Do you brush your teeth and floss as often as you should? I’ll tell you what, I’m pretty good at the brushing, but flossing on a regular basis is not my strong suit . . . and my dentist will attest to this! Perhaps I should make that one of my New Year’s Resollutions.

But what if there was something you could do . . . perhaps an “added bonus” to your daily dental regimen that would give you an extra edge when it comes to protecting your teeth. Would you give it a try?

Well, researchers say there IS something you can do, and it involves a little something you might not expect!

Scientists have recently identified two different substances in licorice that kill the major bacteria which causes tooth decay and gum disease.

You read right – licorice!

The research was recently published in the Journal of Natural Products, and shows that these two substances could have a huge role in treating and even preventing tooth decay.  It seems as though the Chinese had it right all along; Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) extensively uses licorice in many of its techniques.  The two compounds in licorice that serve as effective antibacterial substances are licoricidin and licorisoflavan A.  In several experiments, these substances successfully killed much of the bacteria responsible for cavities and gum disease.

What Exactly Constitutes Gum Disease?

Gum disease and tooth decay are prevalent among American citizens, and continues to be a problem despite fluoridation of many cities’ water supplies.  Gingivitis is the most common form of gum disease, and affects half of the American population over the age of 20.  The symptoms of gingivitis include swollen or bright red gums, tender gums that are painful to the touch, and excessive bleeding of the gums, especially after brushing your teeth.  If left untreated, it can develop into the much more serious periodontitis, which causes significant bone and gum tissue loss.  While gingivitis does not always lead to periodontitis, it always precedes the disease.

How Can Licorice Help?

In TCM, the dried root of the licorice plant is used as a way to enhance the activity of other herbal ingredients, and as a flavoring in food.  The dried licorice root is said to treat a wide variety of respiratory and digestive problems, even though there is very little modern scientific studies that prove whether or not these claims are true and licorice really does work.

So if the dried licorice root is a powerful treatment and preventative step for tooth decay and gum disease, why do Americans still suffer from so many dental problems even though we eat licorice candy (sometimes on a daily basis)?  Unfortunately, the licorice root has been replaced by anise oil in mainstream “licorice” candy in the United States, which has a similar flavor but none of the health benefits.

Before ordering a few cases of imported dried licorice root, however, be sure to check with your health care provider to ensure that it is safe for you to ingest.  For some, licorice can have some unwanted side effects and can potentially cause serious complications with several prescription drugs.

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