It has been wisely said that cleanliness is next to Godliness – and it is certainly clear that bodily cleanliness and healthfulness is essential to our total wellbeing. One area of the body that is often underestimated in its importance to our total health is the mouth. We now live in a marvelous modern age where science knows so much about the detrimental effects on our bodies of pathogenic agents such as harmful oral bacteria and, yet, so many people seem completely unaware of the importance of daily oral care and hygiene, other than how white their teeth are and how good their breath smells. These two much sought-after qualities are certainly indicators of our mouth’s health and a boon to our social wellbeing, but too often the emphasis on them is more cosmetic than comprehensive and holistic in nature. The shelves at the local drug store or market are overcrowded with competing brands of highly advertised oral care products promising the whitest teeth and sweetest breath – but to what real benefit and at what ultimate price to our health?
The Oral Health to Total-Body Health Connection
One important thing that modern science has proven beyond a doubt is that our oral health has direct and dramatic impact on the health of our entire body. The reason for this is that our mouth is a major gateway into the inner systems that regulate every bodily function. Our mouths are aswim with a potent colony of bacteria – some beneficial and some very destructive – that can enter our body easily when we suffer from tooth and gum disease. The harmful bacteria can find their way to weakened areas deep within the body and cause infection and inflammation that break down and destroy our defenses. One dramatic example of this is to those who have any compromise with regards to their heart health, such as a damaged heart valve. People with this condition are routinely asked by dentists to take an antibiotic as a preventative measure prior to having their teeth cleaned because of the amount of bacteria that swarms through the gum line and directly into the bloodstream during the cleaning process. When our teeth are professionally cleaned, it is not unusual to spit out a little blood because of the aggressive scraping of hardened Tartar that is done under the gum line. But, if you routinely see signs of bleeding when you daily brush or floss your teeth, you may be constantly exposing yourself to harmful bacteria that are entering your bloodstream. I don’t mean to scare you, but this situation can be very serious and must not be ignored. If you have this problem – or chronic soreness and tenderness in your mouth, you need to see an oral healthcare specialist NOW! Everyone who is keen on living a healthy lifestyle should make effective oral care a top priority.
Time to Call In an Expert
I have it on expert advice that there are some daily things we all can do that can make a significant difference in our oral health – and the expert who I always turn to on these matters is my friend, Dr. Harold Katz, DDS. Dr. Katz is known worldwide as the expert on bad breath, its causes and its cures. His discoveries led him to develop the TheraBreath® line of oral care formulas – truly some of the finest and most effective oral care products available anywhere. I could write an entire book on all of the things I have learned from Dr. Katz about oral health, but I’m going to try hard to condense it all down to some important principles that, once you learn them, will empower you to take personal control of your own oral health.
Dr. Katz has spent decades helping his patients remedy the true causes of chronic bad breath, which can have heartbreaking effects on people’s lives and make them feel like social pariah. In his quest for an answer that truly worked, he discovered something that is so important about achieving optimal oral health that it allowed him to create some the most effective oral care products available anywhere – and, in the process, completely cure chronic bad breath, also known as Halitosis. The thing that he discovered was the importance of OXYGEN to our mouth’s health. Our mouth is the home to colonies of bacteria that live on our tongue and in the back of our throat. The particular variety of bacteria that are most responsible for causing bad breath and gum disease are anaerobic in nature. This means that they thrive in the absence of oxygen. The sulfurous compounds they emit are the source of that rotten-egg stench commonly known as morning mouth and chronic bad breath.
One of the most insidious things about these harmful, anaerobic oral bacteria is how they break down and eventually penetrate the gum line by colonizing under the gums and pushing the tissue away from the tooth, even causing permanent bone recession and loss. This creates an open passage-way for them to enter and invade our bloodstream, heading straight for weak points in our circulatory system where they create havoc. The inflammatory reaction this causes and the possible infection can worsen hidden cardiovascular disease and threaten our very lives – and when our cardiovascular system is compromised, it affects every aspect of our physical health. Once serious oral problems exist, it is essential to seek professional help. Your dentist may recommend periodontal treatment to get things under control. Once the worst part of the situation is remedied, it’s time to take responsibility to keep things from ever getting to this point again – and with the proper knowledge, this is completely doable for everyone. So, here we go with the major dos and don’ts of effective personal oral care:
#1 – DO Daily Physical Battle with the Bacteria
BRUSHING – You probably brush your teeth once, twice or even three times a day and think that’s enough to guarantee good oral health, but let’s take a closer look at brushing. It’s important to use a medium-soft bristle brush so you don’t damage the gums. Also, check out your brush’s bristles. Do they still look straight and new or are they sticking out in all directions? If so, throw the brush out and go buy a new one. Preferred brushing techniques seem to change over time (up & down, side to side, angled towards the gum line, etc.), but the most important place to concentrate your brushing is at the gum line where Plaque deposits grow.
POWER BRUSHING – Unless you hand brush in an effective manner for at least two full minutes (the rule is usually a minimum of 30 seconds per quadrant,) it’s unlikely that you are getting your teeth clean with a standard toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are an excellent way to really get the Plaque off of your teeth, but there are a few caveats concerning how to use them. First, let the brush do the work. You don’t need to vigorously move your brush when it is on – just move it along slowly so it has a chance to get everything. And don’t press too hard against the teeth. Fortunately, some power toothbrushes will sense overly hard pressure and shut off automatically. Dr. Katz recommends the WaterPik® Sensonic Professional, which has been clinically proven to remove more plaque than other sonic toothbrushes. I personally love the Philips Sonicare® Toothbrushes. Instead of mechanically rotating against your teeth, they vibrate at a high frequency using sonic waves to really get your teeth clean. Either of these brands are an excellent choice and a worthwhile investment in your health.
FLOSSING & IRRIGATING – How many times has your dental hygienist reminded you of the importance of flossing while handing you a sample pack of floss – and how many times has that pack of floss been tossed into a bathroom drawer and forgotten? Kudos to those of you who said “never” to the last part. To the rest of you, let me address just how important this act of using a thin thread between all of our teeth actually is. The real enemy of good oral health is Plaque – a thick film made of food debris and bacteria that adheres itself to the teeth and, mixed with minerals from our saliva, hardens into Tartar. This Tartar deposit builds up especially below the gum line where it grows and gradually pushes the gum tissues away from the tooth surface, creating deep pockets where more bacteria can grow (see the diagram earlier in this article.) Flossing several times a day guarantees that you will upset the growth of this Plaque & Tartar and prevent it from doing its awful damage. Besides a variety of flosses available today, there are handy floss picks which you can always keep in your purse or pocket so you can floss during the day, wherever you are.
If you really want to disturb and wash away those bacterial “Baddies” living under the gum line before they get a grip on your teeth, you might want to consider using an oral irrigation appliance like the HydroFloss®. Oral irrigators effectively blast away plaque, tartar and bacterial debris. Dr. Katz highly recommends daily use of the HydroFloss® – a high quality piece of equipment made to last, unlike many cheaper imported knock-offs. You get what you pay for! If you purchase it at TheraBreath.com, he even includes his AktivOxigen® Oxygenating Serum Concentrate to add to the water for even more effective results.
TONGUE SCRAPING – I am always surprised with how few dentists tell their patients about the importance of tongue scraping. They stress the importance of brushing and flossing to eliminate Plaque, but ignore that rich colony of decaying food debris and bacteria that coats most peoples’ tongues. If you start today using a tongue scraper to clean that thick coating off of your tongue, I guarantee that you will see a major improvement in your oral health and your breath. There are lots of different tongue cleaners available today. Dr. Katz sells a Premium Tongue Cleaner at his TheraBreath.com web site that is very effective and safe to use. I am a veteran tongue scraper and personally use the Dr. Tung’s Tongue Cleaner that is carried in many health food stores. This is a serious tool, though, with a stainless steel scraper. If you are too aggressive or use too much pressure, you can actually plane off a layer of taste buds from your tongue – not a pleasant experience! With careful use, though, it is a wonderful scraper that will last a long time and rinses off very easily after use.
#2 – DO Use Oxygenating Oral Care Products
We already talked about Dr. Katz’s discovery that OXYGEN is essential to controlling harmful bacteria and achieving optimum oral health, but how do we get more oxygen into our mouth? One very effective way to do this is to use oxygenating oral care products. Any oral rinse containing Hydrogen Peroxide will do this and even using 3% Hydrogen Peroxide diluted with equal parts of water (50 Water/50 Hydrogen Peroxide) will work, but Hydrogen Peroxide is a very unstable, aggressive oxidizer and can irritate some peoples’ gums and teeth. Dr. Katz’s TheraBreath® and PerioTherapy® products, which contain a safe, natural patented oxy-chlor compound that releases oxygen when it reacts with the mouth’s natural pH balance, are a much safer and effective choice. Besides promoting superior oral health, these oxygenating products also neutralize and eradicate all types of bad breath odors, whether caused by strong foods or bacteria.
#3 – DON”T Use Products Containing Alcohol or Harsh Chemicals!
When shopping for oral care products, always carefully read the labels. If you see ALCOHOL in the ingredient list, don’t buy it. Manufacturers use alcohol because it kills germs on contact, but it also does something you don’t want – it dries out the tissues in your mouth, causing a dehydrating effect that actually promotes bad breath and the growth of harmful anaerobic bacteria. You see, alcohol is a chemical desiccant, meaning it draws out water. The saliva in our mouth is naturally oxygenated, so when we dry out our mouth, we lose the breath freshening power of our very own saliva. You might think that it’s the minty fresh flavor of your favorite sugarless gum that refreshes your breath, but it’s actually the increase in saliva that chewing it promotes. By the way – alcoholic beverages do the same bad thing as alcohol-based mouthwashes, so go lightly if you don’t want to offend others with bad breath.
The other NO-NO is harsh chemical ingredients like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. This industrial-strength degreasing detergent is used in oral care products because it aggressively cleans and foams up – and it’s cheap! But beware – it is a strong ethoxylated chemical and is responsible for causing oral sores – and may even be cancer-causing! Try your best to go all-natural – it’s all about being an educated consumer, then making smart choices that are good for you. If you want to check out what kind of ingredients you should avoid in all personal care products, reference a good source like WholeFoods®, the natural food market chain – they provide lots of valuable information on what should or shouldn’t be in the products we choose to use and why. There are lots of other resources online as well with a well-spring of information on the subject – just be aware that some can get pretty extreme in their point of view.
#4 – DO Get Dr. Katz FREE eBook,
It’s About a Lot More Than Just Bad Breath!
Dr. Katz has written an incredible eBook called The Bad Breath Bible that is chock full of invaluable information on how to achieve optimum oral health. He is giving this wonderful 50-page eBook away for FREE (a $9.95 Value), so just click on the following link to download your own personal copy: FREE Download of Dr. Katz’s Bad Breath Bible eBook!
Now you are armed with knowledge. Go forth, Grasshopper, taking control of your oral health and reaping the benefits that achieving optimum oral health will exert on your total health and well-being. Here’s to your health – now and always! Namaste.
PostScript 4-20-11: I just read this bit of news from 2009 at Dr. Katz’s website. Very eye-opening:
“Alcohol based mouthwash has also been linked to an increased risk in oral cancer. Scientists in a study published in The Dental Journal of Australia in 2009 reported that the alcohol in mouthwash allowed cancer causing substances to permeate the lining of the mouth more easily.”