October is National Dental Hygiene month, so what sort of dental hygienist would I be if I did not talk to you guys about oral health? I know, you are all at the edge of your seats, waiting for this blog post… the suspense is probably killing you by now! I may sound like a broken record, but I’m going to talk about the mouth-body connection and what role your oral health plays in overall health and wellness.
Most of you have figured out by now that I am HUGE advocate for overall health and wellness, and your oral health is no exception to this. I know you are thinking, “Yes, we get it, brush and floss”, but is that really all there is to it?
No, that is not all there is to it. I see patients frequently who brush and floss meticulously, but their gums still bleed and there is obviously still inflammation present. So, what gives? Here is what goes through my head when I see this:
- What does this person’s nutrition look like?
- Are there any systemic conditions- diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, sleep disorders, etc.?
- Do they have an overly aggressive bacteria that remains uncontrolled?
As you can see, there are numerous different facets that play a role in gingivitis and periodontal disease and it can be challenging to narrow it down to determine what continues to be the issue. One thing I always recommend to my patients, especially when there is unresolved inflammation, is yearly bloodwork from their physician. This can rule out if there are any obvious systemic inflammatory markers that we should be aware of.
I also frequently ask my patients about their nutrition. My biggest advice to patients is to eat real food. Unfortunately, that is such a blanket statement, but as any hygienist knows, our 60 minutes with the patient is already jam packed. There has been some interesting research proving that individuals who do not eat refined carbohydrates exhibit less bleeding and inflammation than those who do, in spite of oral hygiene routines.
We know that nutrition plays a role in inflammation, generally speaking, but what else is inflammation in the mouth connected to? The bacteria and inflammatory products found in periodontal disease (inflammation in the mouth) have also been linked to:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Erectile dysfunction- not making this up gentlemen!
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Adverse pregnancy outcomes
- Obstructive sleep disorders
- So many more!
That list is long enough to make me want to keep my mouth healthy!
So, that means that when your gums bleed, this is NOT a healthy response…PERIOD. It also means that if you have a cavity in your mouth, you have an active infection. You should not put off treatment until later. If you have periodontal disease or your hygienist says you have “deep pockets” (they aren’t commenting on your financial status), you may have an active infection. If you have an infection around the roots of one of your teeth, you should not just monitor it. All of these disease processes that occur in the mouth involve bacteria. These bacteria have direct access to the rest of your body. Some of these infections may even be very close to your sinuses, which anatomically are very close to your brain! Sound like something you want to leave untreated? Yeah, me neither!
I could go on for days about all of the subjects. There is so much information to share on each and every one of those topics. If you want any more specific information, let me know!
Instead of continuing to talk fascinating details about the mouth-body connection, I wanted to reach out to some other dental hygienists and hear what they have to say. I left this pretty broad and there is a little bit of everything, but here is what your hygienist wants you to know:
“Although it may seem like your hygienist is often trying to change you and “correct” certain behaviors, we are simply trying our best to make you aware of detrimental behaviors and how they can affect not only your mouth, but your entire body! We try our best to give you the information necessary to empower you to take control of your own oral health! We love our patients and just want them to be healthy!”
“We truly care about you and it makes us super happy when you take our advice! When we see improvements at your recall appointments it is the most satisfying thing for us. Getting my patients into a healthier state is super rewarding and makes my job so worth it.”
“I feel like people don’t take their oral health serious enough. Flossing daily can save your teeth! It’s more beneficial now, more than ever, to help reduce bacteria and infections in your mouth”
“While many people do 2 cleanings a year, and that is what most insurances cover, many people need 3-4 cleanings a year- and this is pretty standard. Your insurance doesn’t care about your health and they don’t make recommendations based off of your health, but I do…so who do you want guiding your health decisions?”
“Please don’t walk in and tell me how much you hate the dentist. My job is hard enough without being told that I am disliked…”
That’s all I have to say about dental hygiene for now! What can you do to improve your oral hygiene? Get an electric toothbrush- yes, they really do that much better of a job. Floss your teeth daily… if flossing is hard for you, there are SO many alternative tools these days. They might not be as good, but they are definitely better than nothing. I’ve made a list of some of my favorite oral hygiene tools below!
Electric Toothbrush: My favorite is the Sonicare. I don’t like battery operated toothbrushes, nor off-brand electric toothbrushes…only because I don’t see as good of results and my patients always tell me how frequently they break.
Floss: Risewell has my favorite floss! If you can’t use regular floss and need a pick, try to get something that is re-usable, so it is less plastic being thrown away.
Toothpaste: Anything with only a few/natural ingredients. I switch up my toothpaste a lot! I do love Risewell (if you need a fluoride free option), but I do use fluoridated toothpaste daily.
Mouthrinse: I don’t use one…
These monkeys- took a few pics to get a good shot, so I thought I’d share! Holt- the black one- loves to brush his teeth. He will carry his toothbrush to his dad so that he can get his teeth brushes. Dopey- the white one- runs from me every night trying to skip his brushing.