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Be the Tooth Decay Exception with These Holistic Oral Health Tips

Nearly every American will experience tooth decay in their lifetime. Nearly 25% of all kids will have a cavity before they turn 5. Among all kids, the average rate of dental caries (the clinical term for decay) is more than 40%.

That’s despite all the fluoridated water and toothpaste; despite all the fluoridated sealants and treatments and supplements from dental professionals.

Yet this plus stern warnings about not eating too much sugar and encouraging regular cleanings is about the extent of what counts as “preventive care” in many non-holistic offices.

A Biological Approach to Preventing Cavities

As biological dental health professionals, we take a more comprehensive approach. We focus on addressing root causes rather than simply trying to limit damage. The best part? Most of what it involves are things you can do at home.

Actually, that’s almost the best part.

The real best part is the time, money, and trouble you save yourself by taking a more proactive approach to your oral health. Let’s take a look at some of the main actions you can take to keep decay from developing in the first place.

Eat Right
Diet is the foundation for good oral health. If you look back to our ancient ancestors, you’ll find that their teeth tended to be much healthier than our own. With the introduction of refined sugar and white flour, decay became more common. These are the favored foods of the harmful bacteria found in the human mouth.

Eating right means keeping foods made with these ingredients to a minimum. Instead, the focus is on meals made from real food: lean meats and fish; vegetables and fruit; beans and other legumes; nuts and seeds; whole grains; healthy fats.

These foods deliver the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients needed not only for healthy teeth and gums, but your oral and intestinal microbiomes, and your immune system, which protects all aspects of your health.

Make Probiotics a Thing in Your World
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can deliver health benefits when you eat enough of them. They’re typically bacteria or yeasts that help maintain a healthy digestive system, as well as a healthier balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the mouth, keeping decay-causing microbes like S. mutans in check.

The most common source of these beneficial “bugs” is fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and any kind of pickled veg made by wild fermentation (as opposed to quick pickling in vinegar). There are even some fermented cheeses.

You can also get probiotic oral hygiene products, as well as a wide range of probiotic supplements.

Quit the Tobacco, Go Easy on the Booze
Just as tobacco use raises your risk of gum disease, it also raises your risk of decay. It throws the oral microbiome out of balance, letting the “bad bugs” run rampant. It reduces salivary flow, which makes the oral environment even more hospitable to oral pathogens.

And vaping isn’t any better.

Both habits are worth quitting now. If you need help getting started, the American Lung Association offers a variety of resources that you may find helpful.

Alcohol can also be a problem. In some cases, it’s because the drinks or mixers are highly acidic and sugary. The acids destroy tooth enamel, making the teeth more vulnerable to decay, while the sugar is fuel for harmful bacteria, which in turn generate their own acids. More generally, alcohol can reduce salivary flow and dry out the oral tissues, raising your risk of decay even more.

An occasional drink or two isn’t apt to do harm. If you choose to drink, your safest bets are light beers, dry wines, and clear liquors such as vodka or gin mixed with club soda or seltzer.

Manage that Stress
Chronic stress can mess with your teeth in a number of ways. For one, it weakens the immune system’s ability to fight bacteria. It also contributes to dry mouth and behaviors such as clenching and grinding, which can wear down enamel, leaving the teeth more vulnerable to decay. Stress can drive you to neglect oral hygiene. It can lead to poor food choices and otherwise make it harder to maintain healthy habits.

If ongoing stress is an issue for you, you may find some of the ideas on this tip sheet especially helpful.

Clean Your Mouth Daily
Good home hygiene is a must. At a minimum, that means brushing twice a day with a fluoride-free toothpaste (with hydroxyapatite is even better!) and flossing once. If you have trouble with flossing or really don’t like it, interdental brushes or a water flosser can do the job instead. Be sure to clean your tongue, as well!

Mouthwash? Not necessary, but if you like using a rinse, be sure to choose one that’s both fluoride-free and alcohol-free. Fluoride is problematic and unneeded, while the alcohol can dry out your mouth. You might even consider using a probiotic mouthwash!

Make & Keep Regular Dental Visits
When you come in for regular dental visits, we thoroughly examine your mouth, teeth, gums, and surrounding structures to identify any emerging problems. When we spot issues early, treatments tend to be much less invasive and much more cost-effective than after they’ve evolved into huge problems.

We also do the cleaning that regular brushing and flossing can’t handle: removing hardened plaque (tartar/calculus). We also remove surface stains, leaving your teeth looking and feeling refreshed.

These visits are also an opportunity for us to talk with you about your mouth/body health and how you’ve been taking care of both, answering any concerns you may have and offering guidance where improvement is wanted.

Our goal is your goal: to keep your smile healthy and whole for a lifetime.