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A Healthy Smile for a Healthy Body

Oral health's impact on your physical well-being

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A Healthy Smile for a Healthy Body

Are you still not flossing? Over 500 kinds of bacteria live in the plaque between your teeth, and their impact on your physical health is nothing to smile about. Just as the eyes were once considered a window into the soul, the mouth is the new mirror into the body.

Are you still not flossing? Over 500 kinds of bacteria live in the plaque between your teeth, and their impact on your physical health is nothing to smile about. Just as the eyes were once considered a window into the soul, the mouth is the new mirror into the body.

According to Dr. Peter Cooney, Canada’s first ever Chief Dental Officer, healthy teeth and gums play a vital role in our physical well-being. From heart disease to diabetes to premature births, oral health is increasingly recognized as a portal and site for microbial infection. “If we keep our body healthy and strong and we keep the oral cavity neutral, then there’s no need for bacteria to take root,” explains Dr. Sheila McKenzie-Barnswell, a homeopath and dental hygienist in Toronto.

Severity of oral infection can range from mild gingivitis, characterized by red, inflamed gums that bleed easily, to periodontitis, when bacteria is so prevalent that it penetrates the gum line and moves into the bone and tissue surrounding the teeth. Once bacterial infection hits the bloodstream, the body’s organs are at greater risk of developing infection.

Doubles the Risk of Heart Disease

“Of course bacteria are going to migrate all over the body and have an affinity for the heart valve,” says Dr. McKenzie-Barnswell, referring to how the unhealthy lifestyle choice not to floss encourages bacteria in the body. By attaching to the blood vessels responsible for providing oxygen and nutrients to the heart, bacteria are able to create clots and blockages capable of triggering a heart attack or a stroke. A study published in 1998 in the Journal of Periodontology estimated that people with periodontal disease are at nearly twice the risk of having a fatal heart attack than those with good oral health.

Exacerbates Diabetes

Periodontal (gum) disease also shares an interconnected relationship with diabetes. According to periodontal and diabetes experts, severe oral infection makes controlling blood sugar levels difficult. Like any infection, whether in the mouth or elsewhere in the body, gum disease increases the body’s sugar levels and impedes effective diabetic control. In 2005 a study in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that when periodontal disease was effectively treated there was a reduced need for insulin in some people with diabetes.

May Lead to Premature Births

Although women on average practise better oral hygiene than men, women who are pregnant or are trying to conceive must be especially vigilant. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, expectant mothers with periodontal disease are seven times more likely to deliver a low birth-weight, preterm baby. Researchers are beginning to conclude that premature labour is often triggered by the body’s response to bacterial infection, whether originating from the genital and urinary tracts, fetal membranes, or mother’s mouth.

But there is good news. Although the Canadian Dentistry Association expects nine out of ten Canadians to develop gum disease at some point in their lives, we can protect our teeth by improving our oral habits. The tenets of regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups can easily be supplemented by making holistic choices that benefit teeth, gums, and body.

Get Your Vitamins and Minerals

For people with gum disease, Dr. McKenzie-Barnswell recommends daily doses of:

  • selenium (200 mcg)
  • zinc picolinate (15 mg)
  • folic acid (2 mg)
  • mixed flavonoids (500 mg)
  • CoQ10 (30 to 60 mg)

Dr. David Wang, a Vancouver naturopath, recommends vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals that promote overall well-being. His daily recommendations include:

  • vitamin B6 (25 to 75 mg)
  • vitamin B12 (200 to 600 mg)
  • potassium (100 to 300 mg)
  • calcium (600 to 1,200 mg)
  • magnesium (300 to 600 mg)
  • vanadium (10 to 75 mcg)
  • manganese (3 to 15 mcg)
  • strontium (200 to 750 mg)
  • boron (2 to 5 mg)

Look for a daily multimineral and multivitamin that includes these dosages.

Try Natural Toothpastes

While the fluoride debate is unlikely to abate anytime soon, many toothpastes do not contain synthetic chemicals, sugars, or artificial flavours. Look for ones that derive their extracts, sweeteners, and flavours from plants. Also, baking soda is an effective ingredient that helps to remove plaque, providing a natural abrasive property to toothpaste that doesn’t harm tooth enamel.

Rinse and Floss

Conventional mouthwashes often contain 25 percent alcohol and plenty of artificial sweeteners and preservatives. Look for herbal rinses with ingredients like tea tree oil, white oak bark, or horsetail. A few drops of chlorophyll or aloe vera in water are effective rinses, according to Dr. McKenzie-Barnswell.

And like it or not, rinsing with mouthwash is not equivalent to flossing. If you don’t floss, one third of your tooth surface isn’t being cleaned, encouraging those 500 bacteria to become mobile.

So flash your pearly whites while you floss–you’re protecting your teeth and giving your body something to smile about.

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