Oral Care and Hygiene
The use of herbs in oral care and hygiene is very common in traditional systems of medicine. In many countries like Africa, Nigeria, and Asia herbal ‘chewing sticks’ are used to clean the teeth. They use neem, and meswak sticks, the end of which is shredded and then used instead of plastic bristle brushes. Aromatic herbs and spices are used for rinsing the mouth. (1)
“Prevention is better than cure” is best appropriate for oral diseases. Most oral diseases are chronic and infectious but preventable. You don’t need harsh chemicals or medicines to maintain proper oral care and hygiene. Just by using some easily available natural herbal products, you can keep your teeth and mouth healthy.
Herbs for Oral Care and Hygiene
Natural herbs are proven to be safe and effective in oral care and hygiene regimen.
Let’s examine a few of the most popular and widely used natural herbal products for oral care and hygiene.
TULSI (Ocimum Sanctum)
Tulsi leaves are quite effective for your oral care and hygiene regimen.
It helps prevent tooth decay, loosening of teeth, dental caries, bleeding gum, and toothache. It is a wonderful remedy against pus formation and associated swelling of gums.
You can use tulsi as a herbal mouth wash for treating tooth decay, bad breath, gum disease, and mouth ulcers. (2)
Tulsi extract is also found to be effective against common oral precancerous lesions and conditions. (3)
It is as effective as commercially available Chlorhexidine and Listerine in reducing bacterial infection. (4)
Tulsi contains Vitamin A and C, calcium, zinc and iron. It also has chlorophyll, Carracrol, Tetpene and many other phytonutrients. The deficiency of these nutrients causes a variety of oral diseases. (5)
How to Use
Dry the tulsi leaves in the sun and make powder of it. Use it for brushing your teeth.
You can also mix the powder with mustard oil to make a paste and used it as toothpaste. This is very good for reducing bad breath and for massaging the gums.
Chew some tulsi leaves to get rid of ulcers and infections of your mouth.
To maintain oral hygiene and reduce bad breath, boil a bunch of tulsi leaves in water, strain and gargle with this concoction.
POMEGRANATE (Punica granatum)
Pomegranate is considered “A pharmacy unto itself”. It is extremely beneficial for you to maintain oral care and hygiene.
It helps prevent tooth decay, loosening of teeth, dental caries, bleeding gum, swelling and toothache.
Studies demonstrated that the extract of pomegranate peel also helps to maintain your dental health and hygiene. You can use it as a mouth rinse to fights off bad breath.(6)
The action of pomegranate juice as a mouth rinse is similar to that of chlorhexidine, a prescription mouthwash. (7)
Pomegranates contain tannins, polyphenols, ellagic acid and anthocyanins. Anthocyanidins contribute to the red colour of the fruits. These compounds have powerful antibacterial activities which help to keep your gum health. (8)
How to Use
To get rid of bad breath, mix a teaspoon of dried pomegranate peel powder in a glass of water. Gargle with this solution in the morning.
Make a paste of pomegranate peel powder and apply it to the affected area to reduce swelling and pain.
You can also use fresh pomegranate juice.
For mouth rinse make pomegranate juice, dilute it with water. Swish about 30 ml of the mix at a time and rinse your mouth as you do with other mouthwashes.
TURMERIC (Curcuma longa Linn.)
Turmeric may have a bright yellow colour, but it can whiten your teeth. It can also help to stop dental caries and cavities.
Turmeric can be used in relief from pain and bleeding of gum in gingivitis.
Turmeric extracts can be used in the treatment of precancerous cells in the oral cavity that can appear in your mouth, gums or tongue. (9)
The magic active compound curcumin present in turmeric have all these beneficial effects.
How to Use
You can use turmeric in a number of ways:
You can add this to your culinary items as a spice.
Make a paste of turmeric and apply it to the affected area to reduce swelling and pain.
To prevent dental caries make a paste of turmeric, mustard oil and salt. Apply the paste on teeth and gums and massage.
NEEM (Azadirachta indica)
Neem can do wonders for your oral care and hygiene regimen. You can use almost all parts of neem tree, like leaves, flowers, bark and sticks to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Neem oil reduces swelling and redness of the gums. (10)
The chief active constituent in neem azadirachtin nimbidin, nimbinin help treat and prevent gum diseases.
Neem mouth rinse reduces bad breath because of plaque and tartar that builds up in your gums. (11)
Tender neem twigs to prevent dental caries and teeth whitening as well.
Flowers of the neem tree are an effective remedy for mouth infections and bleeding of gums.
How to Use
Chew the end of a neem twig until it shreds into bristles. Then use this twig to rub along your teeth as you do with a toothbrush.
Chew raw neem leaves to get rid of bad breath. Or else boil a bunch of neem leaves in water, strain and gargle with this concoction.
To apply neem oil, soak a cotton swab or cotton ball and use it directly. You can re-apply as needed.
EUCALYPTUS (Eucalyptus globulus)
Eucalyptus is a wonderful herb that can be used for oral care and hygiene. It may prevent diseases and keeps your gums and teeth strong and healthy.
Eucalyptus extract prevents bleeding gums, tooth decay, and cavities. You can also use it as a mouthwash to fights off bad breath. (12)
How to Use
Like the clove oil don’t use eucalyptus oil too directly to your skin. Firstly, dilute 1-2 drops of oil with one teaspoon of olive oil or coconut oil. Secondly, dip a clean cotton swab or cotton ball into the oil and wipe it over the gums where it’s paining.
For mouth rinse, take 5-10 drops of eucalyptus oil and mix it in one cup of water. Swish one tablespoon of the mix at a time and rinse your mouth as you do with other mouthwashes.
GARLIC (Allium sativum. Linn.)
If you don’t mind the bad breath associated with garlic, this remedy is excellent for toothache. (13)
Garlic is effective in relieving the pain due to Allicin – a powerful antibiotic that is released when garlic is crushed.
How to Use
Chew on one or two cloves of garlic to release the juices that will help to ease the pain.
Crush a few cloves and add some rock salt and apply on the affected area.
Chew one clove of garlic daily in the morning. It will make your teeth strong and healthy.
CLOVE OIL (Syzygium aromaticum)
Clove oil is commonly used to relieve pain in dental caries. The analgesic activity is due to the presence of eugenol in clove oil.
Eugenol extracts is widely used in dentistry in conjunction with root canal therapy, temporary fillings, and general gum pain.
How to Use
Here are three methods you can try at home
Dilute 1-2 drops of clove oil with one teaspoon of any edible oil like olive oil or coconut oil. Soak a clean cotton swab or cotton ball into the oil and wipe it over the gums where it’s paining.
Don’t use clove oil directly to the skin. It can cause severe irritation.
You can also simply place the whole clove on the affected area for a couple of minutes. Hold it between your upper and lower teeth.
Make a paste of whole grounded clove and add a few drops of edible oil. Apply this paste onto the teeth.
KANTAKARI (Solanum xanthocarpum)
Kantakari is also known as “Indian nightshade or “Yellow-berried nightshade”.
Kanatakari is an excellent remedy for dental caries, toothache, and pus formation and associated swelling of gums. It is a safe alternative medicine that can cure all types of dental problems. (14)
This anti-caries activity is attributed to chemical constituents such as solanocarpine, carpesterol, solanocarpidine, solasodine, solasonine and solamargine.
How to use
Keep the fresh or dried fruits in fire and then inhale the smoke through the mouth to treat toothache.
Roll the dried fruits of Kantakari on a piece of paper like a cigarette. Then burn and smoke for some time to help reduce swelling and redness of the gums.
BLACK PEPPER (Piper nigrum)
Black pepper is highly effective to keep your teeth and mouth healthy.
Its daily use prevents dental caries, bad breath, bleeding gums, and toothache.
It can also cure the sensitivity of your teeth.
How to Use
Mix a pinch of pepper powder and a quarter teaspoon of salt and apply to the affected area.
Or else mix a pinch of pepper powder with clove oil and apply to caries to relieve pain.
Herbs are nature’s gift to humans. They have various bioactive compounds with enormous medicinal value that have lesser or no side effects. Herbs may be good alternatives to current treatments for oral care and hygiene. Herbs like calendula, aloe vera have been used effectively to treat oral diseases in the past. Practitioners can incorporate preventive herbal treatments, into overall preventive oral care regimens, if proven safe and effective.