I love lists- They keep me focused and on target. I write lists for my patients as well. Shopping lists, “to do” lists for oral health, and even reading lists. Lucky you- I’ve compiled a top twelve list to keep your mouth healthy too! Some of it’s review but repetition is important. You need to hear something seven times before it even sinks in. There are some new nuggets of information tucked in here as well.
#1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Tooth brushing cleans the flat surfaces of the teeth- which accounts for about 60% if the total tooth surface.
Ideally brush even after snacking. Get yourself the best electric toothbrush you can afford. Brush for two minutes. If an electric brush just is not in your budget- then dry brush: no toothpaste, no water. Brush until your teeth feel and taste clean. Manual brushing takes a lot longer to get all the flat surfaces of the teeth clean- up to 15 minutes to do the job correctly. (Power tools all the way baby!- works faster and better, even for children! Don’t have one yet??? Please save and get yourself one!) My favorite electric brushes- either the Sonicare Diamond Clean or The 30 Second Smile. Check out my post on toothbrushes for more information.
How to brush- Place the toothbrush on the top of the tooth and tip it so that you’re brushing up (or down, as the case may be) along the gumline. Gently make little tiny circles, even with your electric brush. Brush your gums.
If you have recession and use a manual brush then I suggest an “extra soft” manual toothbrush. My favorite extra soft toothbrush is the Nimbus. Sonicare electric brushes makes an extra soft head– just check their website. You won’t find it in stores.
Any questions about brushing- ask your favorite hygienist to help you. Most folks need a little help “seeing” all the plaque and could use a refresher course in brushing. Your Oral Health Coach would be only too happy to oblige!
#2. Toothpaste– Hmm, check out my blog posts on toothpaste! I want toothpaste to do something, it depends on what you need/want: tooth decay prevention, recession, whitening, tartar buildup prevention, sensitivity, remineralization. It’s more than just a minty paste- it has to work for you, it’s really medicine. And, as with all medicine, more is not better– just a pea size in kids and adults, and just a smear for children younger than three. Brush, spit, don’t rinse- let the paste work for you.
Some of my faves:
Tooth Decay prevention- Carifree products, MI paste, Xylitol products
Tartar Buildup prevention- Livionex Toothpaste
#3. Clean in between– Since tooth brushing only cleans 60% of the tooth- why leave 40% unclean? When I’m teaching a health class I suggest to the students that’s like taking a shower with your boots on- your feet MIGHT get clean, but probably NOT. Hate to floss? Look at Airflosser, piksters, soft picks, floss on a stick. Be creative. There are plenty of options. Find something that’ll work in your hands. Read my post Stop Flossing for more information. Really!
#4. Clean under the gumline – daily irrigation, and if you wanna get wild and crazy- use a cannula and bleach water- The bugs that cause gum disease live deep down underneath the gumline, in the tooth tubules and deep in the tissues. I haven’t discussed irrigation yet. It’s one of my favorite gum disease prevention tools.
Irrigators like Hydrofloss, and Via-Jet have adapters that you can order and use to attach a blunt ended cannula and gently get into deeper areas and disinfect under the gumline. Have your hygienist show you how to do this. Waterpik does have a special tip called a pik pocket tip that’ll clean about 4 to 5 mm below the gumline. That might be easier to find and use. Your toothbrush and even floss can’t go where the irrigation can reach. I want the irrigator to remove food debris, disrupt the biofilm and put an antimicrobial fluid into the gum pockets. Treat your infected gums just like you would a wound on your arm- because it is a wound!! It’s infected and infecting your entire body.
What to put in there? While water is good, let’s put something in there that’ll kill the bacteria and disinfect:
Bleach water- Dr. Jorgen Slots recommends a 1:25 dilution with 6% bleach to water. One part bleach to 25 parts water. Yes, it tastes just like a swimming pool, and yes, it takes some getting used to. After using a tank of this bleach water I always rinse my tank with another cup of nice warm water. I keep irrigating until I have rinsed the tank of bleach tasting water. Don’t leave bleach water sitting in the tubing. It could shorten the life of your irrigator. But, that’s sure cheaper than gum disease.
Therasol– it tastes good – the concentrate dilutes one part therasol to eight parts water and it’s good for you. You can use it instead of toothpaste, as a mouth wash and as an oral irrigation solution. Down side- you have to either come into my office to purchase it or order it from the company- OraTec. They’re my microscope people and I have a lot of faith in them!
#5. Disinfect the entire mouth– gargle with bleach water, again- 1:25. Click here, here, here, and here for a sample of the lists of bacteria connected to both periodontal disease and tonsillar infections- they are the same.
(During irrigation I fill my mouth with the bleach water and then stop the unit to gargle.) The tonsils can be filled with bacteria and pathogens in all those nooks and crannies. Never thought of that? They reinfect the rest of your mouth…
#6. Clean the tongue, roof of the mouth, and cheeks as well. The healthier your mouth is, the healthier your arteries are! Click here for that research. Total body dentistry.
#7. Nutrition– Nutritious Nuggets goes into more detail- Vitamin D3, magnesium, and Omega 3, and Vitamin K2, A healthy diet is vital. Watch out for those sticky refined carbohydrates. Sugar in all it’s many disguises plays a big role in inflammation and disease. Watch out for energy drinks, soda, and a favorite in Seattle- coffee in all its flavored glory. Everything in moderation. Rinse your mouth out if you eat or drink something acidic, and don’t sip- it just prolongs the change in pH. Acidic foods and beverages contribute to tooth decay and make the enamel soft, carbohydrates feed the bacteria creating a welcoming place for them.
#8. See your MD/ND or other physician– Have a physical- bleeding gums may mean diabetes, or other health ailments- Got dry mouth? it may be your medications. Acid wear on your teeth- may be related to sleep apnea. It’s all connected. Read Bale and Doneen’s book- Beat the Heart Attack Gene.
#9. See your dental hygienist as often as necessary to keep your mouth clean and healthy. If you have cavities or gum disease then definitely see them every three months. “Why,” you ask, “when that’s not covered on my dental insurance plan?” If you had a pus filled bleeding infection on your arm, would you only go in every six months or would you want it healed? Even if it doesn’t hurt?? You bet you would! Cavities and gum disease don’t hurt until the FINAL stages of the disease- treatment is so much easier and long lasting if you fix it while it’s still a small, minor infection!
Choose your dental professional carefully- be sure they are listening to you, practicing prevention, using the products themselves, and take the time to do it correctly. If you have cavities- ask what you can do to change this. If they don’t recommend killing the bacteria, find another office.
#10. Monitor the pathogens- What’s going on under your gumline microscopically? What’s your tooth decay bacterial load? It’s a small, small, crazy world down there! Your MD or ND wants tests to see what’s going on microscopically- they want to know what your risk factors are for diseases they look for, what the test results say- and so should your dental team. What oral bacteria and pathogens are you fighting? How aggressive is your bacteria? Hmm, don’t know? Time to find out. If your office doesn’t have a microscope- ask for a saliva test for gum disease, and a Carifree carimeter test for tooth decay. How do you know if you’re winning if you don’t know what you’re fighting?
#11. Close your mouth– do only nasal breathing. Besides creating a dry mouth which leads to tooth decay and gum infection, mouth breathing also creates problems in facial development and wrecks havoc in your body. The nose warms and filters your air- it keeps you healthier. Read more about mouth breathing problems in my post Breathing, Not Everyone’s Doing it Right.
#12. Zero Tolerance for bleeding gums– practice prevention– Get all the plaque off . Got bleeding gums – ya got infection– don’t accept that as healthy. Really- healthy gums don’t bleed, not even a little, EVER!
Be well my friends!
questions? comments? suggestions for future columns?