Sunday, May 1, 2022


Oral health: A window to your overall health

Your oral health is more important than you might realize. Learn how the health of your mouth, teeth and gums can affect your general health.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Did you know that your oral health offers clues about your overall health — or that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Protect yourself by learning more about the connection between your oral health and overall health.

What's the connection between oral health and overall health?

Like other areas of the body, your mouth teems with bacteria — mostly harmless. But your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria can cause disease.

Normally the body's natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, keep bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Also, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbes that multiply and lead to disease.

Studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with a severe form of gum disease (periodontitis) might play a role in some diseases. And certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body's resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

What conditions can be linked to oral health?

Your oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:

  • Endocarditis. This infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Although the connection is not fully understood, some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
  • Pregnancy and birth complications. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Pneumonia. Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

Certain conditions also might affect your oral health, including:

  • Diabetes. By reducing the body's resistance to infection, diabetes puts your gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes.

    Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.

  • HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
  • Osteoporosis. This bone-weakening disease is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
  • Alzheimer's disease. Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer's disease progresses.

Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers and an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth (Sjogren's syndrome).

Tell your dentist about the medications you take and about changes in your overall health, especially if you've recently been ill or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.

How can I protect my oral health?

To protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene daily.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily.
  • Use mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary food and drinks.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
  • Avoid tobacco use.

Also, contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.


Charcoal, turmeric, and coconut oil: Don't try this at home!

April 22, 2022
A brighter, whiter smile is at or near the top of most patients' wish lists when it comes to dental care. Because of this, ridiculous trends promising teeth-whitening are prevalent. How do we best educate our patients?

Few questions are answered with a near-universal response. However, in the office where I work, 98% of people answer “yes” to one particular prompt on the new-patient form: “Would you like your teeth to be whiter?” The American Dental Association (ADA) says “whiter teeth” is the most common response given when people are asked what they’d most like to improve about their smile.1

Despite the common desire for whiter teeth, there’s widely differing information in articles, magazines, blogs, vlogs, social media, etc., about how this can be accomplished. Also, let’s face it, when it comes to teeth whitening, most people are asking Google before asking their dentist.

How can we educate patients while they’re in the chair so they’ll know how to separate proven science from passing trends?

Common trends

To understand how to communicate with our patients, we need to understand what methods they’ll commonly see peddled through not-so-trustworthy sources. Over the years of speaking with patients both in my office and at trade shows all over the country, I realized that there was a big misconception of how to whiten teeth properly, safely, and effectively. I’ve heard a lot of bizarre techniques, but these three were the most common:

Oil pulling: One client told me she was whitening her teeth via an oil-pulling technique and had added turmeric to that regimen. She would swish coconut oil in her mouth, believing it would whiten her teeth, then rub turmeric on her teeth afterward. As we know, there is no consistent scientific evidence that shows this method helps whiten teeth.2 Patients would be better off using coconut oil and turmeric to make healthy meals instead.

Scrubbing teeth with acidic foods: Another client mentioned that she would use acidic foods such as oranges and lemons to scrub her teeth to help whiten at home. However, as we know, acid does a lot of damage to the enamel.3 Acidic foods should be eaten in moderation, certainly not scrubbed against precious enamel.

Charcoal toothpaste with baking soda: During one trade show, I had an interesting question come up: “I’ve been using charcoal toothpaste and baking soda to help whiten my teeth. Does this work?” I asked the client how he came up with this idea. He said, “I saw thousands of five-star reviews on Google and thought that it would be beneficial to try.” As we know, there is no evidence that shows charcoal is effective, let alone safe for the teeth.4

Patient education

Using abrasive, unproven materials does more harm than good, and we need to urge our patients not to believe everything they read online—especially if it’s not written by a dental professional. But how can we be more proactive in explaining to patients the difference between what’s safe for teeth and what amounts to basically nonsense?

First, we need to note the patient’s response on the patient intake form as to whether they want a whiter smile. If they say yes, like so many do, we have an easy opener to the conversation. Begin by asking directly if they’ve seen any trends online or in magazines. Do they have questions about any “all natural” treatment(s) they’ve read about? Here, it’s crucial to impart that if the content isn’t created by a verified dental professional, it probably isn’t trustworthy. And beyond that, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

When it comes to recommending methods that will safely and effectively whiten teeth, we have some great options to offer. But first, we need to ask about patients’ habits in terms of what they eat and drink on a daily basis. Do they enjoy coffee, tea, red wine? Do they eat dark-colored fruits such as blackberries and blueberries? We also need to inquire about tobacco use. Once all these questions are answered, we have a clear understanding of how to help the patient.

From there, we can offer various modalities to achieve whiter teeth, such as: a whitening toothpaste (featuring an ADA Seal of Acceptance), take-home treatments, or in-office treatments.