Taking care of your teeth may be the easiest way to protect your health and achieve a leaner body composition. Poor dental health is directly linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, obesity, diabetes, poor brain function, Alzheimer’s disease, muscle weakness, and chronic inflammation. If that list hasn’t gotten your attention, let me remind you that poor dental health leads to ugly teeth and bad breath!
There’s an abundance of evidence showing that neglecting your teeth will compromise your health including the following:
- Simply getting your teeth professionally cleaned and scaled once a year may reduce your risk of heart attack by as much as 25 percent.
- Poor dental health leads to gum disease and tooth loss, increasing your chance of heart failure—one study showed that individuals with less than 21 teeth (a typical adult mouth has 32) had a 69 percent increased risk of death from heart attack than those with more than 21 teeth.
- The number of emergency dental visits in the U.S. increased by a whopping 16 percent from 2006 to 2009—the vast majority of these visits were completely preventable with daily dental care.
- One large-scale study of 48,000 men in the healthcare profession found that periodontal disease led to a significant increase in cancer rates over a 17-year period, specifically colorectal, melanoma, lung, bladder, and advanced prostate cancers.
- Dental health affects the level of inflammation in the body, visceral belly fat accumulation, gastrointestinal function, fertility, sexual function, and brain processing, among things. For example, lack of regular dental visits and daily flossing can lead to the inability to conceive among women!
- Poor dental health and the buildup of inflammation in your mouth will make you weak. Studies show that people who have lost teeth have compromised muscle strength and that in individuals with gum disease, strength declines rapidly as the disease progresses. This is of particular concern for older individuals who are at greater risk of poor dental health and oral inflammation. Don’t let it happen to you!
Take care of your teeth with these ten simple strategies:
1) Brush and floss your teeth twice a day. At the least, brush twice a day and floss once.
2) Use an electrical toothbrush and consciously brush each tooth. Studies suggest that electric toothbrushes remove plaque and are milder on the gums, causing less bleeding or damage, than manual toothbrushes. Be sure to replace the brush of your electric toothbrush regularly so as to minimize the buildup of bacteria.
3) Go to the dentist twice a year for a cleaning and check up. Personal dental care will remove food and most of the bacteria that causes inflammation, but regular cleanings will help to ensure that your mouth is cavity and infection free.
4) Get adequate DHA and EPA omega-3 fats daily. Omega-3 fish oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and research shows that the intake of both DHA and EPA support a healthy mouth and prevent periodontal disease. EPA is necessary because it provides metabolites that “turn off” the inflammatory response in the mouth, leading to better overall dental and gum health.
DHA is just as important, and in a population of Japanese who naturally get a larger dose of omega-3s in their diet than Westerners, greater DHA intake was significantly linked to less risk of periodontal disease. Low DHA intake in this population led to both a greater and more severe chance of dental health problems.
Get at least 1.5 grams of both DHA and EPA a day to take care of your teeth. Adequate omega-3 intake will not only support dental health but it will lower inflammation throughout your body.
5) Substitute a method called oil pulling for using a mouthwash.Oil pulling comes from Ayurvedic medicine and is a highly effective way of cleansing the mouth and eliminating inflammation. Once a day, put a tablespoon of vegetable oil, preferably virgin coconut oil, in your mouth and swish it around for as long as you can. Pull, suck, and push the oil through your teeth and around your gums. Ayurveda practice suggests oil pulling for three to five minutes but simply doing two minutes will provide significant benefits. Spit the oil out when you are done—don’t swallow it because it contains nasty bacteria and toxins—and then rinse your mouth with water.
A number of research studies have tested the effects of oil pulling. For example, a 2009 study compared oil pulling with sesame oil to the use of an antiseptic mouthwash on plaque-induced gingivitis in adolescents. Both oral therapies reduced gum inflammation comparably, and the oil pulling reduced plaque, eliminated bacteria, and nearly cured all evidence of gum irritation.
Oil pulling is particularly effective for detoxifying the mouth, preventing tooth decay, avoiding malodor in the mouth, healing cracked lips, and it can help strengthen the jaw, teeth, and gums. A variety of vegetable oils have been proven effective, including coconut, sunflower, sesame, and olive.
6) Get adequate fiber in your diet.Eating a high-fiber diet from whole foods—not processed fiber products such as cereal and crackers—will protect your teeth. A recent study found that for each additional serving of high-fiber fruits and vegetables eaten by men over age 65, they had a five percent decrease in gum recession and nearly a 30 percent increase in overall periodontal health. Researchers recommend that you will have the best dental health if you get more than 27 grams a day of fiber, while more than 23 grams a day is a more moderate goal.
Fibrous foods function mechanically to remove plaque from teeth before it can harden, and eating adequate fiber is linked to better gastrointestinal health and less chronic inflammation. Eating fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber requires more chewing, which stimulates saliva that is antibacterial and will help remove food particles from the mouth.
7) Eat an anti-inflammatory diet by focusing on the following
Eat at the very least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily
Eliminate gluten because it causes inflammation in your gut
Eliminate trans fats, hydrogenated fats, and excess saturated fats
Balance omega-3 and omega-6 fats in an equal ratio in your diet
Eliminate refined and processed foods from your diet
Minimize or remove sugar and fructose from your diet
Get adequate water (more than 3 liters) and fiber (over 25 grams) daily
Use lots of anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric, ginger, and curry
8) Eat low-glycemic foods and manage insulin health.Poor dental health is linked to greater risk of diabetes, and on the flipside, diabetes promotes the occurrence and progression of gum disease. Glycemic control and managing insulin is a “prerequisite for periodontal health” according to scientists, and this can best be achieved by doing all of the dietary tips listed in #7.
If you do eat a higher glycemic food such as oatmeal or bread, be sure to eat a low-glycemic food with it—antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables will lower the insulin response of high-glycemic foods. For example, pair raspberries or blueberries with oatmeal, or eat almond butter with bread containing the herb fenugreek. You’ll have a better body composition, manage your blood sugar, and protect your teeth.
9) Use green tea to protect your mouth.Green tea can kill oral bacteria that cause bad breath and inflammation. The antioxidants in green tea prevent the development of biomarkers such as C-reactive protein that are linked to bone loss in the mouth and teeth. Methods for taking advantage of the benefits of green tea for your teeth include drinking organic green tea, using a green tea mouthwash and toothpaste, or chewing gum with green tea extracts.
10) Take a probiotic and use probiotic toothpaste.Probiotics are the good bacteria that improve gastrointestinal function, but they can also make your mouth healthier. Research shows that probiotics applied through toothpaste inhibit plaque formation and lower the pH of saliva so that bad bacteria cannot act on your teeth. Probiotics have an antioxidant effect in the mouth, and they neutralize free electrons, which helps prevent bad breath.
For best results, consider using a probiotic toothpaste, and definitely take a regular probiotic supplement to support your gut.