It is well known that oral hygiene is very important in preventing cavities and tooth loss and maintaining that gorgeous smile, but did you know that your oral health also plays a huge role in preventing systemic diseases, including cancer?! According to the CDC, nearly 50% of adults 30 years of age and older have gum disease, ranging from mild to severe. The CDC also estimate that 70% of adults over the age of 65 have moderate to severe periodontal (gum) disease. A great deal of us are at risk for systemic disease! Poor oral health has been linked to chronic sinus infections, hypertension, pneumonia, diabetes, premature births, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Breast, lung, esophageal, gallbladder and melanoma cancers are all correlated with gum disease. And a recent study showed that gum disease in postmenopausal women raised their risk for cancer by 14%.
This is not meant to scare you, but to inspire you to do your daily brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups! Also consider finding a knowledgeable naturopathic doctor and a biological dentist. These dentists approach oral health in the safest and least toxic way to accomplish the mission of the treatment. Through this biocompatible approach, they understand and work with the important connection between mouth health and the overall health of the body.
Brushing, toothpaste, and toothbrushes
This may (or may not) be a surprise to you - foaming and minty-fresh toothpaste is a marketing scheme. Your toothpaste doesn’t have to foam or be minty in order to be effective against cavities or keep your teeth white. The mechanical act of safe and effective brushing is the key to healthy gums and teeth. Most top selling toothpastes contain dyes and other harmful chemicals that have been shown to cause ulcers and canker sores and affect heart and thyroid function. These chemicals are especially not suited for children as little ones are most susceptible to their harmful effects. I use Designs for Health, but there are many other great brands out there including Earthpaste and OraWellness.
Also, make sure you’re using a soft bristle brush and consider an electronic toothbrush such as Sonicare. Many, if not most dentists prefer soft bristle brushes over medium or hard bristle brushes to avoid gum damage and eventually receding gums. Electronic toothbrushes are preferred by many dentists as they ensure the best cleaning for your teeth as well as best prevent your gums from bleeding and receding. Ask your naturopathic doctor or biological dentists for their recommendation for toothpaste and toothbrushes.
Cavities and tooth decay
Cavities are caused by bacteria and carbohydrates (sugars) on your teeth. Once food is broken down by bacteria, its acidic waste products cause tooth decay and de-enameling. Enamel is the armor on your teeth! And once this enamel is gone, there is no getting it back and now you’re at a much higher risk of cavity and infection. Regular brushing and flossing, especially around meals, can prevent this.
Want to know what else causes tooth decay? Acidic beverages! These include carbonated water, coffee, soda, and lemon juice. If these are part of your daily or occasional routine, make sure to rinse your mouth or brush your teeth after consuming them.
What exactly IS dental plaque?
Dental plaque is biofilm, produced by bacteria. Biofilm is a protective layer that bacteria produce to prevent the host's immune system from attacking bacteria and shipping them out of the body. Where do these bacteria come from? One dentist put it: mothers, lovers, dogs and travel. And the only way to get rid of these bugs is by mechanical force through brushing, flossing and using a water pic.
Fun fact: biological dentists often start their visits by looking at a swab of the mouth under the microscope. They then can determine general immune status and give you recommendations to improve your health. How cool is that?!
It’s time to take your health into your own hands. Here are some things you can look out for in your and your loved ones mouths that may indicate an issue with your teeth or gums:
uncomfortable and painful bite
red, purple, or swollen gums
receding gum line
It’s also important to note that gum disease or cavities can be present WITHOUT any of these symptoms.
So, what do we do about all this?
I recommend prevention before any oral issue begins. Talk to your health care provider or dentist about any of the above symptoms. And again, consider getting a naturopath or biological dentist on board your health team as they focus on prevention and take into consideration the health of your whole body and its connectedness. And in the meantime, here are a few take-home points:
throw out your brightly colored toothpaste and mouthwash and consider natural products without dyes and other harmful chemicals; check out Designs for Health, Earthpaste, or OraWellness
replace your toothbrushes with soft bristle brushes or an electronic toothbrush like Sonicare
avoid carbonated beverages, coffee, soda, and lemon and brush or rinse your mouth with pure water if you consume these beverages
visit your dentist right away if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above
get a naturopathic doctor and a biological dentist on board your health team
Dental health and its relationship to the overall health of our bodies is such an important and exciting topic, especially for me as a naturopathic doctor. I have received additional training in this field and enjoy working with patients to improve their dental health and connect them with knowledgeable biological dentists suitable for their needs.
Search for biological/holistic dentists in your area: www.iaomt.org
Eke, P.i., et al. “Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010.”Journal of Dental Research, vol. 91, no. 10, 2012, pp. 914–920.
Gum Disease and Increased Link to Many Cancers. Medscape. Aug 01, 2017. Available from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/883628. Accessed August 10, 2017.
International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology. The Safe Mercery Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART). Available from: https://iaomt.org/safe-removal-amalgam-fillings. Accessed August 10, 2017.
Nwizu, Ngozi N., et al. “Periodontal Disease and Incident Cancer Risk among Postmenopausal Women: Results from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Cohort.” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, vol. 26, no. 8, 2017, pp. 1255–1265.
World Health Organization. Mercury in Health Care: Policy Paper. Geneva, Switzerland; August 2005: 1. Available from: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/medicalwaste/mercurypolpaper.pdf. Accessed August 10, 2017.