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Taking Care of your Teeth from a Mouth-Body Connection Perspective
Hi there! My name is Dr. Jimani Blackwell. My dental practice, enlightenDENTAL, is centered around a whole body-mouth connection philosophy. Learn more about my work and follow me on Instagram @drjimani
Not too long ago, doctors used to recommend cigarettes to improve the health of their patients. We now know that nothing could be further from the truth. There is no secret that what was thought as beneficial in the past changes over time. Many previously viewed healthy diets and medicines are now deemed unhealthy.
Dentistry is no different. Dentistry is moving away from an outdated model of drill, fill and bill to a more holistic model which considers whole body health rather than a symptoms management approach.
Dentists are beginning to consider the products and procedures performed with more scrutiny. We can no longer rely on the technology of the recent past to take us to the future. In fact, now more than ever dentists are relying on the technology of the ancient past to take us into a healthier future. The industrial revolution began around 1760 and ended around 1840. This period brought us lifestyle conveniences and accessibility to food. As a result, the population of the world grew from 629 million people in 1750 to 7.7 billion people today! We no longer had to spend as much time concerned about survival. Humans had more time to think and invent new technologies.
Today we have the internet, the iPhone, cars that talk, the list goes on. It’s incredible how much technology and our lifestyles have evolved. Our bodies, however, still remember those ancient times when we ate what we found. While our bodies are doing a commendable job of trying to play catch up, we as humans are experiencing the side effects of our structure not being able to adapt to this modern world as quickly.
History of Oral Health
Dental disease was almost non-existent thousands of years ago before humans began to develop farming techniques. There is little documentation of dental cavities, crowded teeth, or gum issues during those times compared to now. Our bodies are designed to protect itself and find balance with nature. Once we started farming grains, the cavities began. As food got more available and convenient, the teeth started to show more and more signs of degradation.
In the 1930s, there was a dentist by the name of Weston A. Price, DDS who was perplexed by what he saw as a rapid decline in people’s teeth and bodies. He heard about indigenous cultures who maintained healthy teeth and bodies. So he and his wife decided to take a voyage around the world to find out why. What they found was nothing less than remarkable. No cavities, beautiful wide jaw bones with jaw lines, no crowded teeth and no toothbrushes either! The connection between the different healthy indigenous cultures was their diet. While they all ate different foods depending on the region, their diets contained fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2 (at the time he referred to this as Activator X), breastfeeding was the introduction to food and babies; first foods were tough and gritty. Fat soluble vitamins and tough foods that make you work your mouth muscles are integral to the growth and development of the jaws and the mineral balance of our organs. Not only are these foods with healthy vitamins and minerals crucial to our dental health, so is having a balanced and diverse oral and gut microbiome.
How to Prevent Dental Infections
Preventing dental infections like cavities and gum disease is more than avoiding sugar, it’s having good sustainable oral care with teeth brushing and dental flossing. Bacteria cover our bodies on the inside and out. They also cover our teeth in a similar capacity. The tooth has 3 layers: the outer layer or the enamel, the middle layer or the dentin and the inner layer or the pulp. The enamel, which is said to be the hardest portion of our body, is devoid of human cells.
However, a community of bacteria covers the outer layer and even the inside of the enamel. We previously thought that these microbes were harmful and across the board bacteria was making us sick. So when it came to dental care, antibacterial mouthwashes and eco-friendly toothpaste became wildly popular. Antibacterial oral products kill off microbes that are actually supposed to be there. They have an integral function in the repair or remineralization of our teeth. In a balanced and diverse microbial environment, the bacteria play an important role in the management of minerals into and out of the teeth. After we eat, the mouth usually becomes an acidic environment. This acid can leach out important minerals such as calcium and phosphorus from the tooth and into the saliva. From there, microbes use this calcium to build their houses which is plaque or biofilm. When the tooth needs calcium, it can get it from the biofilm reserves or from the saliva.
This is a process called demineralization and remineralization. Having a poor diet packed with sugar, carbohydrates and low levels of nutrients can cause an imbalance in the microbiome or the community of bacteria living inside of us. If there is an imbalance in the oral microbiome the symbiotic relationship between microbe and teeth does not work. This balance is required to maintain teeth. If we are constantly eating sugar and carbohydrates, a certain strain of bacteria that eats these will go crazy and proliferate. When these fast eating bacteria metabolize the sugar, it becomes acid and the acid continuously leaches minerals out of the tooth.
This imbalance makes the mouth become less diverse and dominated by the acid forming bacteria. The teeth are in a constant state of demineralization with not enough minerals in the saliva and biofilm and not enough of the good bacteria to protect the tooth with remineralization.
These bad bacteria need more calcium to survive and build their houses so it pulls even more minerals from the teeth and the cycle goes on until there is a cavity. Research is revealing the importance of maintaining a balanced and diverse oral and gut microbiome. We have the power to balance ourselves through diet and avoid harmful mouthwashes and toothpaste which can reduce the good bacteria that maintain our teeth.
Oil Pulling For The Win
I like non-toxic oral care products because they remove toxins, maintain balance and keep the breath fresh. The toothpastes that are pH balanced help to limit the amount of acidity that the mouth experiences. Oil pulling is a great practice especially for those with an imbalanced oral flora as it will pull the overgrowing, acidic bad bacteria off of the teeth and out of the mouth which will allow the body to regrow more good protective bacteria. Reaching back to cater to our bodies ancient history by maintaining healthy habits such as eating nutrient dense foods, drinking lots of water, getting sunlight and having a non-toxic oral hygiene routine will prevent cavities, dental disease and pain. Try adding Terra&Co's Brilliant Black Oil Pulling to your daily routine!