While we might not even be aware of it, the health of our teeth and gums has a huge impact on our day to day life - from our overall health and comfort to our confidence and self-esteem. Yet according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50% of all adults aged 30 or older – roughly 65 million Americans - are currently experiencing some form of gum disease.
Oral health can be impacted by many factors: genetics, dental hygiene habits, and diet to name a few – some of which we can control, while others (ahem, genetics) can be trickier to address. Ultimately, we have to look at our tooth and gum health as holistically as possible and make sure we're giving it the attention it deserves. Like everything related to health – preventing issues before they even happen is always better, cheaper, and way less complicated than trying to cure things after the fact. The following tips do a great job of addressing both aspects – preventing issues from happening in the first place, while also improving and supporting the body's own inherent healing mechanisms.
1. Keep it alkaline + eat more greens
One of the surest ways of developing tooth decay is to maintain a mouth pH that is too acidic. It is said that at a pH of 5.5 the teeth begin to demineralize, leaving them vulnerable to cavities. On the contrary, when the saliva has a pH of 7.5 or above, it means teeth can become stronger and actually remineralize, meaning stronger enamel and less decay. One of the best ways to alkalinize the entire body, mouth included, is to eat plenty of mineral-rich green leafy vegetables and non-sweet green juices. By focusing on greens such as kale, collards, spinach, chard, and lettuces, we introduce a wealth of highly bioavailable trace minerals into the body which helps alkalinize the blood, strengthen our bones, and buffer acidity in the mouth. Keeping the body alkaline also has a side benefit of giving a boost to the entire immune system, as most diseases cannot thrive in an alkaline system.
2. Try oil pulling
Oil pulling, or swishing with oil, may seem like a strange way to promote oral health, but it is actually an ancient practice with some incredible benefits. This Ayurvedic dental health technique helps to draw out toxins from the gums and the body as a whole. Simply take 1 tbs of a high quality, organic, cold pressed plant oil of choice (sesame and coconut work great) and swish for up to 20 minutes, "pulling" the oil between the teeth. Aside from helping to aid in detox, oil pulling can also help brighten the teeth, and prevent plaque from building up throughout the day. Try infusing the oil with a few drops of therapeutic grade orange essential oil (brightening) or tea tree oil (cleansing and purifying) for additional tooth benefits.
3. Take ionic mineral supplements
Minerals are absolutely critical for our bone health, and while many of us forget, our teeth are a very important part of our skeletal system. While calcium is important, our bones also require a host of other trace minerals too such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and silica. Since our soils are deficient in many key minerals, our food supply is as well, even mineral-rich foods such as greens don't contain the minerals they once did. A high quality liquid ionic mineral supplement is a great way to get bioavailable minerals into the body for healthy bones and nerves and to help balance the body's pH.
4. Avoid fluoridated water
Fluoride continues to be one of the most widely used tooth treatments in the dental community, but it doesn't come without risk. While fluoride is technically a natural element found in the earth, it differs greatly from the fluorosilicic acid - a synthetic industrial fluoride chemical – that is typically added to drinking water. Research shows that this chemical is a dangerous neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor and can negatively impact the health of our bones and teeth, thyroid gland, pineal gland, and blood sugar levels, to name just a few of the health implications. While fluoride may have benefits for some if used topically, it certainly doesn't need to be consumed every day in drinking water. Many household filters can effectively remove fluoride from tap water, and given the importance of clean drinking water to our health, are a worthy investment. Not sure if your city fluoridates its water supply? Check the EWG's Tap Water Database here.
5. Brush + floss after meals
Yep, we all know we should, but it's often easier said than done. However, if you're serious about achieving better oral health, cleaning the teeth thoroughly after eating can do wonders. Removing any residual food particles from the teeth can prevent plaque from accumulating, harmful bacteria from multiplying, and pH from becoming too acidic. If brushing and flossing isn't an option, thoroughly swishing with water to loosen food particles and rinse the teeth of any residual sugars or acids is better than nothing.
6. Use a tongue scraper
Have you ever looked at your tongue, and noticed a white or greyish coating? This is actually a build-up of dead cells, food particles, toxins, and bacteria. Yep, not exactly appetizing. Cleaning the tongue properly and regularly is an incredibly important part of overall oral health and hygiene, and it's very easy (and cheap!) to do. Tongue scrapers are just as they sound: a small, slightly rounded tool, typically made from metal or plastic, that scrapes the surface of the tongue removing the daily build up. This simple step can vastly improve the freshness of ones breathe, and also eliminate bacteria that may otherwise be contributing to tooth decay and gum disease.
7. Use oral-specific probiotics
While it's no news that probiotics play an absolutely critical role in our overall gut health and immunity, we often don't think of the bacteria living in our mouth as part of that equation. It turns out, the two are intimately linked, which only makes sense since the mouth is, by definition, the beginning of our digestive system. Beneficial oral microbes work along with the immune system to help prevent harmful bacteria, the ones associated with tooth decay and gum disease, from becoming too dominant. They keep the bad bugs in check within our mouth, just like they do in our gut. They also help facilitate important enzymatic activity and help balance the pH of the mouth. Bacteria love to hide out in the small gaps between your teeth and gums and using a daily tooth product that features beneficial microbes can do wonders in helping keep the bad guys from proliferating.
8. Whiten with charcoal, not chemicals
It may seem counter-intuitive, but using charcoal, which is blacker than night, can actually whiten and brighten the teeth. Charcoal is a highly absorbent substance and can help to absorb toxins, bacteria, and also particles that are staining the teeth. Sunbiotics Remineralizing Tooth Whitening Powder (pictured above) addresses many issues such as staining, de-mineralization, and healthy microbial balance with a blend of activated coconut charcoal, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), bamboo silica, and coconut oil powder, calcium from algae, organic essential oils, and oral-specific probiotics. This is a much safer alternative to chemical-based bleaching agents which can weaken and sensitize the teeth.
9. Boost your toothpaste with essential oils
Essential oils are the highly concentrated oils found in many areas of the plant such as leaves, flowers, grasses, and roots, that contain many of the plant's beneficial constituents. They are typically extracted via steam distillation, extraction with a solvent or CO2 gas, or resin tapping. Certain essential oils such as tea tree, wintergreen, peppermint, clove, rosemary, and thyme are excellent oils for purifying the mouth, freshening breath, and also help support healthy blood circulation in the gums and to the teeth. Citrus oils such as orange and tangerine are also brightening and can help loosen and dissolve stains. Therapeutic grade essential oils can be used in DIY toothpaste or mouthwash recipes, can be added to base oils for oil pulling, or can be added to your favorite toothpaste to further enhance its ability to perform well.