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TCM take on toothaches - It's your kidneys
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The Chinese saying goes: A toothache isn't a disease but it's a killer when it attacks." When you're in pain, see a dentist. It may be caused by tooth decay or impacted wisdom teeth. Gum disease is also painful and is caused by poor dental hygiene.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that some mouth inflammation (non-decay and non-gum disease-related) is caused by kidney problems, since the kidney "governs" bones, teeth and gums. Healthy kidney energy, healthy teeth and gums.

Changing to a diet that dispels "pathogenic heat" can ease some inflammation that is not caused by bacteria and tooth decay.

Acupressure and external applications of garlic, ginger, ginseng and salt water also help.

Periodontal or gum disease is very common and is caused by improper cleaning of the teeth. Particles of food decay and cause infection, gums get sore and recede, exposing sensitive teeth. There can be bleeding. Bone is lost and teeth become loosened.

If toothaches are not treated properly, they can trigger asthma and cause heart conditions to worsen.

Deficient kidney yin (cold) energy results in poor immunity in the mouth, weak teeth and gums. Pathogenic heat and toxins, internal or external, then may invade teeth and gums, causing inflammation. That's the TCM take on gum disease.

Then there are the wisdom teeth; impacted ones can be painful. Many people say wisdom teeth "grow" when they are tired, but they get inflamed more easily when the body is fatigued.

Wisdom teeth can grow at any time, but when they cannot grow properly (impacted or blocked by other teeth), there can be a space between teeth and gums where food and bacteria can accumulate. That results in infection and inflammation.

Wisdom teeth that are growing improperly and causing pain should be extracted, says Dr Li Wenbo, chief physician of Longhua Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM. Otherwise, gum inflammation may become chronic gum disease and affect other teeth.

But extraction should not be done while there is inflammation.

Whether the problem is impacted wisdom teeth or a simple gum inflammation, Dr Li advises early treatment that dispels pathogenic heat and toxins °?- this will reduce inflammation. Then it's time for extraction and treatment to reinforce the kidneys.

"Reinforcing kidney energy while the gum is still inflamed is useless; on the contrary, reinforcing foods usually accelerate blood circulation and may aggravate the inflammation and gum bleeding," Li says.

For inflammation, Dr Li recommends "cold" (yin energy) food that dispels pathogenic heat. This includes chrysanthemum tea, cucumber and celery. After the inflammation and pain are gone, eat kidney-reinforcing foods like gouqi (wolfberries), pigeon and walnuts.

Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water and soaking the sore gum in the salt water can help relieve inflammation and pain. Putting thin slice of American ginseng on the inflammation can also help.

Pressing acupressure points can help relieve the pain. The points are he gu on the hand, jia che on the jaw, and nei ting and tai xi on the feet.

(Shanghai Daily March 10, 2009)

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