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How Lymphatic Drainage Can Reverse Gum Disease

By Jodi Cohen

I was told that I had periodontal disease and that there was nothing I could do about it expect get a skin graph for my gums.

Both my parents had this procedure when I was a kid and I remember it being exceptional painful for them and that they actually sewed their mouth shut to heal.  My mom would drink those little protein shakes through a straw for months. 

While I have been told that the surgery has made some advancements in the last decade, it was not something I was looking forward to. 

So I upped my cleanings to 4 times per year.

But the crime scene bleeding and inflammatory damage continued.

I started using laughing gas during the appointments to help me deal with the pain.  I could still taste the blood and  feel the intense pain of the dental tools, so I just did my best to tolerate it.

Because I was told there was nothing I could do to reverse gum disease and inflammation in the mouth.

Except it turns out that was not true.

Yesterday, I had my best teeth cleaning in decades.

  • No Bleeding!
  • No Pain!
  • Reduced inflammation of the Gums.

What was I doing differently the dentist and the hygienist asked me.

The only dramatic change I had made in the last year was an obsessive focus on lymphatic drainage, especially around the neck to support healthy toxin drainage from the brain, as your neck is the highway in and out of your brain.   

It turns that one small change had a dramatic impact to the point of naturally reversing gum disease.

Here’s Why:

Toxins and waste in the mouth which trigger the immune system and cause inflammation in the mouth are supposed to drain down the neck via your lymphatic system.  

Each of your teeth drains waste and toxins that can contribute to inflammation from your mouth via your lymphatic system.  Your head and neck have an extensive network of lymphatic vessels which help drain the teeth and the gums and maintain a healthy mouth through:

  • Fluid Balance: Lymph retrieves excess fluid and proteins from tissues that can’t be returned through the blood vessels. It collects fluids and waste products from the spaces between cells, then filters and cleanses them, reducing inflammation.
  • Immunity: Your lymphatic system helps defend the body against diseases. Lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell in the lymph, counter foreign substances and infectious microorganisms.

Your lymphatic system helps to keep your mouth healthy by clearing the things your body has no use for, including pathogens like bacteria, metals, or fungi that can cause infections and your teeth, tongue, and mouth.

In fact, the lymphatic system is correlated with every tooth and different parts of the tongue to help flush toxins out of mouth and the body. It also carries immune cells throughout the body to help defend against infections. 

Your periodontal tissues that support the teeth – including the gums – also contain lymphatic vessels. These lymphatic vessels play an essential role in maintaining oral health by assisting in removing bacterial toxins, dead cells, and other waste products from the periodontal tissues, aiding in preventing periodontal disease and other oral health issues.

Research also reveals that lymphatic-like system may exist within the dental pulp, the innermost layer of a tooth. This system could contribute to fluid balance and tissue homeostasis within the dental pulp, functioning similarly to the general lymphatic system.  Studies have found that “tooth movement during chewing acts as an additional external stimulator of lymph flow in lymphatic vessels” of the teeth and gums.

If your lymphatic system is congested around the neck, lymphatic circulation slows or stagnates.  This means that the toxins do not drain, but instead linger in your mouth contributing the inflammation and immune cells won’t be delivered to the areas of the body where they’re needed.  This contributes to swelling and inflammation of the gums.

Gum disease  is characterized by tissue destruction and bone loss mainly due to inflammatory responses in the soft tissue around teeth, known as your gums.  The gums supply nutrients to the bone via the circulatory system and the lymphatic system which also serves to drain interstitial fluid and transport immune cells to the mouth.

There are two main types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. 

Gingivitis is when your gums become inflamed and possibly infected. This is believed to happen as a result of a buildup of plaque and tartar on your teeth, which allows bacteria to thrive on your teeth and gums. It may also result from certain viruses, bacteria, fungi, and genetic factors.

Periodontitis: Over time, if you allow bacteria in the mouth to feed on the plaque and tartar on your teeth, their population can grow exponentially, contributing to inflammation in the gums which can destroy your gums and your teeth.  For example, your gums can start to recede, meaning that your gum tissue pulls away from your teeth, exposing more of the tooth and the roots underneath.  Left untreated, gum recession can lead to other serious oral health problems, such as bone loss, tooth mobility or feeling “wiggly” or even tooth loss.  This is because gum health is directly linked to our tooth health.

Healthy gums are light pink in color and fit firmly and snugly around teeth. Symptoms of unhealthy gums may include:

  • Gums that bleed easily.
  • Swollen or puffy gums.
  • Gums that feel tender when touched.
  • Gum recession that makes your teeth look longer (because gums that pull away from your teeth)
  • Spitting out blood when brushing or flossing your teeth.
  • Loose teeth or loss of teeth.
  • Painful chewing.
  • Tenderness when chewing
  • Change in your bite
  • Bad taste in your mouth or bad breath
  • Pain or discomfort near your gum line.
  • Sensitivity to heat, cold and sweets.
  • Sensitivity when brushing and flossing your teeth.
  • Sensitivity during dental cleanings.

Inspired by my personal experience, I began researching how lymphatic drainage may protect against and heal gum disease.

Lymphatic drainage is believed to protect against gum disease by clearing bacteria and bacterial products and by promoting a healthy immune response with calms inflammation.  Research on Lymphatic function and responses in periodontal disease note that “lymphatic vessels (of the gums) drain interstitial fluid and transport immune cells to lymph nodes”.  The study found a correlation between periodontal disease and “reduced lymphatic flow, meaning the invasive bacteria is not being cleared out as it should” contributing to the conclusion that “patients with periodontal disease have an impaired lymphatic function exaggerating the disease progress”. Another study found that mice lacking gum lymphatics experienced greater bone loss in periodontitis than mice with functional lymphatic systems.”

A similar study on Lymphatic function and responses in periodontal disease found that “lack of gingival lymphatics (lymph drainage within the gums) has been shown to increase the interstitial fluid pressure and fluid volume, thus showing that lymphatics are important for fluid drainage also in this tissue. 

Your lymphatic system carries toxins out of the mouth down the neck channel. If there is congestion in the lymphatic system in the neck or downstream in the body, it will impair drainage from the mouth, teeth and gums. If you think of the body like a hydraulics system where congested tissue downstream prevents optimal flow upstream, congested lymphatic vessels in the neck will impede drainage of toxins from the brain.

As you may know, your lymphatic system permeates every part of the body, serving as a complementary system to our circulatory system. It draws fluid from the cells and carries it through a series of lymphatic ducts and nodes back to the circulatory system, establishing the link between the smallest blood vessels – the capillaries – and the cells. As such, it helps remove toxins and infections and other waste from every cell in your body. It works as the body’s septic system, removing the by-products and wastes created from metabolizing our nutrients. Just like the drains in your home, the lymphatic system can get congested and stagnant and toxins can build up.

Your lymphatic system relies on our body’s movement by the muscles and fascia to squeeze the lymphatic vessels and push the lymph through the system like a low-pressure hose.  Improving lymph flow helps the body move fluid and release toxins. 

Essential oils can help move lymph and alleviate congestion and stagnation.  Essential oils possess stimulatory and anti-inflammatory properties that can help support healthy circulation and lymphatic drainage.

Lymphatic drainage can be enhanced with the application of stimulatory essential oils that can be topically applied to congested lymph nodes around the face and neck. If you think of the body like a hydraulics system where congested tissue downstream prevents optimal flow upstream, congested lymphatic vessels in the neck will impede drainage of toxins from the gums, teeth, mouth and jaw.

To enhance lymphatic flow and drainage, generously apply Lymph™ around the sides of the neck to relieve congestion, improve drainage and reduce brain inflammation.

Large groups of lymph nodes can be found under your jaw or neck.  You can help decongest these lymph nodes and move any unwanted toxins towards these lymph nodes through a series of gentle and rhythmical movements that help clear congested fluid and support drainage from the mouth and face.  Specifically, the following three main lymph nodes in the face and neck benefit from gentle massage:

Subauricular gland lymph nodes: Located behind the earlobe, this is considered the lymphatic outlet of the face. The lymph nodes in the subauricular glands connect the chin and neck. By massaging the chin to the position behind the ear, it can help alleviate lymph congestion from the mouth and gums.

Neck lymph nodes: As a lymphatic channel, it is located in the neck and is the most important lymphatic system connecting the head and body. Through massage, it can drain the dental lymph waste fluid downward. Massage the lymph in the neck frequently to return the facial skin to normal metabolic state.

Clavicle lymph nodes: Located on the slightly depressed area above the collarbone.  Near the left clavicle is where the veins are connected. Eventually all the lymph is collected here, and then flows from the veins to the kidneys and is excreted from the body. Since lymph follows gravity, it’s important to open up the lymph nodes along the neck and collarbone first before the lymph in the face can properly drain.

Facial lymphatic drainage is done manually, using very gentle massage (with hands or tools like a gua sha) and essential oils or moisturizer to reduce friction and pulling of the skin.

Most of the lymph nodes in the face and neck are located directly under the skin, so gently and lightly massaging specific points can help drain fluid and calm inflammation in that area.

Your lymph moves slowly. The valves in lymph vessels open and close about six to twelve times per minute moving that fluid. We want to be slow, light, and intentional. Not hard and fast. Lymph strokes use the palm of your hands as much as possible—or the soft pads of your fingers. This is how you’ll achieve the nurturing and comforting response associated with lymph massage. You want to massage the fluid in one direction: toward the lymph nodes, not in circles.

When it comes to the face in particular, everything connects to lymph nodes around the ears and then flushes down the neck. That means: always start lymph drainage by opening up along the collarbones and neck first.

Step 1: Apply essential oils like Fascia Release™ blend and Lymph™ blend on your neck and clavicle area to help enhance circulation and promote the movement of lymph fluid. Essential oils in carrier oil, like Vibrant Blue Oils blends, give your skin a little bit of slip so that your hands can glide more easily.

Step 2: Place the flats of your index and middle fingertips on top of the clavicle bone on either side of your neck just above your collarbone and let your fingers fall into the ridge. Keep your hands soft and relaxed. Use a light pressure on your skin – just enough to gently stretch the skin. Begin lightly pumping downward in gentle butterfly like strokes toward your collarbone. This motion helps lymph fluid drain back to your heart. You can massage one side at a time or both sides at the same time. You may find it easier to cross your hands if you are doing both at the same time.

Step 3: Start to massage sternocleidomastoid muscle, located on the area of your neck that is close to your shoulder where your clavicle bone connects with the sides of your neck.  Begin gently massaging with strokes that look like 2 letter “J”s facing one another. This massage helps stimulate (pump) the vessels  at the side of your neck.  Once you’ve stimulated the lymph nodes, you can start to clear the fluid by  gently massaging the neck in a downward motion.

Step 4: Place the tips of your index and middle fingers on one side of your neck behind the ear lobes (on the mastoid bone), right below your jawline, and move downward toward your collarbone while making small backward J motions (toward the center of your neck). These rhythmic, smooth and circular movements help activate the lymphatic circulatory system and support healthy drainage.

Facial lymphatic drainage begins from the neck, because the submaxillary and internal jugular chain nodes are located there. Also in the neck are the jugular veins that receive the lymph so that it is drained through the deep cervical lymph nodes; in conjunction with the submental lymph nodes, anterior cervical lymph nodes and superficial cervical lymph nodes.

Repeat on the other side of your neck. This helps open lymphatic pathways and drive the fluid toward the lymph nodes so that it can better drain.

Step 5: Glide the same two fingers sideways along your jaw, moving outward along your jawline toward your hairline, then down your neck toward your collarbone. Repeat the same motion (sideways, then downward) as you move up your face, gliding your hands along your cheek. Continue this until you reach your forehead. Repeat on the other side.

One final note, laser dentistry is believed to help preserve your gum tissue and help build your bone back through the stimulation of the stem cells there. I am looking into this and will share more if helpful.

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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.