Simple Tips to Improve Oral and Overall Health
We use our mouths not only to breathe and take in nutrition, but to express emotions and communicate. If the eyes are the window to the soul, the mouth is the front door (or at least the upstairs garage). As you may guess, poor oral health has been associated with diseases throughout the body that can even be life threatening at times. Lesions in the gums can become a point of entry for bacteria and/or their inflammatory molecules into the neck or even into blood stream causing infection or inflammation.
Plaque, which is a “biofilm” made up of many different types of bacteria, most often begins in the area between the tooth and the gums. Thus the combination of plaque buildup and gum disease can be a constant source of inflammation that’s associated with hardening of the arteries and can increase susceptibility to heart attack and stroke.
As if the inflammatory issues weren’t enough to worry about, there is still more concern about the harmful effects of mercury amalgam fillings, root canals and implants, which leaves prevention as our biggest ally. Below is a list of strategies we can all use for better oral health:
- Avoid acidifying beverages. Many tasty beverages, including coffee, sugar-free drinks, and carbonated water can create an acidic environment. This weakens enamel and encourages bacterial growth.
- Brush and floss regularly. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and don’t push too hard, as that can cause gum recession. And while water picks are great for getting into tight spots, they still aren’t a replacement for flossing. Show off those purple fingertips!
- Avoid frequent snacking. This gives your mouth time to readjust its pH, which can help prevent cavities.
- A dry mouth is your enemy. Medications, disease side effects, dehydration and sinus issues are common causes of dry mouth. Even if you’re in a continuous state of jaw-dropping amazement, high-five your way to the mouth moisturizer.
- Eat your green leafy vegetables. Not only do green leafy vegetables help with nutrition, they have a higher pH, which bacteria hate. Try finishing your meals with a few bites of raw greens.
- Avoid grinding and clenching. This is most likely done in your sleep or subconsciously. Your dentist has ways to help with structural imbalance. If you notice yourself clenching often, consider using biofeedback for ways to cope with stress.
As always, creating a relationship with a dentist with biannual cleanings is a great idea. Not only is it covered by most insurance plans, you can feel good about showing off those chompers.
— Mason Wallace, ND, a 2015-16 naturopathic resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University. Call (206) 834-4100 to schedule an appointment.