I love it when people take the time to take care of one another, when someone doesn’t have to ask before a friend offers you the shirt from their own back. That’s what community is about–caring for one another and helping out without counting favors. In this fast-paced life, however, I find that in getting caught up in the rush of seeing patients and building community, I (and we) often put taking care of myself/oneself at the bottom of the to-do list. And that is the gist of what I’d like to write about right now–taking care of ourselves as a priority. If we, as individuals, are not healthy and sound within ourselves, everything and everyone around us is also affected by that.
There are a lot of ways that we can take care of our own health without relying solely on medical professionals. And yes–I will still be the first one to promote seeing a professional with lots of experience and training when I can’t take care of my needs by myself, or when a health problem is moving too quickly for me to be able to handle. But there are also a lot of ways I can take care of myself to prevent poor health or to heal myself. To different extents, we are all healers, if we have the knowledge and are in-tune with our bodies.
So, in the spirit of me being a dentist, let’s talk about our mouths. In addition to comprehensively affecting our whole body’s health, with a healthy mouth as a systemic foundation to a healthy body, having an unhealthy mouth can also prevent us from participating in one of the most fundamental community building endeavors ever–breaking bread together. Eating. Sharing. Laughing. The health of the spirit.
Most of the patients who come into my office have, in different proportions, buildups of bacteria and plaque that in large already have or are on the verge of becoming periodontitis (aka a form of advanced gingivitis that spreads into the bone that supports the teeth, rotting the bone away and leading to the spread of bacteria infection in the body and tooth loss). The good news, though, is that this bacteria buildup in the mouth can be averted with routine self-care and preventive measures taken before bacteria gets out of control.
So with the rest of the space here on this post, I’d like to share some DIY advice on ways to keep the bacteria in your mouth under control/scaled back. It’s all part of the bigger picture of being healthy to take care of yourself and live to the fullest in the world around you. If you have any questions, please ask!
Self-Care Tips: Maintaining a Healthy Mouth on your own
Brushing your teeth! The best practice is to brush the teeth after every meal and before you go to sleep, but not more than three times/day (because that might be too much for the gums). Don’t press too hard–lots of quick little movements of the brush is best. Do it for AT LEAST two minutes, getting at each tooth thoroughly. And try to replace your toothbrush ( use ones with soft bristles) about every three months. You only need to brush the teeth that you want to keep.
Flossing! Floss as often as is needed, at least a couple of times per day. Take your time, use all that’s needed, and make sure to get both sides of each tooth.
Rinse with water! This is simple and effective–rinse and spit. After eating or drinking anything, or just whenever–rigorously rinsing with water can dislodge food and bacteria accumulating, helping your saliva (a natural anti-bacterial agent) keep your mouth balances.
Rinse with anti-bacterial solutions! Some short-term solutions that you could use are uncolored (so it doesn’t stain teeth) listerine-like mouthwashes (BreathRX is a good one) or home made concoctions that combine salt, water, and baking soda (about a 1/2 tsp. of the solids to 8oz of water). These tend to last for a few hours, but then are essentially no longer active. *It is also important that if there is alcohol in the solution, to rinse all of it from the mouth after rinsing with the solution. Alcohol can demineralize the teeth if left on the surface.
Xylitol is a nifty product I’ve come across. It can come in powder form (that you dissolve in water and sip throughout the day/every few hours), gum, or mint form. And what it does, is bring the pH balance of your mouth to neutral (pH 7.0). Since the damaging bacterias in the mouth thrive in acidic environments, bacteria are unable to survive.
Gum chewing! Stimulates saliva production. Saliva is basically our mouth’s super drug, and balances the pH and cleans out the mouth (as best as is can). Stay away from sugary gum, however, and be wary of the affects of artificial sweeteners in sugar-free on your body. Gum with xylitol in it likely your best choice.
Stay away from fluids with a high acidity! Battery acid has a pH (a scale system used to measure the acidity of solutions: 1 as most acidic, 14 as most basic, 7 as neutral) of 1.0–the most acidic possible acid. Most sodas have a pH between 2.2-3.2. You make the decision.
When you eat is a factor as well. For the mouth it’s better to eat all at once, but for everything else in our body, it’s better to eat every few hours throughout the day. This is a significant dilemma. Make your own choices.
*These are preventive tips to caring for your mouth’s health. If you have plaque buildup already, persistent bad breath, sore gums, etc., this is a sign that you have the beginnings of (or advanced stages of) gingivitis and gum disease, and home self-care measures cannot reverse the damage already done if it has penetrated deep enough. If your mouth does not improve with self-care, I recommend seeing a dentist.