A happy mouth with healthy teeth and gums doesn’t just mean a great looking smile; it could save your life. Research currently shows that gum disease can leave you at a higher risk for heart disease and other serious conditions. Among the problems that can start in the mouth and affect the rest of the body are oral cancer, bruxism, gingivitis, periodontitis, and xerostomia. Oral cancer is fairly easy to treat 90% of the time. If it is allowed to spread however to other parts of the body it is much more difficult. Bruxism is grinding the teeth which can wear teeth down so that they are more open to decay and caught early can be treated with a mouth guard. Gingivitis and periodontitis are forms of gum disease that lead to loss of teeth and are also treatable when caught early through regular dental checkups. Sam Low, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, says that most people don’t pay attention to the signs of beginning gum disease until it’s too late and they end up having to deal with the damage. Xerostomia is commonly known as dry mouth resulting from a decrease in saliva production. Less saliva means more decay and can lead to gum disease and many older people have this reaction from medications they take. These oral health problems are not just about older people though. The ADHA (American Dental Hygienists’ Association) reports that 75% of teenagers have bleeding gums which is a sign of gum disease. You can help protect your teeth, gums and reduce your risk of oral health conditions getting worse or spreading with some simple natural solutions for good oral hygiene.
Oral Health Natural Solutions
Diet – Eating a healthy diet helps keep your mouth healthy as well as the rest of your body. This means lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats and for the strength of teeth and healthy bone in the mouth including low-fat dairy. According to University of Manitoba Faculty of Dentistry’s dean, Anthony M. Iacopino, DMD, PhD, omega-3 fatty acids should be part of your diet as they can help prevent inflammation which reduces gum disease risks. Adding fatty fish to your diet or eating AFA bluegreen algae can help you get more omega-3’s to support healthy gums. Good oral health also relies on cutting down on foods and drinks with sugar especially those that are carbonated and that stay in the mouth over a long period of time such as hard candy. When sugar is in the mouth, the bacteria that lives there uses it to make acids that can break down the enamel of teeth and lead to tooth decay. For good oral hygiene, eating crisp and firm foods like raw vegetables and fruits such as carrots, celery, and apples can help with cleaning especially if you are in a situation where you can’t brush right away. Sugar free gum can also be helpful after meals when you can’t brush as it helps make more saliva to wash out bacteria and neutralize acid.
Brushing – One of the most important steps in good oral hygiene is of course brushing and flossing. Experts recommend you brush your teeth at least two times daily, preferably first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and that you floss at least once a day. Since saliva production decreases at night when we sleep, Kathleen W. Wilson, M.D., internist at the Ochsner Health Center in New Orleans, advises getting all the plaque off your teeth before going to bed and again getting rid of any that accumulates overnight to keep teeth clean and reduce bad breath. In addition, it’s important to remember to get a new toothbrush about every 3 months or if you use an electric toothbrush, change the head that often. This is important because bacteria can build up on your brush. Harold Katz, D.D.S. also recommends using a tongue scraper to get rid of plaque and bacteria on the tongue instead of using your brush on your tongue.
Check Up – If you have good oral health, it is recommended that you see your dentist for a dental exam and professional cleaning every 6 months. If you have oral health problems such as gum disease then you may need to go more frequently. Caryn Solie, RDH, president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, advises starting children seeing a dentist as soon as they get their first tooth which usually is around 6 months of age. Permanent teeth can start coming in around 6 years of age and it is especially important to have started by then.
Fluoride – Fluoride is a mineral that helps keep tooth enamel strong and replace enamel worn away by acids formed from plaque bacteria and sugars. The majority of people in the U.S. have fluoride in their drinking water, but if you don’t then you may need to check with your dentist about other ways to get fluoride such as getting a fluoride treatment or using a fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash.
Whitening – If you are prone to teeth stains you can substitute baking soda or salt for toothpaste to brush once a week. Brushing your gums with salt can also help with raw gums. Using apple cider vinegar as a mouth wash can also help with whitening teeth as well as reduce bacteria that can harm teeth and gums.
Probiotics – There are over 600 types of bacteria that live in the mouth. Just like in your gut, some of these are bad bacteria and some are friendly bacteria that help fight off the bad strains. Using probiotics orally can help keep plaque from forming, reduce inflammation and disease of the gums, reduce colonies of bad bacteria in the mouth, give you cleaner breath and whiter teeth. You can get specific oral probiotics in powder, capsule, or lozenge form or by eating fermented foods such as yogurt, cheese, miso, and tempeh. I like to use this probiotic supplement that has a mixture of of 8 key good bacteria that comes in a capsule which you can just pull apart, pour out the powder inside, mix with some water and use to rinse or gargle in the mouth before swallowing it.
Coenzyme Q10 – You may know that CoQ10 is important for heart health, but since gum tissue and heart tissue are closely related, it also helps keep your gums healthy. As we get older, our bodies don’t produce as much of this vital coenzyme, stressful lifestyles use it up, and eating processed foods depletes our natural supply from foods. You can find ubiquinol which is the active form of CoQ10 in this algae supplement as well as olive biophenols that have been found to support bone health.
Bone health – When we think about bone health, we generally think about the bones that keep us moving, active and support us, but remember that the mouth has bone that needs to be kept healthy too in order to support the teeth and gums. Calcium and vitamin D are two of the most important components for healthy bone. Dairy foods are a great source of calcium, but yogurt in particular is one of the higher dairy sources. If you don’t do well with dairy, you can also get calcium from spinach, bok choy, mustard greens, sardines, fortified cereals and juices, beans, tofu, and fish. You can get vitamin D from being out in the sun, or from food sources such as milk, egg yolks and fish. Maitake mushrooms have also been found to support bone health and can be found along with 4 other mushrooms in this algae and mushroom supplement. Mushrooms have the added bonus of reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system. Bee pollen is reported to help in supporting bone density and is found in this AFA algae supplement.
Having a happy mouth means having a happy you. Good oral hygiene leads to good oral health which not only means a great smile to pass on to the world, but can help you keep from developing more serious conditions. Take care of your mouth, teeth, gums, and bones by developing good oral hygiene skills now and it will pay off as you get older.