Triumphant Elder: Ancient dental solutions for modern teeth

by Tim Keim, EYT500, Yoga Therapist

As we age we may experience systemic mucous membrane dryness, very often noticeable in the mouth. Saliva contains antimicrobial components that work synergistically tao fight oral infection, while normal saliva volume flushes microbes into the gut to be destroyed by stomach acids. When age-related dryness asserts itself, bacteria populations grow rapidly, form plaque and harden into tartar. Coupled with less than fastidious oral care, this dryness results in gingivitis, bacterial inflammation of the gums and periodontitis. Red, inflamed, swollen gums and bleeding are common symptoms.  Periodontitis is advanced gingivitis that can progress to tooth loss if not treated. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of Americans above age 30 have periodontitis. This number increases with age.

Regular professional dental cleaning is the primary care modality to keep your gums healthy. If conditions have gotten out of control, deep cleaning and root planing may be in order.

After treatment, proper dental hygiene must be practiced to prevent a repeat of tartar accumulation and recurrent gum disease. This is where the medical science of yoga, called Ayurveda, has powerful tools to safeguard your dental health.

The foundation of good dental home care can start with the famous biblical gifts, myrrh and frankincense. These tree resins are renowned for their antimicrobial qualities and for nourishing mucous membranes.

Several essential oils (EOs) will provide broad-spectrum antimicrobial action to manage gum disease between dental visits. Neem, clove, cinnamon, peppermint and tea tree oils all demonstrate effectiveness against oral bacteria. Cinnamon is nearly as effective as the chemical compound chlorhexidine, and turmeric gel is its equal according to clinical studies. Take care to dilute cinnamon oil with coconut oil as it is very hot and will burn tender mucous membranes if used full-strength. One drop of cinnamon oil in 15 drops of coconut oil should work. Test the other EOs on your tongue to make sure they are not too strong for you.

Mixed with mildly abrasive baking soda, these ingredients will surpass any toothpaste in gum and tooth maintenance. A good general recipe would be a quarter teaspoon each of dried myrrh and frankincense, five tablespoons baking powder and 20-25 drops of the combined equal parts of the essential oils. You needn’t use every one of the EOs, one or two will do nicely. Mix and match and experiment to find which work best for you. Add enough coconut oil to make a paste and you’re ready to go.

Adding neem or tea tree oil to your floss will also get these medicines under the gums to kill multiplying bacteria.

Yet another way to use these oils is to dispense a few drops into a tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil as a mouth wash. Swish around the mouth 10 minutes for a moisturizing, mouth-cleansing and gum-supporting way to kill bacteria in the aging, dry mouth.

I’m getting good reports from my dentist since I’ve begun using these powerful, ancient, DIY tools for oral health. Cheers!

Tim Keim is an IAYT certified yoga therapist, and has been teaching yoga for 15 years. Keim can be heard Saturday and Sunday mornings from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 91.5-FM, WUNC. He can be reached at