If you eat raw foods or have a vitamin deficiency, you could be more at risk for cavities.
We all know that dental hygiene is important, mainly to prevent cavities. Most of the time, as long as we brush and floss a couple of times a day and get regular cleanings, we are able to keep our teeth and gums healthy.
Sometimes, though, it’s more difficult than that. Particularly those who eat a raw diet may be more at risk for tooth decay, according to some studies.
Fortunately, there are some additional steps you can take to help prevent cavities, and if you do happen to get one, there are some natural remedies that may help you get rid of it.
What Are Cavities?
Cavities are a type of infection caused by bacteria that destroy the material of the tooth. All humans have bacteria in their mouths, and it can easily accumulate on the surface of teeth, particularly after eating. Over time, if not regularly brushed or flushed away, the bacteria can form a sticky film called “plaque.” Plaque is more difficult to remove, except with dental tools.
Plaque gradually dissolves the minerals in the surfaces of teeth, resulting in small pits that get larger over time—cavities. Though everyone is at risk for cavities, some have more risk factors than others.
Those who crave sweets, and those who live on a raw food diet, may be more at risk. Foods that cling to teeth, such as dairy products, dried fruits, cake and cookies are more likely to cause decay than other foods. Those who snack throughout the day or who drink acidic beverages are more at risk, as are those who suffer from eating disorders, heartburn, or dry mouth. Age also plays a part, with younger and older patients more at risk.
Nutrient imbalances may also shift body chemistry enough to make teeth more prone to decay. Dr. Melvin Page, who wrote Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition, notes that a disturbance in the ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the blood causes tooth decay and gum disease.
Natural Ways to Prevent Cavities
In addition to regular brushing and flossing, there are other ways to destroy plaque and keep teeth safe from destructive bacteria.
- Avoid refined sugars: Foods that contain refined sugar are more likely to create plaque.
- Drink green and black tea: Teas reduce plaque build-up and help suppress bacteria levels in the mouth.
- Brush before breakfast: Bacteria likes to build up in your mouth overnight, so brushing first thing in the morning can help get rid of sticky plaque. Particularly if you drink orange juice or other acidic beverages in the morning, brushing before eating can better protect your teeth. Acidic foods weaken enamel for at least an hour after consumption, so brushing within an hour after eating or drinking acidic foods can actually weaken enamel and cause permanent damage.
- Eat tooth-healthy foods: Cheese, nuts, and apples can help break up the plaque that adheres to your teeth. High fiber foods can also help increase the production of saliva in your mouth, which serves as a natural protector for teeth.
- Chew sugar-free gum: It also stimulates the production of saliva—good for your teeth. It also helps cleanse the teeth of leftover food particles after a meal.
- Get more xylitol: It’s a natural sweetener that prevents the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Choose gum with xylitol or add the sweetener to some food items and/or your toothpaste or mouthwash.
- Sip carbonated drinks with a straw: Even if you choose sparkling water, carbonated drinks can still weaken enamel. A 2007 study, for example, found that flavored sparkling waters, even when sugar-free, are potentially erosive because of their acidic properties. Sipping with a straw helps keep the acid away from your teeth.
- Oil pulling: As mentioned in a previous article, oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique that helps clean the mouth of harmful bacterial. Simply swish your mouth with a spoonful of sesame or sunflower oil for about 15-20 minutes.
- Drink more water: Water not only helps clean away bacteria, but is important for the production of saliva.
- Rinse with tea tree oil: This natural oil has powerful anti-bacterial properties. Dilute in water and rinse once or twice a day.
- Snack on organic licorice twists: Certain compounds in licorice have been found in studies to hep kill the bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay. It can also help prevent oral infections.
- Nutrition: Make sure you’re getting enough vitamins A, D, E, and K in your diet, as well as enough calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other key minerals.
If You Get a Cavity
What if you happen to get a cavity? The accepted remedy is to go the dentist for a filling, and that may be a good idea in your case, depending on how bad the cavity is. A cavity left untreated can get worse, with the infection delving deeper into the tooth toward the nerve, causing lasting damage. There are some natural remedies, however, that may provide relief until you can have the cavity filled, or that may actually help stop the infection.
- Oil of oregano: Some have had success with this natural antiseptic on tooth decay. A 2008 study found that a compound found in oregano had potent antimicrobial properties. Brush with the oil daily.
- Xylitol: Try using xylitol toothpaste, rinse, wipes, and spray several times a day. Dr. Peter Milgrom, professor of dental public health sciences at the University of Washington and director of the Northwest Center to Reduce Oral Health Disparities, says xylitol stops bacteria in the mouth from emitting acid that causes tooth decay and cavities, and makes it harder for bacteria to find shelter on the gums and teeth.
- Cloves: It’s a natural remedy used to treat toothache. Add one or two drops of clove oil into the tooth cavity.
- Sage: It has antibacterial properties that may cure tooth decay. Boil sage in water, cool, and use as a mouthwash.
- Neem: Brushing with neem sticks or chewing the leaves or seeds was long considered the best way to destroy cavity-causing bacteria. A 1996 study found that neem sticks can slow down plaque formation.
Do you have natural remedies for dental cavities? Please share!
* * *
Ganss C, et al., “Dental erosions in subjects living on a raw food diet.” Caries Res, 1999;33(1):74-80, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9831783.
Brown CJ, et al., “The erosive potential of flavoured sparkling water drinks,” Int J Paediatr Dent. 2007 Mar;17(2):86-91, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17263857.
Sharise M. Darby, “Xylitol joining fluoride as cavity fighter,” Atlanta Jounral-Constitution, July 21, 2009, http://www.ajc.com/news/lifestyles/health/xylitol-joining-fluoride-as-cavity-fighter/nQH88/.
Wen-Xian Du, et al., “Storage Stability and Antibacterial Activity against Escherichia coli O157:H7 of Carvacrol in Edible Apple Flims Made by Two Different Casting Methods,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56(9), pp 3082-3088, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf703629s.
L.E. Wolinsky, “The Inhibiting Effect of Aqueous Azadirachta indica (Neem) Extract Upon Bacterial Properties Influencing in vitro Plaque Formation,” JDR, February 1996 vol. 75 no.2, 816-822, http://jdr.sagepub.com/content/75/2/816.abstract.