Stress reduction via meditation
Research shows benefits of relaxation for teeth and gums
Some highly significant pioneering research dating back to the 1970s and 80s studied the composition of saliva as it varied under conditions of stress vs. meditation-induced relaxation.
Among other things it was found that in a person undergoing stress there are higher oral bacteria counts which are lowered, however, when the same person relaxes, indicating that stress may play a part in tooth decay and relaxing may actually have a "cavity-fighting" effect!
In fact, all three general determinants of tooth health were found to be triggered (improved) by meditation: increase in saliva and salivary pH, reduction of salivary bacteria count as well as increase in salivary minerals (for background explanations, see eg Tooth remineralisation, demineralisation, saliva & pH and Minerals and trace elements: vital tooth and body builders).
These results point to meditation being a powerful "weapon" for maintaining or regaining healthy teeth and gums.
Research into the tooth-friendly effect of meditation
The following excerpted material is quoted from studies into the effect of meditation on saliva (reported in the book "The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation"), with headings, emphases and annotations by Healing Teeth Naturally.
Increase in saliva and higher salivary pH: meditation to achieve relaxation in anxiety subjects induces tooth-friendly changes in the meditator's mouth
Morse et al. (1983) studied ten dental patients requiring nonsurgical endodontic therapy on upper front teeth who practiced simple word meditation in order to relax.
Results showed significant pretest/posttest-meditation anxiety reduction measured by questionnaire, increased salivary volume, reduced salivary protein, increased amylase, and increased salivary pH.
Reduction of salivary bacteria: stress/anxiety-diminishing meditation induces tooth-friendly changes in the meditator's mouth
Earlier, Morse et al. (1982) tested the hypothesis that salivary changes from stress to relaxation will be from opaque to translucent and from high to low protein levels, and that salivary bacteria will increase under the condition of stress and decrease under the condition of relaxation.
Stress and relaxation of their twelve subjects, all dental students, were evaluated before and after meditation by verbal reports and examination of saliva for opacity, translucency, protein, and bacteria (resazurin dye method). Subjects were taught word meditation and instructed to meditate twice daily for twenty minutes. The study began one week after the subjects learned meditation and continued for six weeks.
There were significant anxiety-reduction changes by the end of the meditation sessions as measured by increased salivary translucency, decreased salivary protein, and reduced subjective evaluation of stress. In addition, bacteria levels showed a significant decrease by the end of the meditation sessions.
The results support previous findings by Morse in regard to salivary changes as measures of stress reduction mediated by meditation [see Morse et al. (1977, 1981), Morse (1976b, 1977a), and Morse and Hildebrand (1976)].
The finding of higher bacteria levels under stress and lower bacterial levels under relaxation indicates that stress may contribute to tooth decay and relaxation may have an anti-cavity effect.
Increase in salivary minerals: meditation induces tooth-friendly changes in the meditator's mouth
McCuaig (1974) studied one male TM [Transcendental Meditation] practitioner with six months of experience during ten sessions over a two-week period and found that meditation produced a general increase in salivary minerals, especially sodium, 70%; magnesium, 42%; calcium, 36%; inorganic phosphate, 46%; and potassium, 23%. Salivary zinc was not significantly altered. Protein content of the saliva was increased during meditation by 60%.
McCuaig stated that salivary changes during TM indicate that extracellular fluid electrolytes may also be altered during this state. Some of the increase in solids is undoubtedly due to water reabsorption and/or the secretion of a more concentrated saliva.
According to McCuaig, however, the large difference in the degree of concentration of solids indicates more than an overall change in water concentration. Differing increases in acid-soluble over acid-insoluble protein, moreover, and the fact that the former is decreased ten minutes after meditation while the latter remains elevated, indicate a specific process involving these substances.
Stress and gum disease
Stress is known to be a potential cause of gum disease, see Curing periodontal pockets : Healing periodontitis naturally (incl. psychological issues in gum disease).
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1 Formerly published online at www.noetic.org/research/medbiblio/ch2_3.htm. You can purchase a copy of the book "The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation" by contacting IONS at 707-779-8217 or by email to researchATnoetic.org.