The year 1910 seems like ancient history when it comes to modern science. Back then, a surgeon named Dr. William Hunter theorized that oral sepsis led to a condition called focal infection, in which infections of the mouth can be the catalyst for diseases in distant parts of the body, such as colitis and gastritis, etc.
Compared to how long Chinese sages were aware of the connection between oral health and overall wellness, 1910 is merely a blink of an eye ago. For centuries, it’s been known that the mouth is a window to the rest of the body.
How The Mouth Is Connected To The Rest Of The Body In TCM
There are three primary organs affected by the mouth (and vice versa): Stomach, Kidneys and Large Intestine.
Why are these distant organs affected by the bacterial inhabitants of your oral cavity? That’s because the meridians (invisible highways of energy) of two of these three organs—Stomach and Large Intestine—run through the base of your teeth (the tooth bed). The Stomach meridian travels through the upper teeth bed while the Large Intestine meridian system passes in the lower teeth. It’s through these meridians that your teeth and gums are supplied with Blood (as well as vital energy, or Qi.)
For centuries, it’s been known that the mouth is a window to the rest of the body.
The other organ system, Kidney, nourishes the bone material of your teeth.
You can be the most vigilant brusher and flosser in the world. But if your kidney essence is weak, be it because of stress or the aging process (or both), the condition of your teeth and gums might not be so squeaky clean.
The Root Cause Of Bleeding Gums In TCM (No Pun Intended)
If you don’t brush diligently and correctly, you don’t have to be an expert in TCM—or a dentist—to determine why your gums are bleeding. However, lack of oral hygiene is not always the root cause. In TCM theory, a pattern known as Heat can rob the gums of Blood. Or, if there’s insufficient Qi to move energy, the vessels in the gums won’t be able to contain sufficient Blood. Inflammation will result.
Can TCM Replace Your Dentist?
No. You should still see your dentist at least twice a year. But what TCM can teach Western medicine is that internal imbalances, not just in the mouth, can cause gum disease. And the great thing about treating oral cavity problems in TCM is that a qualified practitioner such as a licensed acupuncturist can help improve oral health without the need of X rays.
The Best Chinese Herb To Support Your Teeth
There’s one herb that’s used in TCM that has been shown in research to play a role in regulating genes that promote periodontal ligament tissue growth. The herb, scutellaria root (Huang Qin) contains the active ingredient, baicalin. This Chinese herb possesses compounds that enhance periodontal ligament cell proliferation, says a research study in the Journal of Periodontology.
Tooth Problems Create Organ Imbalance
Each of the 32 teeth in the human mouth (or 28 if you’ve had your wisdom teeth removed) can directly impact the health of other organs. For example, tooth #27, is on the same meridian pathway as the pancreas, liver, gallbladder and lungs. The sensory organ associated with this tooth is the eyes. Problems with this tooth can result in blood stagnation.
In recent years, it’s been well established that an overabundance of bad bacteria can migrate to the heart, causing cardiovascular disease. Or, harmful bacteria can travel to the brain, potentially leading to cognitive decline.
Bad Breath? If Brushing Doesn’t Work, Try TCM
Too much unfriendly bacteria in the mouth can lead to bad breath. In TCM theory, bad breath isn’t directly blamed on harmful bacteria but rather excess heat in the digestive organs.
If you struggle with bad breath, our formula BreathNew can help because it clears fire from the stomach. Other signs you may have excess heat in the stomach include infrequent bowel movement, abnormal thirst and/or a hot feeling in the mouth.
BreathNew contains rehmannia root (Sheng Di Huang), the go-to Chinese herb for bleeding gums and other disturbances in the oral cavity. In one study published in a Chinese medicine peer-reviewed journal, rehmannia root was shown to improve tooth structure in smokers. Another herb in BreathNew, Angelica root (Dang Gui) clears blood stasis, which if you recall from the beginning is the root cause of inflammation in the teeth bed. Other herbs in the formula clear excess heat and fire.
Oral Health and TCM: Conclusion
Like Western medicine, in TCM, the teeth and gums aren’t disconnected structures from the rest of the body. The teeth aren’t merely plant masticators and flesh-rippers. What’s in your mouth directly impacts the rest of your body. And vice versa. Internal imbalances can have a direct consequence on your teeth and gums. So follow your dentist’s advice: floss, brush, use mouthwash and use Chinese herbs to keep your internal organs functioning with optimal Yin/Yang balance.