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Chinese Herb Shows Promise Against Tooth Decay

Your dental health is an important component of your physical health. While often ignored or overlooked, dental issues such as cavities and root canals can have a significant systemic influence, and the state of your soft tissues and teeth often offer a clear reflection of what's going on in the rest of your body.

Tooth decay is often misconstrued as a “fluoride insufficiency,” but nothing could be further from the truth. The health of your teeth is largely dependent on your diet, which affects not only your gut microbiome but also your oral microbiome. Like your bones, your teeth also need certain nutrients to remain strong and healthy.

Interestingly, Chinese researchers recently discovered that water extract of the herb Galla chinensis has potent anticaries effects, effectively inhibiting acid production caused by caries-associated bacteria and increasing teeth’s resistance to acid.1,2

The Anticaries Activity of Galla Chinensis

Galla Chinensis3 (Wu Bei Zi, also known as Chinese gall or Chinese sumac) — one of hundreds of Chinese herbs tested by this research team — was found to have “strong potential to prevent dental caries due to its antibacterial capacity and tooth mineralization benefit.”4 The herb also has antiviral, anticancer, hepatoprotective, antidiarrheal and antioxidant activities. 

According to the authors, “Galla chinensis water extract has been demonstrated to inhibit dental caries by favorably shifting the demineralization/remineralization balance of enamel and inhibiting the biomass and acid formation of dental biofilm.” Unfortunately, it’s still far too early to start using the herb in dental applications, because the researchers have yet to identify the active ingredient responsible for these anticaries activities. As reported by ScienceBlog:5

“In the present study, several Galla chinensis extracts with different main ingredients were obtained and determined by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis. The antibacterial capacity was determined using the polymicrobial biofilms model, which can generate reproducible plaque-like biofilms that occur in vivo.

The effect of inhibiting tooth demineralization was tested using an in vitro pH-cycling regime, which mimicked the periodic pH change in mouth. ‘Medium molecular weight gallotannins are the most active constituent in terms of caries prevention’ concluded Xuelian Huang, Ph.D., DDS, the lead author.”

Dietary Guidelines for Strong, Healthy Teeth

While Galla chinensis may someday be added to dental products as an aid against tooth decay, your best answer is already at hand. If you want to have healthy teeth, you must start from the inside out, and that means cleaning up your diet.

Much of the dietary advice for oral health is founded on the findings of the late Dr. Weston A. Price,6 a Cleveland dentist who sought to determine what makes for good dental health by studying indigenous tribes who, he said, had “fine teeth” and few chronic health problems. While studying the oral health and diets of various native tribes, he noticed distinct similarities:

• The foods were natural, unprocessed and organic (and contained no sugar except for the occasional bit of honey or maple syrup) 

• The people ate foods that grew in their native environment. In other words, they ate locally grown, seasonal foods 

• Many of the cultures ate unpasteurized dairy products, and all of them ate fermented foods 

• A significant portion of the food was eaten raw 

• All of the cultures ate animal products, including animal fat, full-fat butter and organ meats 

When Price analyzed his findings, he found the native diets contained 10 times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins, and at least four times the amount of calcium, other minerals and water-soluble vitamins as that of Western diets at that time. Their diets were also rich in enzymes because they ate fermented and raw foods (enzymes help you to digest cooked foods).

Importantly, the native diets also had at least 10 times more omega-3 fat than modern diets and far less omega-6 fats. Today, there’s ample evidence showing diets lacking in omega-3 fats while being heavy on omega-6s from vegetable oils (now found in most processed foods), are a recipe for disaster.

Modern research supports Price’s early observations, showing that even moderate amounts of omega-3 fats may help ward off gum disease. In one study,7 researchers divided nearly 9,200 adults into three groups based on their omega-3 consumption. Dental exams showed those in the middle and upper third for consumption of the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA were 23 percent to 30 percent less likely to have gum disease.

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