I'm really excited to continue our conversation today with Jan Lemoine, a wonderful RDH/AADP certified Health Coach and dental hygienist at a biological dentist in Rocky Hill, New Jersey.
If you missed Jan's first guest post last week, click here to review the basics of holistic dental care.
This week, Jan has some great tips and techniques that will help us all achieve our happiest, healthiest holiday smiles this year.
Holistic dental care patients may opt to be tested to determine whether there are specific dental materials which they are sensitive to. The “Clifford test” is one of the commonly used evaluation tools. One person may do well with gold crowns on their back molars in order to accommodate their traumatic bite issues: someone else may be allergic/sensitive, in which case porcelain, for example, in addition to wearing a nightguard to prevent further wear may be indicated. In the case of a non-vital (dead) tooth, some may opt to receive root canal therapy in order to keep said tooth in their mouth, rather than choosing extraction and subsequent replacement with implants, crowns or bridgework. That said, it is evident that, for some, root canals can become sources of toxins, potentially failing and/or creating systemic issues. Additionally, certain teeth (and extraction sites) may be interrelated with various areas in the body, producing specific symptoms which may be resolved with treating the infections/cavitations involved in those areas. With a holistic dentist, these and other issues will be discussed, so that you may make an educated decision as to what is right for you as an individual and the benefits/risks involved with each option.
Other areas addressed by your holistic dental team include home-care products. Many commonly used products contain substances known to cause harm. SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), found in most toothpastes, is a foaming agent which acts as a skin irritant and can cause recurrent canker sores (a not-so-fun fact: SLS is actually used in labs to intentionally irritate the skin when evaluating the effects of medicated creams and lotions designed to soothe skin conditions!). It often contains ethylene oxide and its byproduct, known as 1,4 dioxane. Both are known carcinogens. When swallowed, SLS can cause nausea and diarrhea. You can start to see why a holistic dentist will encourage you to use natural products whenever appropriate! Since SLS goes by many names (sodium salt, ester, sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, to name a few), it is often difficult to detect!
Another controversial ingredient is fluoride. Research supports the fact that fluoride, particularly when ingested in the water supply, acts as a neuro-toxin! It affects brain function, decreasing cognition in children and increasing the likelihood of dementia in adults. Despite this, conventional medicine and dentistry often push for the fluoridation of the water supply. The dangers of tooth decay are real and there are health conditions and medications which make one more cavity prone. As such, there are cases when even a holistic dental provider will recommend a fluoride toothpaste to individuals who are capable of expectorating the excess. That said, I dare you to find a holistic dental practitioner who recommends that fluoride be consumed in supplements or drinking water!
By now, you know the importance of caring for your mouth. Regular toothbrushing with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste with low abrasivity is extremely important for dental health. I recommend brushing three times a day for most patients (morning and night being the absolute “no excuses” times, along with sometime in between—either after dinner or upon returning home). It is not necessary to use toothpaste each time, especially if one is not cavity prone. For those who are prone to decay, I typically recommend that they brush after every meal/snack, especially those containing carbohydrates. Beware of those with“anti-tartar” or “whitening” toothpaste claims—these tend to have too many chemicals and are often more abrasive than simpler toothpaste. Baking soda has extremely low abrasivity, yet is absolutely terrific for stain removal! I often recommend brushing with a smear/slurry of coconut oil and baking soda. There are many natural toothpastes, and your holistic dental hygienist can recommend one which suits you best. One of the toothpastes I enjoy is the Spry brand, which comes with or without fluoride.
Besides brushing, daily flossing is also important and only takes up two minutes of your day! Flossing cleans the sides of the teeth where the toothbrush cannot reach. Patients also ask me when the ideal time to floss is. My answer? Whenever you will actually do it! There are benefits to flossing before bedtime but, that said, it is awfully hard to institute a new habit when you are half asleep in front of the bathroom mirror…Unwaxed floss should be used when possible. Dental tape is also helpful, due to the increased surface area. In addition, Crest-Glide makes slingshot-shaped flossers which make it possible even for a man with large hands to floss the back molars! I mention them by name, as all brands are not created equally and I don’t want you to waste your time…or your hygienist’s, for that matter. Health food stores offer flosses with tea tree oil, a natural antimicrobial agent that is good for those with gingival bleeding (bleeding of the gums). Whatever you use, be sure to floss below the gumline, maintaining tension on the teeth and flossing up and down, rather than using a “sawing” motion. Interdental brushes such as Brushpicks or Softpicks are also available to clean in between your teeth.
Besides brushing and flossing, many benefit from the use of an oral irrigator, such as the WaterPik (although it doesn’t have to be that brand). It should be used on low, and is a gentle way to remove plaque from the gumline when used properly. Oral irrigators are great for patients with orthodonture and fixed bridgework, along with those whose lack of manual dexterity make it difficult for them to floss well.
Electric toothbrushes have their advantages (again, especially for those with reduced motor function). It is of the utmost importance to avoid abrasive dentrifices when using an electric toothbrush, however, as they are superior in cleaning both plaque (yay!) and removing enamel (boo!). As always, the benefit:risk ratio must be assessed. Many of my patients alternate with electric and manual toothbrushes, accessing the best of both worlds!
The world of mouthrinses contains many choices. It can be a daunting task picking one out! Firstly, if you brush and floss properly (and maintain your routing dental hygiene visits at whatever interval your health care professional has recommended), you most likely do not need a rinse at all—occasional warm salt water (saline) rinses may be all you need as draw closer to your hygiene visit! If
you do require a mouthrinse, this is one area where you seriously want to explore the natural, as conventional rinses contain an abundance of harsh ingredients!
“Oil pulling” is a practice which is gaining momentum in the Western world! Like many good things, it started in the East, with its roots planted in Ayurveda (India’s traditional medicine). Oil pulling is used for periodontal (gum) health as well as for some systemic conditions it is rumored to help. Another benefit to oil pulling is that it whitens the teeth also! Although no one seems to kn0w exactly why, oil pulling helps establish a healthy good-to-bad-flora relationship. Ideally, when it comes to bacteria, we want more active good guys than bad—and oil pulling accomplishes just that!
How do you oil pull? First thing in the morning, before the bacteria in the sulcus (the pouch each tooth sits in) is disturbed by drinking, eating, brushing or flossing, take a tablespoon of cold pressed oil (I recommend coconut oil or, if decay is a problem for you, sesame oil). That said, other cold pressed oils may be used. Swish vigorously with the oil for 15-20 minutes, as you go about your morning routine. I realize that this sounds yucky, but many report that they actually find it enjoyable—and feel much better afterward! Speaking of afterward, be sure to spit it all out, preferably into the garbage, so as not to clog your drainpipes. Follow by rinsing with either salt water or baking soda and water. Read more on oil pulling, along with other articles about dental health, on my website theliveandbewellcoach.com, under the “articles” tab.
Oral probiotics, found in health food stores or pharmacies (with the latter, watch out for artificial dyes and/or colors and additivies), also help normalize the oral flora. Since digestion starts in the mouth, oral probiotics may kill two proverbial birds with a single stone. This option tends to be pricier than my other suggestions, however.
In addition to the things we need to do, there are many things not to do when it comes to oral health!
- Grinding and clenching damage the teeth and exacerbate periodontal disease. Practices and supplements to reduce stress/provide a calming effect (such as a multi-mineral supplement, Mg or the homeopathic Calms forte) may be useful to prevent clenching. In addition, your dentist can recommend a nightguard appropriate for your particular needs/dentition. Incidentally (pun intended), grinding and clenching are often the cause of head, neck and ear pain, in addition to pain radiating in between the shoulder blades (not to mention the jaw itself!). Your dental professional can also recommend exercises which help relax the muscles supporting your TMJ (temporomandibular joint).
- Chewing ice is an awful habit, which often results in fractures of the teeth. Pencil-chewing is also extremely damaging (and perhaps more common than you realize). Bottom line: we are meant to chew food! If you find yourself chomping on non-foodstuffs, including your teeth themselves, tell your dentist, hygienist or dental assistant!
As far as cavities go (caries is the technical term for it), there are several factors to keep in mind. It is important to choose your food and beverages wisely. Foods which are sticky (like licorice, gummy bears and dried fruits) are highly cariogenic. Avoid these foods or, on the rare occasions you indulge, be sure to finish up with a “detersive food” selection, like an apple, carrot or celery stick…along with a thorough session with your toothbrush of choice! At all costs, avoid soda and hard candies. These will destroy your enamel almost as quickly as you can consume them—and soda destroys your bones as well, working against you both from the outside-in and inside-out! Liquids flow in between your teeth, exposing all aspects of the tooth, so beware of sweetened beverages like cappu- and frappucinos and sports drinks. Liquid sweeteners like honey flow interproximally, in addition to being “sticky,” and are a common cause of decay. Hard candies also take a while to dissolve, essentially bathing the teeth in sugar the entire time, along with changing the salivary pH for up to a half hour after you are finished. For this reason, I equate their consumption with dental suicide—or should I say “homicide”? The bottom line is that any foodstuff containing carbohydrate will cause decay, as it turns into sugar. As our teen patients leave for college, I warn them about the dangers of stress eating. All those pretzels and cookies feel good to munch on until the freshman fifteen--along with a slew of cavities--catch up to you!
Have I whet your appetite (punny again) for holistic dentistry? Do you want to know how to find a holistic dentist in your area? Visit the International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine (IABDM) at http://iabdm.org/ or the Holistic Dental Association at http://holisticdental.org/find-a-holistic-dentist.
For more information on dental mercury, contact Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions (DAMS) at http://www.dams.cc/ or check out Dr. Mercola’s articles on dental amalgam (mercury) fillings at http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/09/13/mercury-free-dentists.aspx.
For more about the author, visit Jan at http://www.theliveandbewellcoach.com/ or call her at (609) 865-0936 to set up a free health consultation. Jan works at Dr. William Megill’s office in Rocky Hill, New Jersey. Call at (609) 924-9411 to set up an appointment and get started on your way to dental health!