“It’s great to have a nice smile, but did you know that there are other reasons to take good care of your teeth and gums? Good oral health is necessary to avoid the pain of cavities and infections that can result from poor care of your mouth. Oral pain, missing teeth and infections can affect the way a person speaks, eats and socializes. These problems can reduce a person’s quality of life. But, if that isn’t enough to convince you of the importance of good oral health, research has shown an association between oral disease and other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, respiratory diseases as well as pre-term and low-birth weight babies.
The basics of good oral health include keeping teeth free from cavities and preventing gum disease. There are a number of steps you can take to maintain good oral health:
- Keep your mouth clean.
- Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and toothpaste to remove plaque and bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. Don’t rush brushing your teeth – it should take about 2 minutes.
- Floss every day. You miss more than a third of your tooth surface if you don’t floss.
- Using a natural antimicrobial mouthwash as well can help to reduce the bacteria in your mouth (see the last section of this newsletter for information about Silver Guard).
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Limit your consumption of sugar – it is one of the main causes of dental problems. An alternative to sugar is xylitol, which is a naturally sweet compound that looks and tastes just like sugar. Xylitol occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables and other organic substances. Research shows that it helps with plaque by creating an unwelcome environment for bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria have difficulty sticking to teeth when xylitol is present, so there is less plaque build-up and cleaner, healthier teeth, as well as better breath. Therefore it’s a good idea to chew gum with xylitol after each meal. (See last section for information on Nature’s Sunshine products containing xylitol.)
- Limit your consumption of foods and beverages that are high in acid which may also play a part in dental erosion.
- Avoid all tobacco products.
- All forms of tobacco are dangerous to your oral health, as well as to your overall health. You are probably aware that smoking causes oral cancer, heart disease and several other cancers, all of which can kill you. You also need to be aware that smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff can cause mouth, tongue and lip cancer; it can be even more addictive than cigarettes.
You should seek professional help if you have the following problems:
- Your gums bleed when you brush or floss – if you just started to floss, a little bleeding is normal, but if you bleed almost every time you brush or floss your teeth, seek help. The problem could be due to nutritional deficiencies.
- A tooth that is a little bit loose – this could be due to gum disease, loss of bone of your jaw, or a blow to the mouth. It is serious, and help should be obtained.
- Unexplained bleeding, mouth sores that don’t heal in 7 to 10 days, white or red patches in your mouth, feeling numb or sore inside your mouth – these symptoms may be signs of oral cancer, which should be attended to immediately.
- Teeth that are sensitive to hot, cold, sweetness, pressure – teeth can suddenly become sensitive or it can happen gradually over time. It usually means something is wrong, and you should seek help.
Arterial plaque, once thought to be fatty deposits, is a result of the inflammatory process. One of the best examples of a secondary infection from oral sources, comes from patients who have mitral valve defects. They are warned to take antibiotics before their dental appointments so that tooth cleaning will not release bacteria into the blood stream to inflame the mitral valve. Researchers have found traces or oral bacteria in arterial plaque. An alternate theory explains the damage as a result of the inflammatory process, also originating from the mouth.
Insurance company data have shown that treating periodontal disease in heart patients lowered the total cost of treating both conditions – not hard scientific evidence, but pretty convincing.
Diabetes and obesity
After World War II, the Pima Indians in central Arizona changed their traditional diet to a North American on, increasing their fat intake from about 15% to 40% of their calories. This led to obesity and type 2 diabetes in almost half of adults over 35 years of age. Those who were diabetic had twice the incidence of gum disease, and much more severe oral infections than non-diabetic people. This led researchers to wonder about a link between obesity, diabetes and oral infection. They found that people with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have periodontal disease as non-diabetics, controlling for other factors. They also found that being obese makes a person more prone to inflammatory processes in the body; that is, obesity intensifies infections, increasing the risk of oral infections.
There is recent and growing evidence that suggests that poor oral hygiene during pregnancy can adversely affect the health of newborns. Good dental health during pregnancy is especially important to reduce the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and small for gestational age babies. While there are many other causes of these risks, studies have shown a clear benefit for the babies of mothers treated for periodontal disease compared to those who did not receive treatment. There is clear evidence that oral bacteria commonly reach the fetus. This can trigger an immune response in the fetus which greatly increases the risk for preterm delivery.
Young children are not able to clean their own teeth. As a parent, you must do it for them when they are very young, and do it with them as they get older.
Nutrition for children
When children eat or drink sugars, the bacteria (germs) in their mouths mix with the sugars to form a mild acid. This acid attacks the hard outer layer of teeth (enamel) and can make holes (cavities) in the teeth.
The amount of damage sugar does depends on how much sugar there is and how long it stays in the mouth. Note that most natural sugars in fruits and unsweetened fruit juice still contribute to the problem. Many healthy foods such as milk contain natural sugar.
If you put your child to bed with a bottle of milk or unsweetened fruit juice, the sugar in them will be in your child’s mouth long enough to potentially do some damage. Between meals, water is the best drink for your children.
Limit the snacks available and the number of times per day your child eats snacks. To keep your child from asking for sweets, do not buy them. The best time to serve something sweet is with a meal when there is more saliva in the mouth to help wash away the sugars.
While cavities are the most common problem among children, they can still get gum disease too, if their gums get infected. If their gums are always sore, swollen or bleeding, there could be a serious problem and they need professional help.
- Silver Guard is an extremely effective antibacterial mouth wash that you can order from our web site.
- Nature’s Sunshine produces Xylitol Gum. Regular use of gum with xylitol has been shown to help reduce dental plaque—the first stage of cavity development, tartar formation and tooth staining—and promote better oral health. It’s best to chew the gum immediately after a meal. Please see our web site for more information.
- Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory effects and has been shown to reduce susceptibility to gum disease. Vitamin D3 can be ordered from our web site.
- Coenzyme Q10 has been linked with improvement in symptoms of gum disease, even in very serious cases, and reduction of plaque, and is available through our web site. The Nature’s Sunshine product is highly bioavailable, which is not always the case with other brands. Coenzyme Q10 benefits the heart by promoting healing of the gums as well as improving control of type 2 diabetes, both risk factors for heart disease. People who take beta-blockers, which are frequently prescribed for high blood pressure, can reduce side-effects of these medications by taking coenzyme Q10. This increases the effectiveness of the beta-blockers and improves cardiovascular health.
- Black Walnut is available either in capsule or liquid form from Nature’s Sunshine through our web site, and has been shown to reduce plaque, tighten gums and rebuild tooth enamel when used topically, i.e. if you put some on your toothbrush, and brush your teeth with it.
- Vitamin C has long been known to be important to gum health. In the 18th century, sailors ate limes during long trips at sea to keep their gums healthy (prevent scurvy). Time-release 1000 mg vitamin C is available through our web site.
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
1)Oral Health – Good for Life™ The Canadian Dental Association. http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/oral_health_life.asp?intPrintable=1 Accessed January 31, 2011.
2)The effects of oral health on overall health. It’s Your Health. Health Canada. Cat. no. H50-3/51-2004E-PDF, Updated November 2009.
3) Ross PE. Invaders and the body’s defenses. Oral and Whole Body Health. New York: Scientific American, 2006, 6-11.
4) Libby P. Heart health in the inflammation age. Oral and Whole Body Health. New York: Scientific American, 2006, 12-17.
5) Genco RJ. The three-way street. Oral and Whole Body Health. New York: Scientific American, 2006, 18-22.
6) Offenbacher S. What every woman needs to know. Oral and Whole Body Health. New York: Scientific American, 2006, 24-29.
7)What is gum disease? http://altmedicine.about.com/od/healthconditionsdisease/a/gum_disease.htm Accessed February 14, 2011.
8)Lee, W.H. Coenzyme Q-10 – Is it our new fountain of youth? New Canaan, Connecticut: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1987
9)Nature’s Sunshine Product Black Walnut. http://www.joyfullivingservices.com/blackwalnut.html Accessed February 14, 2011.
These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.
Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic