Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
I have a white coating on my tongue and a really bad taste in my mouth. People turn their heads when I talk, so I know I have bad breath. Some say it’s my digestion system & others think it’s my mouth. Do you have any suggestions? It’s really embarrassing and is starting to impact my social life. I have seen my doctor and dentist but they are not able to help me!
A: The gums and mouth are an extension of the digestive system and according to Chinese medicine they represent the condition of the stomach. Gum disease and bad breath are caused from excess heat in the stomach. The heat is often combined with accumulation of food and dampness. The white sticky coating on the tongue is a representation of the dampness in your system. The combined dampness and the heat smolder rotting the food you eat produce symptoms of bad breath and bad taste in the mouth. Emotions play a role as well; excess anger, frustration and resentment can deplete the yin in the body and engender heat. The best approach is to clear the heat, drain and disperse the dampness and accumulation. Proper diet and lifestyle can help.
A regular visit to your friendly acupuncturist is also recommended, as they can prescribe herbal formulations to help reduce the food and dampness stagnation in the stomach and resolve the symptoms. See www.acupuncture.com to find a local practitioner.
To prevent bad breath and the gum diseases that cause bad breath, eat a varied diet consisting of fresh fruits, leafy vegetables, organic lean meats and whole grains. Eat smaller meals, chew well and do not skip meals. Eat to 80% of your capacity to avoid overeating. Drink plenty of room temperature water.
AVOID: sugars, refined processed foods, and highly acidic foods. Hot spicy and greasy foods can injure stomach yin and produce heat. Alcohol, and coffee are heat producing foods as well. Carbonated drinks and sour acidic foods should be avoided as they can cause imbalance in the oral pH balance and damage teeth.
Nothing replaces brushing teeth on a regular basis as a preventive for gum disease. Always brush before and after meals and before and after sleep. Rinse thoroughly and use mouthwash or a hydrogen peroxide mixture (see below) as an antibacterial cleanse.
• A one in three part mixture of hydrogen peroxide with lukewarm water is also beneficial as an oral rinse.
• Drink green tea as often as possible as this is a great antibacterial and can cleanse the oral cavity and help reduce stomach heat.
• Mash some ginger and garlic into paste, then with a clean finger apply a small amount onto the gums and massage the gums for 30 seconds. Then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.
• Make your own mouth wash by mixing equal parts of sage, peppermint and mint oils with glass of lukewarm water, stir well and rinse mouth
Supplements and Herbal Remedies
• Folic acid as mouthwash and in capsules has been shown to prevent and heal gum disease, which causes bad breath. As mouthwash use 0.1% solution; as capsules take 4 mg daily.
• 25-30g vitamin C, 300mg of flavinoids, 50mg of coenzyme Q10, as well as calcium and zinc supplements can be helpful in treating gum disease.
• Chlorophyll (found in alfalfa) combats bad breath by helping clear toxins from the body
• Zinc has an antibacterial effect. Vitamin A plus Carotenoids and Vitamin B Complex are also beneficial for digestion.
• Acidophilus replenishes “friendly” bacteria in the colon and by aiding digestion it may prevent bad breath. Garlic is a natural antibiotic but only the odorless form should be used.
• Bloodroot, caraway, Echinacea, sage oil, peppermint, menthol and myrrh are good herbal treatments for gum disease. They can be used in essential oil forms.
• Anise, Cloves, Fennel and Parsley are helpful for bad breath.
• A good Chinese formula for treating bad breath due to the smoldering heat with symptoms of mouth ulcers, bad breath, dry mouth, and red tongue includes gypsum, gardenia fruit, siler, agastachi leafs and licorice.