Gum disease is one of the most prevalent diseases in the world—60% of us have it. When did we become okay with this? It’s not normal for a population to be this sick! If we were talking about heart disease or diabetes being this prevalent, we’d call those rates unacceptable. And yet still, gum disease persists.
Many of us, including dentists, think of gum disease such as gingivitis and periodontitis as solely a problem of dental health—the way I see gum disease though is that it is the beginning of a systemic infection telling a story of inflammation inside the body.
And while you might see a lot of chatter about antibiotic rinses or more invasive procedures while trolling the web for solutions for gum disease, I’d rather talk about the vibrant colors, rich smells and the flavorful tastes of culinary spices with you instead. Because food is medicine and what we eat influences our degree of inflammation. And in our daily search to feel great, minimizing inflammation is our number one goal.
If you feel pain in your mouth, you have gum disease or you sense that any part of your body is inflamed then please consider the great power your next meal has on your ability to heal.
Food is Medicine
There is a legit anti-inflammatory impact from eating a real, whole foods diet. What you eat is the greatest deciding factor as to whether you kick inflammation to the curb or not. And since the process of inflammation is at the root of all major disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis, I want you to take your meals seriously.
Plant-based compounds found in the very spices you likely have in your kitchen are capable of reducing pain and swelling as well as preventing imbalances that lead to disease from ever beginning in the first place! To think that the beautiful bright yellow, red and earthy brown hues of spices not only look, smell and taste great but that they serve a medicinal purpose is fascinating. I am excited to share my favorite spice with you below. You can begin using it in simple meal and beverage preparations today and reclaim your health, one bite at a time.
My #1 Spice For Gum Disease: Turmeric
Turmeric is a spice commonly used in Asian food with a bright golden yellow color. It’s actually a constituent in the turmeric plant called curcumin that’s responsible for both the beautiful color and healing effects of this plant. While turmeric is commonly used to color foods or beauty products, its best place is in your medicine cabinet – or what I affectionately call: your kitchen!
Turmeric has been shown to be effective for inflammatory conditions and is safe for children, adults, pregnant women as well as breastfeeding mothers. People use turmeric to quell the inflammation that is present in common conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoarthritis, depression, IBS, cancer and of course, gingivitis.
Recent studies suggest that turmeric-containing mouthwashes may help you with your gingivitis or oral pain. Basically, potent compounds in turmeric turn the switch for inflammation “off” by stopping the army of inflammatory agents (tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1beta gene expression for all the science lovers out there!).
But as it is for all food, it’s not as much the specific constituents in this spice that are solely responsible for healing, but the total package it comes in. Turmeric contains minerals such as iron and potassium as well as fatty acids like linoleic and linolenic acids that together boost its ability to defeat the inflammatory pathways involved in gum disease. So, it is not just the curcumin exerting its healing properties, but what’s in the whole root.
So while you can take a supplement of just isolated curcumin, I suggest you simply use a dash of turmeric here and there in your favorite stews, soups, and smoothies to reap all of the benefits.
Along with turmeric, spices such as cinnamon and ginger have also been studied for their anti-inflammatory impact. Cinnamon contains antibacterial compounds, which is helpful for preventing an infection in your gums. And ginger supplies its fair share of anti-inflammatory constituents as well, helping to relieve gum pain and discomfort.
Here’s a beverage that just might become your go-to elixir when you feel some aches or pain in your mouth. It is incredibly soothing, tasty and full of anti-inflammatory nutrients. Additionally, it’s rich and lusciously satisfying so it will also banish your cravings for sweets too. And because limiting your sugar intake is an important part of excellent dental health, this is a major bonus.
Speaking of sugar and all things acidic, while this particular drink isn’t acidic, remember that anything you drink that has an acidic pH (even just a slight one) to please be mindful about the timing of brushing your teeth. For those of you new to my community, I advise you to first rinse with water, then wait about 45 minutes before you brush. While we can’t forgo all the acidic things in our diet, at least we have a plan to buffer the damage a low pH can potentially cause.
Dr. Burhenne’s Golden Milk
Serves: 2 – 4
1 cup full fat unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon coconut oil or ghee
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
dash of black pepper
1 tablespoon turmeric paste (recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
couple drops of stevia
- Heat coconut milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Stir in oil, ginger, turmeric paste, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, and stevia. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until everything is evenly combined.
Serve immediately and store any leftovers in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
2 tablespoons turmeric powder
- Bring water to a simmer. Stir in turmeric. Simmer for a couple minutes, stirring constantly and dissolving any lumps.
- Turn off heat. A thin paste should have formed. Add a little more water if paste is too thick.
Store in a glass container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Why Prevent Or Reverse Inflammation
If you are like me, sometimes a brief reminder about why you should be concerned about something actually helps you commit to taking action. So I want to quickly talk to you about why caring for your gums is so important in the first place.
Your gums are a window into the inner workings of your system. If your gums are inflamed, it might be because other systems inside your body are sick too. Gum disease might seem like just an innocent issue of a little swelling here, and some discomfort there. But left unchecked, gingivitis can progress to serious periodontal disease.
It’s About YOU
- Poor diet
- Autoimmune Conditions
- Certain medications
- High stress
- Improper aging
- Weakened or compromised immunity
- Hormonal changes
All of the above are what predispose you to gum disease. What they all have in common is YOU. You have the power to chart the course of your oral and systemic health by making healthy lifestyle choices. Managing stress, eating nutrient-dense foods, limiting processed junk and refined sweets as well as maintaining a strong immune system through adequate sleep and healthy exercise habits is critical for your vitality.
Noticing something off in your mouth is a helpful sign from your insides! So good for you if you are paying attention. And if you haven’t spent much yet time thinking about the story your oral health tells of your cardiovascular, digestive or hormonal health, don’t worry – not many people have! But now you know. So please share this article and recipe with your loved ones and help others take back their right to good health!