Do your gums often bleed when you brush your teeth, or are they sore and red rather than a nice healthy pink colour? Around a third of us have gum disease and it’s easy just to ignore it, but did you read the recent news that researchers have found that a key cause of Alzheimer’s disease is a bacterium found in gum disease? While it’s fantastic news that they’ve made this breakthrough, it’s scary stuff. The good news is that gum disease is preventable. So what can we do about it? I’m going to discuss dental hygiene, what to do if you already do everything by the book, and how to cope if you’re terrified of seeing a dentist.
Often gum disease can be halted with improvements in dental hygiene. We all know what we should be doing – brush twice a day, floss, don’t smoke...but often we shave off a bit of time brushing or skip flossing because we just want to go to bed. This is the first place to start. Secondly, you may go to the dentist once or twice a year, but do you visit your hygienist? This is so important, as the hygienist will be able to give your mouth a deep clean to reach the parts you can’t get to, and spot any potential problems before they get worse.
What if you already do this and still have problems? This is where herbal medicine can help. A medical herbalist will take your entire medical history, and maybe see if you have any other problems with inflammation that might be contributing to the gum disease. If so, we may prescribe an internal medicine to take to help calm this inflammation, support your immune system and help build the connective tissue (the tissue that makes up your gums). We would also prescribe a mouthwash to do all of the above from the outside as well, and look at nutrition. I’ve had some really good results with this approach, alongside visits to the hygienist.
But what if you don’t want to visit your dentist or hygienist as you are simply terrified of going? It’s nothing to be ashamed of, more people than you think are affected in this way, usually from a bad experience earlier on in life. First, ask around. There are dentists who specialise in taking nervous patients. Secondly, herbal medicine can help here again. I’ve prescribed mixtures of herbs for anxiety and nerves for patients who were petrified of going to the dentist – it takes the edge off and calms you down.