society as a whole.

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