Your oral health gives us a window to your overall health. Decades of research and clinical evidence show that the health of the teeth can affect your general health and in some cases can have some serious health consequences. So, why is it generally treated as separate to overall health exams? Why doesn’t your dentist share your information with your primary doctor? Insurance for dental care more often than not offers minimal coverage. What’s going on here?
If you ever wondered why American healthcare separates dental care from general healthcare, Mary Otto recently wrote the book “Teeth” The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America. She takes a look at the widespread silent epidemic of oral disease in America. In the book, she takes the reader back into American dentistry and how it became separated from mainstream medicine despite evidence that oral health and general bodily health are closely related. (Otto, 2017)
“Love conquers all things except poverty and toothache.” Mae West
One of the things I love about the medicine I practice is that we are never satisfied with the status quo. There is always something we can do on a daily basis to address our own health or take some steps toward better health. We can begin to take care of the health of our teeth from day one. Beyond regular dental appointments, teeth health begins before you even grow teeth. Your mom, when pregnant with you, can take nutritional steps to help support your oral health.
What are the components of good nutritional oral health during different stages of life?
The old wives tale that states “for every child the mother loses a tooth” does have some validity a study found. (New York University, 2008) Good nutritional intake during pregnancy is key to the both the skeletal and tooth health of the baby and the mother. The mother will experience a certain amount of bone loss during pregnancy and breastfeeding, which can easily be offset by adequate levels of protein and bone minerals in her diet. I also regularly recommend to my postpartum patients to supplement with a good bone mineral formula. Within a few months of breastfeeding cessation, she should recover the loss, save her tooth and contribute to the tooth health of her baby!
Infant and Childhood Nutrition
The medical-scientific community has determined that the first 1000 days of a child’s life (beginning with conception) is a critical nutritionally important period. Moreover, studies have shown that this nutritional period of time has significant repercussion for a person’s health for the rest of their lives. (Bhutta, 2013) This includes adequate nutrition for bones as well. Some of the main nutritional components include vitamin D, C, B, A and adequate protein intake. (Aparna Sheetal, 2013). At the very least, avoiding sugar and sodas will help growing teeth. I go more into infant nutrition in my ebook here.
Oral health as you age
You will need varying levels of nutrition for bone and teeth health as you age, depending on your lifestyle and health status. You may also have to consider genetic and family health, level of exercise, stress, whether or not you have regular dentistry, medications you take that may deplete nutrients, etc. Along with regular dental care, it is also important to address overall nutrition and health status that may be affecting your oral health.
Key Nutrients for Bone Health
Dr. Susan Brown goes into exquisite detail regarding 20 key nutrients for bone health and is worth a read through here.
Clinical Psychology of Oral Health
What is the psychology and emotions around oral health?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO; 2012),
Oral health is essential to general health and quality of life. It is a state of being free from mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infection and sores, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual’s capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and psychosocial wellbeing.
One of the few attempts to draw the association between oral health and mood states is the Meridian Tooth Chart developed by Wilson and Williams (2011) (see Figure 1) who compiled a list of the associations between teeth, organs, and positive or negative mood states. This theory is borrowed from oriental medicine but has never been the subject of empirical studies. Read more about this here.
Just this year (2017) scientists were rewarded for discovering the molecular mechanisms of the Body Clock, which confirmed a known system in Chinese medicine correlating the body clock. You can read more about that in my blog here.
Chinese Meridian Tooth Chart
Will someone please prove or disprove the Chinese Meridian tooth chart now – hint, hint!
Here is another, bigger, detailed version of the meridian tooth chart.
“You can only hold a smile for so long, after that it’s just teeth.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
Science of Smiling
Smiling literally is a feel good reward for the brain. Here is a nice blog to read more about it here:
Beyond nutrition and psychology for teeth, daily routines for oral hygiene are most promoted by your regular dentist: flossing, brushing and regular check ups. One look at the oral hygiene isle, and there are tons of products. My childhood dentist, a retired Air Force dentist, once told me that all you really needed for brushing was a bit of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide (teeth whitening, antibacterial all in one). Taking care of your teeth on a daily basis does not have to be expensive.
Health and Oral Health
There is a whole movement of ‘holistic dentistry’ where topics such as: amalgams, root canals, and best approaches to dentistry are explored. The topic is too big for this blog – but I encourage you to do some research if these topics are interesting to you. Clinically, when a low grade chronic case of sinusitis and/or ear infections in adults haven’t been ruled out as allergies, I often question to see if there is an old root canal or significant dental work in the past. More cases than not, this low grade systemic issue is traced back to an older, chronic dental issue.
The Mayo Clinic outlines main health issues related to oral health here.
Oral Health and Acupuncture
A sampling of issues that can be treated via Acupuncture:
- tooth pain
- post oral surgery for healing
- overall mouth health
- gum disease
- Nerve pain
- dry mouth
- canker sores
Aparna Sheetal, V. K. (2013, Jan 1). Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3576783/
Bhutta, Z. A. (2013, March 28). Early nutrition and adult outcomes: pieces of the puzzle. The Lancet .
New York University. (2008, May 30). www.sciencedaily.com. Retrieved November 30, 2017, from Science Daily : https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080529162934.htm
Otto, M. (2017). Teeth (Vol. 1). The New Press.
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