How to Improve Oral Health

Periodontitis is inflammation of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and is one of the most common human diseases. Increased plaque build-up leads to calculus build-up [hardened plaque], which causes inflammation of the gums [gingivitis], which leads to gum recession [periodontitis]; that is more or less how the process works.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 50% of Americans over the age of 30 have mild, moderate, or severe periodontitis, totaling almost 65 million individuals, and 64% of individuals over the age of 65 had either moderate or severe periodontitis [1].

The study was published in 2012, and researchers noted that the actual percentage could be much higher because only six teeth of 3,742 individuals were examined, meaning there could have been periodontitis in the unexamined teeth [2].

Traditional medicine recommends brushing and flossing daily to help prevent the disease; however, according to a 2016 article published by The New York Times, “The latest dietary guidelines for Americans, issued by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, quietly dropped any mention of flossing without notice” [3].

The reason being “the American Academy of Periodontology acknowledged that most of the current evidence fell short because researchers had not been able to include enough participants or ‘examine gum health over a significant amount of time’” [3]. Ironically supporting that flossing is dissatisfying and people do not want to do it, even for studies.

“A review of 12 randomized controlled trials published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2011 found only ‘very unreliable’ evidence that flossing might reduce plaque after one and three months” [3] [4].

So, then, brushing, right? The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, even though fluoride has been linked to several illnesses, including increased risk of dental fluorosis, neurological damage, decreased IQ in children, increased learning disabilities, among other issues [5].

If you do not believe me, check out the 2008 study found that children who live in a fluorosis area have five times higher odds of developing low IQ than those who live in a nonfluorosis area or a slight fluorosis area [6] and the 2015 study that empirically demonstrated an association between more widespread exposure to fluoridated water and increased ADHD prevalence in United States children and adolescents [7]. Their references are below [6] [7].

Therefore, I recommend brushing at least twice a day with a non-fluoride toothpaste, which is rather easy to find, and if you cannot find a source, click here.

Additionally, there are more natural steps people can do that have been scientifically demonstrated to improve oral health, reduce dental plaque, alleviate gingivitis, and help prevent periodontitis.

In the remainder of this article, we will review some of these studies that examine unconventional yet natural approaches to oral health. I would also like to note I am not recommending these activities in place of brushing. Instead, these could be added to your oral hygiene routine, not replace.

Coconut Oil Pulling

This is perhaps the most popular out of the techniques we will be examining.

Oil pulling dates back 1,500 years where it was mentioned in the ancient Ayurvedic text, the Charaka Samhita, in ancient India. Essentially, oil pulling is taking a tablespoon of coconut oil, putting it in your mouth, and swishing (or pulling) it back and forth, through your teeth, for about 20-30 minutes.

Coconut oil is already a well-known anti-microbial agent, and since it contains lauric acid, it may also have anti-bacterial properties. When coconut oil sits in the mouth, it begins to emulsify, which significantly increases its surface area. Also, coconut oil produces a soap-like substance when it mixes with saliva in a process knows as saponification, which is why coconut oil is commonly used in soap making.

According to a 2015 study, "The soaps produced with coconut oil can lather well and have an increased cleansing action. The lauric acid in the coconut oil can easily react with sodium hydroxide in saliva during oil pulling to form sodium laureate, the main constituent of soap which might be responsible for the cleansing action and decreased plaque accumulation" [8].

The researchers stated the study proved oil pulling is an effective way to reduce plaque formation and plaque-induced gingivitis [8].

Oil pulling has shown to be as effective as the chemical chlorhexidine (think mouthwash) for chronic bad breath (halitosis) but without any side effects [9], proven to be beneficial in patients with gingivitis [8] [10], proven to reduce the cavity-linked Streptococcus mutans bacteria in plaque and saliva of children [11], and shown to exert antibacterial actions through emulsification and saponification [8] [12].

Now, you may say, “Well, 20 minutes is a long time to have coconut oil in my mouth.”

I thought that at first, too, but you can easily do it when you are cleaning, watching TV, or taking a shower; you need to find a time comfortable for you.

Herbs, Plants, and Essential Oils

Ok, so am not that mother that promotes essential oils for everything. While I do believe they have some beneficial properties, I do understand some people can go overboard, so I will entirely fall back to the fact these studies are published and peer-reviewed.

There have been a handful of studies that have examined various plant compounds for oral health and noted their beneficial effects, primarily focusing on their antimicrobial properties.

In a 2015 study titled “Antimicrobial effect of Australian antibacterial essential oils as an alternative to common antiseptic solutions against clinically relevant oral pathogens,” researchers noted that several essential oils had better antimicrobial properties than standard oral antiseptics. These oils were tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, and lemon grass oil [13].

In a 2017 study titled “In Vitro Anti-Cariogenic Plaque Effects of Essential Oils Extracted from Culinary Herbs,” researchers investigated many essential oils, such as the following: sweet basil, cinnamon bark, sweet fennel, kaffir lime, black pepper, peppermint, and spearmint. The oils were tested against the cariogenic bacteria Streptococcus mutans KPSK2 (S. mutans) and Lactobacillus casei, both of which cause tooth decay [14].

The researchers noted that all of the essential oils exhibited various degrees of antimicrobial activity against the bacterium, with cinnamon bark being the strongest; the weakest was kaffir lime. The cinnamon bark essential oil neutralized up to 80% of the S. mutans, and the sweet basil oil also has impressive anti-microbial effects [14].

The researchers concluded, “Cinnamon and sweet basil essential oils with impressive in vitro anti-cariogenic bacteria and anti-plaque effects may be proposed as alternative and effective supplements to promote oral health status” [14].

However you want to integrate these oils into your oral hygiene routine is completely up to you. Mostly, people will add a drop or two to their toothbrush when they brush their teeth or rinse their mouth with a glass of water that contains a few drops of these oils. 

Acacia Arabica

Acacia arabica is an Indian medicinal plant, and it has been shown to have effects that support oral health.

In a 2012, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover design study, researchers investigated the effects of toothpaste containing Acacia arabica bark extract and compared the effects to a control toothpaste. The patients were tested before and after each trial period for plaque, gingivitis, and bleeding during probing. In both crossover groups using the Ayurvedic toothpaste, there was a significant reduction in all three parameters. The scientists concluded, “Brushing with Acacia arabica-containing toothpaste may help inhibit gingivitis. It can be recommended for daily oral hygiene procedures” [15]. Additional studies have confirmed the plant’s anti-gingivitis properties [16] [17] [18].

Moreover, a 2011 scientific review stated, “Scientific validations of the Ayurveda dental health practices given above [meaning above in the article [19]] could justify their incorporation into modern dental care” [19].

Additional Plant Compounds

In 2011, the International Journal of Clinical Dental Science published a rather thorough review of plant-based compounds that support various aspects of oral health, such as the following: kantkari, clove oil, garlic, eucalyptus, neem, mango, pomegranate, sesame, and jasmine [20].

It is an easy read, and I think you may find it interesting (see reference [20]).


Lastly, curcumin, the main component in turmeric, and turmeric gel have been shown to support various aspects of oral health, mainly through their anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties [21] [22] [23] [24] [25].

For example, a 2014 study found that turmeric gel can be effectively used as an adjunct to mechanical plaque control in the prevention of plaque and gingivitis [21].


There are far more options to oral health than simply brushing and flossing, especially since flowing has never been clinically demonstrated to be effective.

People in ancient cultures have developed various natural traditions to manage their oral health, and as these traditions are studied by modern-day science, scientists continuously authenticate and understand the mechanisms behind their positive effects. Further, periodontitis and other forms of degraded oral health are far too common in America, and the affordability of many of these techniques may play a beneficial role in amending the national issue.

If you are looking for a fluoride-free toothpaste that is sweetened with xylitol, which has been shown to aid oral health, and contains several of the fruit and other extracts mentioned in this article, check out Healthmasters’ toothpaste. Also, even though it may seem strange, try supplementing your daily oral health routine with coconut oil pulling.

If you have any questions about any of our products, please feel free to call our office at 800.726.1834.