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Receding Gums

Receding Gums


 Gum surgery is the last thing you want your dentist to tell you that you need.  But that's exactly what Kate's dentist told her.

 "I'd really like to avoid it," she said.  "The very idea of getting my gums cut into makes me queasy."

 "You are on friendly turf here," I replied.  "Dentistry in general makes me weak in the knees.  Maybe that stems from my boyhood, when our dentist didn't believe in Novocain, or at least believe in taking the time for it.  Gum surgery sounds especially unpleasant."

 "They've already scheduled it," Kate said.  "They'll do the procedure next month.  I'll do it if I have no choice, but I'd sure like to avoid it."

 "Well, you can always fall back on surgery if nothing else helps.  Since you have to wait for it anyway, you might as well see if you can improve your gums in the meantime."

 "How?" said Kate

 "Two things come to mind," I said.  The first is comfrey."

 "Is that an herb?"

 "Yes," I said.  "Comfrey has a 400 year history of wound healing.   It is favorably mentioned back in Turner's Herball of 1568,  Gerard's Herball of 1597, Parkinson's 1640 Theatrum Botanicum, and Tournefort's 1719 Compleat Herbal.  There have been monographs on comfrey throughout the centuries, and one of the active ingredients, allantoin, is found in salves and lotions today."

 "Can I just buy some capsules at the store?" Kate asked.

 "Yes and no," I answered.  "You can buy comfrey capsules, all right, but they tend to contain dried comfrey leaf.  Traditional herbalism tells us that the leaves are best used fresh, beaten into a poultice, and applied externally.  Leaves taken internally, as with swallowed capsules, have little benefit, and negative side effects are much more likely.  Comfrey, like medicinal herbs in general, is more a medicine than a food.  It needs to be used appropriately."

 "What part do we want, then?"

 "The root," I said, "is the part we want to use.  The root, tradition says, is for internal use, and the root is not to be taken raw.  Instead, you make a decoction of the comfrey root.  A decoction is basically just a boiled tea."

 "And how do you make that decoction?" said Kate.

 "First you have to take a bit of root, maybe a few inches of it, and wash it under water.  Cut the root up, like you would a carrot, into slices or chunks.  Put the pieces into a Pyrex or stainless steel saucepan with a cup or two of water.  Bring it to a boil, boil it for five to ten minutes, and then let it sit and cool.  The result is a dark-brown, not particularly bad tasting tea.  A cup or two every other day will probably be enough."

 "Where do I get comfrey root?" Kate asked.

 "Probably at most herb stores.  I got mine fresh from a farmer who was trying to get rid of it.  Comfrey grows like a big weed: very fast.  If you mow it down or try to plow it under, it just comes back.  Even a little bit of fresh root will grow a new plant.  I'm here to tell you, there is nothing to growing your own comfrey.  Cheaper that way, too."

 "Is that it?"

 "Well, not quite.  Another approach you might consider is topical use of vitamin C.  In other words, direct application of the vitamin to your gums."

 "That sounds a bit weird," Kate said.

 "It really does," I admitted.  "However, vitamin C is so closely involved with wound healing in general and gum integrity in particular that it merits special attention.  Vitamin C works as an anti-inflammatory agent.  It also is essential for building collagen, the protein "glue" that literally holds your cells together."

 "I know that vitamin C is good for my gums," Kate said.  "I'm already taking 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day.  Why hasn't that helped?"

 "Two reasons come to mind: either its not enough, or its not sufficiently concentrated where you need it most." 

 "But vitamin C is an acid: ascorbic acid, isn't it?  I can't go putting that all over my gums and teeth."

 "True enough.  The trick is to use a non-acidic form of vitamin C called calcium ascorbate.  Topical calcium ascorbate will not sting even sore gums.  You can obtain it as a powder, and spread about half a teaspoon on the gum surfaces.  It has a bit of a metallic aftertaste, but its quite bearable.  Hold it for about ten minutes, then rinse."

 For two weeks, Kate did exactly that, plus drinking the comfrey decoction.  However, she did not cancel her gum surgery.

 After a pre-op examination, her dentist canceled it.

Copyright  C  2003 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. 


Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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