Have you noticed small, black holes in your teeth? Did you dismiss them as just stains? They may not be just stains; they can be early signs of tooth decay. Since childhood, we have been told not to eat sweets and chocolates, as they may destroy our teeth. Is this true, though? Yes, partly. The bacteria in our mouth use the sugar and starch from our food to produce acid that destroys the tooth. The small spot can turn into a big hole in no time, cause pain and if it is not treated with time, you might even lose your tooth.1 This decay is commonly referred to as cavities, also known as dental caries. You can prevent cavities by brushing and flossing your teeth properly.2
What Causes Tooth Decay?
There are plenty of bacteria in the mouth, some are helpful to us, and others cause harm. These harmful bacteria are responsible for the decay of teeth. The bacteria together form a film (plaque) and participate in making acid from the food that you eat, mainly from sugars and starch. This acid formed damages the teeth, which we see as decay. As part of a natural process, our teeth keep losing and regaining minerals. If we do not care for our teeth properly, it results in the loss of more minerals than we can regain, thus leading to tooth decay.1
Symptoms of Tooth Decay:
There are a few signs that you should look out for if you think that you have tooth decay. The symptoms of tooth decay are:
Stains on the surface of the teeth. They may be white or brown coloured.
You might see a cavity in your tooth.
You might feel sensitivity when you eat something sweet, cold or hot.
Pain in the tooth (known as toothache)
Sometimes, you may have a fever along with swelling in the face due to infection.1
Suggested Home Remedies for Tooth Decay:
The best way to avoid decaying of teeth is to take care of them by maintaining proper oral hygiene. All the remedies suggested here are to maintain oral health and prevent the formation of cavities. The following are a few home remedies for better and healthy teeth.
1. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic procedure that helps maintain oral hygiene. In one of the many studies conducted, it was seen that oil pulling reduces the number of bacteria in the mouth and decreases plaque formation, which might prevent tooth decay in the long run. In this procedure, a little amount of coconut oil, sesame oil or sunflower oil, in its pure form (preferably cold-pressed), is used to swish around the mouth, ensuring that all the teeth are covered. This procedure is to be done in the morning on an empty stomach before brushing teeth.3 There is a need for more research regarding the benefits of oil pulling; nonetheless, it is being used.
Amla is a herb that is commonly used in Ayurveda. It is a fruit and can be used in the form of decoction and for rinsing the mouth, as it is generally known to be good for oral health. Not only that, we can consume a little bit of Amla daily to reap its long-term benefits for teeth.4 As Amla helps maintain healthy teeth, it may also be beneficial in preventing tooth decay.
Liquorice is also called the ‘sweet herb’, Yashtimadhu (Sanskrit) or mulethi. In recent years, researchers have been extensively studying the benefits of liquorice. In one of such studies conducted, it was found that liquorice contains bioactive compounds that are effective in destroying the bacteria Streptococcus mutans or S. mutans responsible for causing tooth decay.5 Therefore, liquorice may prevent the decay of the tooth. Furthermore, we can chew the root of liquorice to protect our teeth from cavities.
4. Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera gel has a wide range of uses. It has anti-microbial (germ-killing) and anti-inflammatory (inflammation reducing) properties due to the presence of bioactive compounds. A study has shown that aloe vera gel effectively kills and removes bacteria (S. mutans and Lactobacillus spp.), which are known for their involvement in cavity formation (dental caries).5,6 In this way, aloe vera gel might protect the tooth from decay. It can be used by making juice and drinking daily. It can also be used as a toothpaste to brush teeth daily for receiving its benefits.
5. Green Tea
Green tea has anti-bacterial properties; thus, it is said to lower the number of bacteria in the mouth that have the potential of causing cavities. It also contains a high amount of fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that protects teeth from decay by helping them to regain minerals. Researchers have found that green tea prevents caries (anti-cariogenic) in animal models. It might be because of its anti-bacterial activity due to the presence of certain substances.7 Studies in humans have been inconclusive; hence, further research is needed to conclude. You can consume green tea as a beverage by using its leaves or a teabag to brew a hot cup of green tea.
6. Clove Oil
An experiment was conducted to understand the effect of clove oil on tooth decay by preventing de-calcification (loss of minerals from teeth). In this experiment, it was found that clove oil-treated teeth showed less mineral loss when subjected to acids, which can destroy teeth. Its action might be similar to that of fluoride in preventing tooth decay.8 Further studies need to be conducted to prove its use as a tooth decay-preventing agent in humans. Clove oil is a common component of many kinds of toothpaste. You can use it by mixing a little clove oil in your toothpaste and brushing your teeth using this paste twice daily.
7. Oregano Oil
Oregano oil is an essential oil. It has the property of destroying various micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi, etc. Therefore, its potential in killing tooth decaying bacteria was evaluated in a study. This study showed that when oregano oil was added to a toothpaste, which was already efficient in killing bacteria, its efficiency increased two-fold. Thus, it helps in the prevention of tooth decay.9 You can mix oregano oil with your regular toothpaste and use it to brush your teeth daily.
8. Cinnamon Oil
In the same study mentioned above, the activity of the oil from one of the cinnamon species, Cinnamomum cassia (Chinese cinnamon), was also studied. The bacteria destroying activity of cinnamon oil was evident. Thus, cinnamon oil might be used in the prevention of dental cavities.9 You can make use of this oil in the same way by mixing it in toothpaste and brushing your teeth daily.
When to Seek Medical Help?
You should seek help from a dentist if:
You notice bleeding from the gums
Your face gets swollen
Your mouth or tooth pains
You notice signs of infection (redness, swelling and pain)
You find it difficult to chew2