3 Surprising Ways TCM Can Help Improve Oral Hygiene

Good oral hygiene and the body’s natural defence can work together to prevent dental disease. Here’s how TCM can help you maintain good oral health.

Closeup of a young, smiling woman’s beautiful teeth due to good oral hygiene

You’ve probably experienced a toothache, cavity, or sensitive gums at some point in your life. You might think that dental issues don’t affect the rest of your body, but did you know they can influence your overall health? That’s why it’s important to practice good oral hygiene.

According to studies, periodontitis, cavities, and other teeth and gum conditions can affect your quality of life, even impacting some chronic diseases. Thankfully, these dental ailments can be prevented with good oral hygiene. 

The Benefit of a TCM Approach to Oral Hygiene and Health 

Western dentistry and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) agree on the importance of oral hygiene. It is essential for the “proper physical development and functioning of the teeth, gums, tongue, lips, chewing muscles, oral cavity linings, salivary glands, the jaw and palates,” explains Real Medical Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew. 

TCM also offers a more holistic approach to dental health. “These biological structures are closely associated with many vital organs, namely the Lungs, Spleen, Heart, Kidneys, Liver, large intestine, stomach, and small intestine. Essentially, oral health can affect the wellness of these organs and vice versa,” says Physician Yew. 

TCM helps treat the underlying root cause behind the symptoms of an existing oral condition and works as a preventive strategy for dental disease. By boosting your body’s natural defence, you can improve oral health to help prevent teeth and gum disorders.

Young Asian woman with a finger near her smile, thinking of dental care concepts
Did you know that oral health is linked to your body’s vital organs?

How to Boost Oral Health and Habits with TCM 

Incorporating TCM practices into oral hygiene habits can improve dental health. Here’s how TCM can help treat imbalances in the body to boost oral health and help with existing ailments. 

1. Herbal formulas to support balance within the body 

In TCM, Fire (huo, 火) is one of the five essential elements that provide energy to the body. When this element is imbalanced due to hyperactivity and excessiveness, the imbalance is called Shang Huo (上火). Some common manifestations are redness, inflammation, pain, and fever. The oral ailments associated with Shang Huo include oral ulceration, sensitive and bleeding gums, inflammation, and pain.

Chinese healing herbs are used to restore balance to the body. Below, Physician Yew lists just a few herbal formulas to help treat symptoms of oral diseases and maintain oral hygiene: 

  • Xie Huang San (泻黄散) – Clears Heat and dispels Dampness within the stomach and Spleen, improving qi and blood circulation within the oral cavity
  • Qing Wei San (清胃散) – Clears Heat and dispels blood clots within the stomach; replenishes yin and Blood to nourish the oral cavity 
  • Yu Nu Jian (玉女煎) – Clears Heat within the stomach and Kidneys; replenishes yin to nourish the Kidneys and teeth 
  • Tong Qiao Huo Xue Tang (通窍活血汤) – Dispels blood clots and stagnated qi within the oral cavity 
  • Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (龙胆泻肝汤) – Clears Heat and dispels Dampness within the Liver; replenishes yin and Blood to nourish the Liver and oral cavity
  • Dao Chi San (导赤散) – Clears Heat within the Heart and small intestines, promotes healing of the oral cavity
  • Qing Fei Yi Huo Pian (清肺抑火片) – Purges Dampness and Heat within the Lungs and large intestines, promotes healing of the oral cavity

Essentially, maintaining oral hygiene and treating dental disorders can be rather complex, advises Physician Yew. So, it’s important to consult with a qualified TCM practitioner instead of self-medicating with the herbal formulas provided above.

Portrait of doctor in front of a traditional Chinese medicine cabinet
Seeking a qualified TCM practitioner to obtain herbal formulas, acupressure, and acupuncture can help boost oral care.

2. Acupressure to help dispel disease-causing germs 

A study published in the Medical Acupuncture journal concludes that acupuncture is a safe and non-toxic method to relieve pain from dental disorders and supplement oral hygiene.

Acupressure can help maintain the balance of yin and yang energy as it promotes the flow of qi and Blood. This then helps provide some symptomatic relief to dental conditions while also helping maintain oral health by dispelling pathogens within the body. 

This self-help remedy is easy to do using your fingers or a massage stick on certain acupoints. Below are some recommended acupoints that might help, according to Physician Yew: 

  • Chi ze (LU5, 尺泽) – Dispels pathogens, strengthens Lungs 
  • He gu (LI4, 合谷) – Dispels pathogens from the large intestines 
  • Nei ting (ST44, 内庭) – Dispels pathogens from the stomach 
  • Xue hai (SP10, 血海) – Dispels pathogens from the Spleen 
  • Tong li (HT5, 通里) – Dispels pathogens, strengthens the Heart 
  • Quan liao (SI18, 颧髎) – Dispels pathogens from the small intestines 
  • Tai xi (KI3, 太溪) – Dispels pathogens, nourishes Kidneys 
  • Xing jian (LR2, 行间) – Dispels pathogens from the Liver 

“Apply an appropriate amount of pressure to elicit a tolerable sensation of soreness or tenderness for it to be effective,” says Physician Yew. At the same time, massage the points in both a clockwise and counterclockwise motion, 20 times each. Repeat for at least three minutes per acupoint.  

It’s important to consult a qualified TCM practitioner in conjunction with a dentist if your symptoms persist and become more severe. 

3. Acupuncture to promote optimal blood flow

Closeup of acupuncture needles inserted into a cork
Acupuncture stimulates circulation and helps reduce inflammation to improve dental issues.

According to Physician Yew, “Acupuncture helps with oral health by promoting optimal blood and nutrient circulation within the oral cavity. It stimulates the growth of beneficial oral microbes to maintain a healthy balance of the oral microbiome, which is instrumental in reducing or even avoiding inflammation and other pathological processes.” 

By dispelling disease-causing microbes to unblock Meridian channels in the body, acupuncture restores qi and blood circulation to strengthen the functions of vital organs and lay the foundation for good oral health and hygiene

Other TCM Treatments to Try 

Physician Yew also recommends cupping therapy, gua sha (scraping), and tui na (Chinese manual therapy) to help restore balance and as good oral hygiene while treating symptoms of dental disease. Always consult a TCM physician for proper assessment, he cautions, since everyone has their unique body constitution. 

Daily brushing and flossing may already be a part of your oral hygiene practice but adding TCM’s holistic approach to oral care is a great way to boost your body’s natural defence and protect against disease-causing bacteria.

Which TCM remedy have you tried for your oral issues?

References

  1. International Journal of Oral Science. 2018. Oral health in China: from vision to action. [online] Available at: <https://www.nature.com/articles/s41368-017-0006-6> [Accessed 25 July 2022]
  2. Chinese Medicine. 2014. Quantization and diagnosis of Shanghuo (Heatiness) in Chinese medicine using a diagnostic scoring scheme and salivary biochemical parameters. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3891990/> [Accessed 25 July 2022]
  3. National Library of Medicine. 2014. Acupuncture: An Alternative Therapy in Dentistry and Its Possible Applications. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270142/> [Accessed 28 July 2022]

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