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How Good Health Starts at the Mouth

For Dental Health Week, we look at the connection between oral health and general wellbeing

How Good Health Starts at the Mouth

August 7-13 is dental health week. It is a reminder for us all to prioritise our oral health. However, because health starts with the mouth, it should always be a priority.

The mouth is home to the two most common diseases worldwide: dental decay and gum disease. Your tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body. If this is decaying, it is worrying to think what your lifestyle habits may be doing to the rest of your body.

Gum disease is equally concerning. It is a sign of chronic inflammation and is linked to heart disease, diabetes, pre-term birth weights, difficulties falling pregnant and many other health problems.

Your mouth is also the start of the digestive tract. If your jaw joints and teeth are not working optimally, then you cannot breakdown your food effectively and get all the nutrients from your food.

Similarly, the mouth is the gateway to the respiratory tract. Therefore, the shape of your upper and lower jaws, the position of the tongue and way the muscles around the lips and cheeks work, affects the quality of your breathing and sleeping, including susceptibility to sleep apnoea.

Here are some tips for you to maintain optimal oral and general health:

  1. Eat nutrient rich, natural foods – This means a diet rich in fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins allow you to uptake nutrients that are vital for strong teeth and jaw bones.
  2. Eat chewy, hard, healthy foods – These days, food is soft, sticky, sweet and highly processed. Put your teeth and jaw bones to work the way nature intended. This will help to stimulate healthy saliva, which neutralises acid and keeps your teeth strong.
  3. Increase your water intake – replace soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices with still, clean water. Also, be careful with sparkling mineral water. It is very acidic and a common cause of dental decay.
  4. Practice nasal breathing – your tongue should be at the roof of your mouth and you should be breathing through your nose. Mouth breathing at night leaves you more susceptible to snoring, sleep apnoea, respiratory infections, tonsillitis, tooth crowding and decay (via drying out your saliva). Work on your breathing by practicing yoga or attending breathing classes.
  5. Vacuum your bed once a week -with a HEPA filter vacuum and put a dust mite cover on your mattress. If there is a constant irritation to our sinuses and tonsils during sleep, we will get into bad breathing habits which will cause the same issues discussed in tip number 4.
  6. Get into a good sleep routine – As dentist’s we always talk about oral hygiene, but I always talk about ‘sleep hygiene’ with my patients. This starts with getting to sleep before 10.30pm. Avoiding blue light from smart phones and other devices at least 2 hours before bed is also paramount. Similarly, avoid filling up on warm fluids before bed as you are more likely to wake to go to the bathroom.
  7. Don’t just brush, floss as well! – many people don’t floss and don’t know how to do it well. We need to take the floss underneath the gums. It is the bacteria that live underneath the gums that cause the most inflammation and damage to our health.
  8. Practice oil pulling – pop a teaspoon of coconut oil in the mouth and swish it around the mouth for 15 mins. This is best done first thing in the morning. The fat in the oil ‘pulls’ plaque from underneath the gums. It can help to reduce gum inflammation, decrease your chance of decay, fights against bad breath and it is also a good natural alternative for tooth whitening.

Dr Lewis Ehrlich is a Holistic Dentist, Health Coach and PT. Find out more here 

 

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