Home / Teeth and Gums and TCM – Who Knew?

Teeth and Gums and TCM – Who Knew? by Susan Tretakis- I am driving home after a four- and one-half hour surgical appointment at the dentist and I am very, very angry. I’m angry about spending more money than I ever spent on any vacation or concert on something that truly – literally and figuratively – pains me. I am angry that after two surgeries that included one extraction, two implants, and 12 stitches that I can look forward to a third surgery – and a third four digit payment in November.

I am angry that my smart phone contacts now include a periodontist, an oral surgeon, a cosmetic dentist, a regular-for-all-other-issues dentist as well as a dental hygienist. My teeth need their very own “Group” in my contact list.

I am angry that when I asked my dentist “What can I do to delay – preferably resolve – this on-going “Dental Debacle”, he simply smiled and said “There’s really nothing you can do. You have excellent oral care, you just have lousy teeth and gums.”

I am VERY angry.

If Traditional Chinese Medicine has taught me anything, it is that there is a true mind body connection – I refuse to believe any part of my body is “lousy”. At the stoplight, I began to list TCM’s effects on my overall health:

  • My chronic high blood pressure is now 127/72 and I now need one pill instead of three: Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. CHECK.
  • I haven’t had vertigo attack in almost nine months: Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. CHECK.
  • Losing, as of yesterday, a total of 82 pounds: Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. CHECK.
  • I have not had a sciatica attack in almost four months: Acupuncture, Chinese Cupping and Chinese Herbs. CHECK.
  • Migraines are a thing of last year: Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. CHECK.
  • My chronic “dry eye” has been resolved and I no longer require laser surgery: Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. CHECK.
  • My sinus issues have cleared up, effectively eliminating that ENT recommended surgery: Acupuncture and Chines Herbs. CHECK.
  • And perhaps the most important, I still have both of my knees that two orthopedic surgeons, one year ago, insisted would “absolutely” need to be replaced within six weeks: Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. CHECK.

By the time I pulled into my garage, I was certain that TCM would hold some wisdom for me – and some things I could do now – to beat back future specters of “lousy teeth and gums”.

I wondered if it was possible that there is a relationship between the teeth and energy or Qi (pronounced chee), as it’s called in China?  Let’s face it, in the last hundred years, modern physicists have discovered many intriguing and mystifying things about our reality.

Perhaps even more important to me, in the last year, I have discovered many intriguing and mystifying things about MY reality.

Modern physicists have identified through advanced mathematics and rigorous experiment what ancient Chinese sages perceived through deep spiritual practice. They called their realization of inseparability “Oneness.” Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a “holistic medicine”, continuously practiced for thousands of years, with its roots in Oneness.

All of TCM’s principles and theories reflect these deeper characteristics of our reality. That’s why it’s still viable as a medical paradigm today. It’s timeless because it’s based on natural law—how things are structured and actually work in this three-dimensional reality.

Basically, TCM believes that the “kidney stores and supplies Qi for your body over your entire lifetime. This organ system is responsible for many physical functions, like extracting waste from blood; yet it also has functions at the level of energy—at deeper, invisible levels in the body. One of these responsibilities involves nourishing the bones and maintaining the integrity of their structure. “The teeth are the “surplus” of the bone”, according to TCM. “Therefore, bones and teeth are dependent on strong kidney Qi for their health, and both share a reciprocal relationship with the kidney organ system. This means when the teeth are stimulated, the kidney system is stimulated as well.”

I never thought I’d be thinking of my kidney health to help me strengthen my teeth.

Disclaimer: Again, I am not a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, but you can be sure that I will bring this to my Doctor’s attention this week. I am quite sure he is aware of it – but I do believe that this is one of those things that personal knowledge is good, but professional knowledge is essential. Sitting at the keyboard now, with more appliances in my mouth than exist on the showroom floors of Home Depot and Lowe’s combined, stimulating my teeth is an awkward and painful thought. I am thinking I may wait a bit on that.

As for my “lousy gums”, there’s much literature available out there to show you that you don’t have to play a victim to your periodontist.

To be fair, Dentistry has been at the forefront of preventive medicine during the past decades when other branches of western medicine only concentrated on prescribing pharmaceutical medications and invasive procedures. Dentists actively teach us how to brush our teeth and floss so that we can avoid cavities, bone loss, and periodontal disease; those recommendations remain relative and should be followed.

Additionally, there are many natural therapeutic protocols that can help us to prevent gum disease and address underlying causes of gingivitis and teeth loss. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), many internal imbalances can cause gum disease also. These are the main patterns of imbalance and the beauty of TCM is that your treatment is not done by textbooks or by x-rays, but what your TCM doctor sees in you.

A chief ingredient of a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herb has been shown to regulate genes responsible for tissue growth and differentiation in the periodontal ligament. Researchers note that the ingredient baicalin, found in Huang Qin, shows promise in periodontal ligament cell based therapy. The results were published in the Journal of Periodontology, the official publication of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Periodontitis is a major cause of tooth loss and is characterized by infection and inflammation of the ligaments and bone that support the teeth. Severity of this disorder is partially determined by the quantity of periodontal ligament fibers that have been lost. “Baicalin showed multifaceted regulation of genes with important roles in tissue growth and differentiation, and thus it has the potential to be a promising candidate for HPLC-based periodontal regeneration therapy”

Yes, this is a great deal of technical talk, but if you are fortunate enough to have a TCM doctor, he or she can explain it and suggest the Chinese Herbs and homeopathic remedies that help you avoid those deep cleanings, let alone the periodontal surgeries.

Understand that my goal here is to make me – and hopefully you – feel less of a victim in the dentist’s office.

There is a Chinese saying that goes: “A toothache isn’t a disease but it’s a killer when it attacks.” When you’re in pain, obviously, go see a dentist. But, before you are in pain, there are some things you can do to insure that perhaps you may not visiting be visiting your dental office so often.

TCM suggests changing to a diet that dispels “pathogenic heat” can ease some inflammation that is not caused by bacteria and tooth decay. Your TCM doctor can advise you.

Acupuncture and external applications of garlic, ginger, ginseng and salt water also help. “The points are he gu on the hand, jia che on the jaw, and nei ting and tai xi on the feet.” Again, I refer you to your acupuncturist for specific treatment for you.

For inflammation, the research recommends “cold” (yin energy) food that dispels pathogenic heat. This includes chrysanthemum tea, cucumber and celery. I can truthfully say that chrysanthemum tea was a mega-soother for me. While chewing raw celery and cucumber are beyond my ability right now, steamed until soft and then put in a smoothie is an easy accommodation.

While I have been given an antibiotic mouthwash to use three times a day, I have found that rinsing the mouth with warm salt water and soaking the sore gum in the salt water can help relieve inflammation and pain. My local health food store suggested a thin slice of American ginseng on the inflammation can also help – and it has.

So, why I am writing this? Well, I am not angry any more. I am resigned to what needs to be done but I am more informed about what I need to do and what questions I need to ask. More importantly, I know to whom to ask my questions. The person injecting, pulling, implanting, slicing, dicing and then suturing your gum IS NOT the person to ask for alternative, holistic treatments.

Most importantly, I refuse to view any part of my body as “lousy”. One’s thoughts become one’s reality. Simply by checking my TCM Checklist, the reality is that this is a small – albeit expensive – twist on my TCM journey, but I’ve come to terms to with the cost. I consider it tuition for a more informed lifestyle. View your body holistically – see your teeth, your eyes, your sinuses – all of you as coming from one common source.   And find a Doctor of Chinese of Medicine who can care and treat for all of you – not just a symptom.

Trust me on this.

Written by: Susan Tretakis



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