Sensitive Teeth

Is the taste of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee sometimes a painful experience for you? Does brushing or flossing make you wince occasionally? If so, you may have sensitive teeth.

Possible causes include:

  • Tooth decay (cavities)
  • Fractured teeth
  • Worn fillings
  • Gum disease
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Exposed tooth root

In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth—the part above the gum line. Under the gum line, a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin.

Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum these tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede. The result can be hypersensitivity.

Sensitive teeth can be treated. The type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Your dentist may suggest one of a variety of treatments:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste. This contains compounds that help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve, and usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is reduced.
  • Fluoride gel. An in-office technique that strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations.
  • A crown, inlay, or bonding. These may be used to correct a flaw or decay that results in insensitivity.
  • Surgical gum graft. If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal. If sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend this treatment to eliminate the problem.

Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing sensitive tooth pain. Ask our dentist if you have any questions about your daily oral hygiene routine or concerns about tooth sensitivity.

What Causes an Abscessed Tooth and How You Can Avoid Them

A tooth abscess also called an abscessed tooth, is right up there with root canals, subjects that we all need to be aware of to have a clear understanding of what to do if we have an abscess as well as how to avoid ever having a tooth abscess.

Anyone who has ever had an abscessed tooth would tell you that they would have done anything to avoid the pain of an abscess. In this first article on dental abscesses, let’s explore what causes abscesses and strategies you can apply to avoid ever having one.

What is an abscessed tooth?

An abscess simply is a ‘pocket’ of pus from an infection in the mouth. Have you ever had a splinter in your finger or foot that got infected? Do you recall the pus that accumulated around the splinter? That was your immune system showing up to fight the infection. Well, that’s essentially what an abscess is: a collection of pus that the immune system has created to mount a defense against infection.

There are two main types of abscesses in the mouth. A periodontal abscess originates in the gum pocket and is directly associated with advanced gum disease, also called periodontal disease. A periapical abscess is located at the tip of the root of a tooth. We’ll refer to these two main types of abscess simply as a gum abscess or tooth abscess.

Common signs of abscess

Signs and symptoms can vary widely depending on the type of abscess you’re dealing with. Where gum abscesses aren’t necessarily painful, the main sign of a tooth abscess is a very strong constant pain.

What causes an abscess?

All abscesses (with a couple of rare exceptions) are a result of a chronic infection.

If the infection originates in the gum pocket, then gum disease is the cause of the abscess. 

If the infection is located at the tip of the root of the tooth, then the abscess is the result of an infection from within that tooth or the region surrounding that tooth.

In both cases, the immune system is dealing with an infection. However, different than the splinter example above, these infections are chronic.

Gum (periodontal) abscesses are from gum disease, an imbalance of disease-causing microbes that have colonized under the gum line.

Tooth (periapical) abscesses are primarily caused by a tooth becoming so decayed that the pulp becomes infected. They can also occur from a root canal gone bad. In both cases, the health of the tooth is severely compromised, a major battle is cooking, and the abscess is the ‘sign’ of trouble.

(Incidentally, the photo on this post is an x-ray where the abscess is on the root of a tooth that has already had a root canal performed on it. As you can see in the photo on the adjacent teeth, on a healthy tooth the root chamber is darker than the bony enamel and dentin.

However, on this root canal tooth, the root chamber is bright white showing how the root has been drilled out and filled with a material that the x-ray shows as white.)

How do I know which type of abscess I’m dealing with?

While this may get a bit graphic for some, the location where the abscess tries to drain the pus will give you a big clue whether you are dealing with a gum disease-based abscess or a tooth-based abscess.

You see, one of the ways our immune systems show up to fight an infection is by recruiting a lot of white blood cells to the infection site. Once the white blood cells do what they can, they die and accumulate at the infection site. We know this accumulation of dead white blood cells as pus.

Once the pressure builds up in the abscess, it tries to find a way out to relieve the pressure. Seeing where the abscess ‘vents’ is very helpful to determine which type of abscess you’re dealing with.

If the pus comes from within the gum pocket, this is a sure sign of a periodontal abscess and an unquestionable sign that you have periodontal disease.

If, however, the pus forms a boil on the side of the gum tissue and ruptures into the mouth (I know, it’s gross but important), then this is a strong sign that it’s a tooth abscess. Also, please note that it’s possible to have an infection and resulting abscess of both the periodontal pocket and the tooth root.

Sometimes a person can have an abscess (aka strong pain associated with a region in the mouth) and not have any ‘external’ signs of an abscess through the expression of pus from the infection site. These abscesses are particularly problematic as the increasing pressure of the abscess doesn’t have anywhere ‘outside’ to go, so the pus ruptures into internal tissues.

Why abscesses are not to be ignored

It’s a chronic infection. At the risk of being a bit dramatic, chronic infections are the ‘stuff’ that living beings die from. The extreme pain associated with an abscess is there to shout ‘Pay attention to this area! We’ve got trouble over here!’.

If left untreated, an abscess originating from gum disease will continue to destroy the jaw bone that anchors the teeth in the mouth and causes tooth loss as well as provides a chronic source of ‘thug bugs’ that directly undermine the health of the whole being.

If a tooth abscess is left untreated, the infection will build and spread into the surrounding region, destroying any tissue (bone, muscle, doesn’t matter) in its path as it seeks a way to release the building pressure. Depending on the location of the abscess, it can even directly cause loss of vision, facial paralysis, and yes, even death.

While these mostly localized issues are big enough, recent research very clearly points the finger at chronic oral infections as being a major source of systemic inflammation. Systemic inflammation is the underlying cause that drives heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and many other ‘big hitters’ in our global culture.

An abscess is one of those situations where a trip to your helpful dentist would be a really wise choice.

How to avoid ever having an abscess

While this subject of how to avoid having an abscess is bigger than we can cover in one article, let’s get you headed in the right direction right now.

We suggest addressing any oral health issue from a ‘two prong’ approach.

On one hand, we must address this issue ‘at the site’ of the infection. On the other hand, if we want to stop the risk of an abscess for good, we must strengthen our ‘whole system’ immune response.

After all, only if we raise the health of our whole system can we expect our immune system to be able to effectively stop chronic infections.

To explain why system-wide immune support is foundational, let’s use the analogy of a city fire department. If a city has a building on fire, the fire department shows up in a hurry and applies the full force of their firefighting capabilities to put out the fire. This is how we want our immune system to function.

What happens, however, if the city has 10, 50, or 100 fires burning all at once? The fire department can’t respond to all the emergencies, right? They just don’t have the resources to address all the fires sufficiently.

So, they determine which fires are more critical to get under control and which fires can be allowed to burn.

Another option the fire department has is to spread their forces thin and just try to control all the fires from getting bigger. But spread out too thinly, they lack the resources to be able to mount a strong enough defense to put out any of the fires. So they all smolder and slowly burn.

This analogy parallels what happens in our bodies every day. If we don’t do the right things to support greater whole being immunity, we are simply going to stretch our immune systems too thin and some fires (infections) are going to keep burning and not be addressed.

Real-time solutions…

Ok, enough theory. Let’s get you some high ‘bang for the buck’ actions you can take to make a massive positive change to your oral health…

  1.     Oil pulling

Oil pulling is super helpful for addressing oral health challenges because it supports both the ‘in the mouth’ needs and ‘system-wide’ immune function. We question whether oil pulling will single-handedly heal an abscess, but regular oil pulling is a great adjunct therapy to help create greater oral health. While sesame oil is traditionally used, we like to use coconut oil because of its flavor and its antimicrobial properties.

If you aren’t familiar with oil pulling, here’s an article that explains how to practice oil pulling as well as how oil pulling benefits our oral health and whole-body wellness.

  1.     Address the infection in the mouth head on

There is much you can do to help knock down an oral infection. If it’s a periodontal abscess, you can directly and significantly reduce the infection yourself. Check out our HealThy Mouth System for more information on how you can make huge changes in your oral health very quickly.

Through the use of natural antimicrobials combined with specific strategies to help mitigate the imbalance of thug bugs in the mouth, it’s amazing how quickly the body heals itself (yes, even from advanced gum disease). 

Another option is to vigorously swish with salt water for several minutes. Vigorous swishing like oil pulling will activate the immune system in the area while the salt works to fight the infection. Just dissolve some salt in water and you have a powerful, inexpensive home remedy to support the healing process.

  1.     Support systemic immune response

The good news is taking immediate positive actions will make a huge change quickly. Eat foods that help support greater oral health. Reduce or eliminate foods that undermine your oral health. Make sure you take time to laugh and play. Even simple steps like taking more vitamin C can help.

Any of these steps will provide your ‘fire department’ with more resources to mount a better, stronger immune response.


Is Stress the Primary Cause of Gum Disease?

This week we’d like to step back and take a broad view to find what may be the primary undermining factor that keeps each of us from living our fullest life possible with an optimized immune expression.

After all, without an immune system humming along in good rhythm, chronic infections like gum disease can continue to grow and undermine the health of our entire body.

We often talk about how we approach gum disease from a ‘two prong’ approach…
addressing the issue ‘locally’ via ‘in the mouth’ strategies and
addressing the issue ‘broadly’ via ‘system-wide immune support’ strategies

While in the mouth strategies like oil pulling, conscious flossing, and what order you brush, floss and swish are important, today let’s turn our attention toward an often overlooked foundation…

A strong, resilient, vital, and balanced immune response.

Without a strong ‘whole body’ strategy in place, any strategies we apply in the mouth will only provide temporary benefits. If we want to reach that ‘place’ where we are no longer ’suitable hosts’ for the opportunistic thug bugs implicated with gum disease, we must address oral health from a system-wide approach too.

Interestingly, since our approach is very strongly rooted in holistic principles (aka that the body/being is one system and we cannot treat the parts individually) even many of the ‘in the mouth’ strategies we suggest also benefit our immune response.
The Primary Pillar to Optimal Health
While much of the health internet (including us) tend to point out that nutrition plays a foundational role in living an optimally vital life, we find that health psychology is even more central to expressing optimal health.
You’ve probably experienced some stress around trying to eat well.

Questions like wondering if the foods you choose for you and your family are best for you all can provoke stressful thoughts. If we habitually stress out that our diet isn’t perfect, we’re still causing stress (inflammation) in the system which will undermine our ability to be optimally healthy.
And, as we all know, stressing about food is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things we can stress about, right?

The bottom line, we must manage our stress levels and cultivate healthy psychology as a daily habit, or we are going to fall short of our potential genetic expression of health and vitality.
Not surprisingly, the scientific literature is awash in studies proving that stress makes gum disease and periodontal disease worse.

Yes, stress indeed helps us grow. That’s the way the principle of ‘Use it or Lose it’ works. We have to stress a muscle to make it stronger, challenge our memory to keep it sharp, and regularly stretch if we want to maintain flexibility.

The stress we’re referring to here however is the chronic stress (that is very manageable by the way) that’s born from how we respond to life.

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters…

The Greek philosopher Epictetus stated, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

It’s not what happens to each of us. It’s how we react to what happens to us that determines whether we freak out and cause damage to our health or can let the changing winds of life pass by without taking up arms about what just happened.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of being in such a great mood that when something that would have normally gotten under your skin happened, because of your great mood, you were able to laugh it off. That’s the power of a healthy relationship with stress. That’s the central importance of our ability to manage stress healthily to optimally express our genetic capacity of health and vitality.

But what about all the other times when we’re not already in the ‘good graces’ of an awesome mood?
What can we do to manage our reaction to life?

It turns out that there’s quite a lot we can do.

Count your blessings.

We all know how good we feel when we ‘wake up and remember that we don’t have to stress out. Stopping to count the blessings in our lives is a very powerful way to shift from a place of stress to a peaceful place.

Making a habit of counting our blessings not only supports our oral health but is such a gift to anyone who witnesses that intentional cultivation of a life well-lived. Not only do we give to ourselves with the habit of counting our blessings, but our habit ripples out waves of peace, calm, and good feelings into the lives of others around us.

When angry, take 3 breaths.

The physiological benefits of deep breathing span every single system in our bodies.
However, it doesn’t count to quickly snort 3 breaths so you can ‘get them over with’ and maintain the stressed-out state! Pause, turn your attention within, and take three conscious breaths.

If you want to supercharge your stress shifting attitude, try silently repeating to yourself ‘This too shall pass’ while taking those breaths.

Mentally step back from the stressful situation.

A good friend and mentor of ours taught us many years ago to mentally step back from the current whatever we’re choosing to be all stressed about and see how in the grand scheme, it’s a rather insignificant situation we’re choosing to stress over.

Taking a mental step back helps to reframe the situation and provide the very beneficial ‘distance’ to be able to put the stress into its rightful ‘insignificant’ place.
Wrapping Up…

So, while most of our writing is on the details of how to navigate to greater oral health, let’s remember to keep in perspective the primary factors that either contribute to or undermine our ability to optimize our immune response.

How about you? What do you do to manage your stress levels? What would you like to do more regularly to better support yourself? How have you found that managing your stress more effectively has helped you live a healthier, happier life?

And, if you have active periodontal disease and you’d like to learn about a kit that can help you address periodontal disease-causing microbes from the comfort of your own home, you can read about our HealThy Mouth System here.
We hope this helps you along your path to optimal oral (and whole being) health!

Is Stress the Primary Cause of Gum Disease?

Can Brushing After a Meal Damage My Teeth?

At some point in the journey each of us takes toward optimal oral health, we wake up to realize that we have to take better care of our teeth and gums. Unfortunately, at this point, most of us simply increase what we are doing, assuming for example, “I must not be brushing my teeth enough”.

The problem occurs when we take action without first questioning whether what we’ve been taught by conventional wisdom’ is true or health-giving. It’s a common slippery slope because we want to make a change (we’ve awakened to the fact that we need to do something now) we rush headlong into doing more of the same.

However, without stopping to examine the fact that much of the damage in our mouths has come from conventional wisdom, we risk increasing the problem rather than finding the path to optimal oral health. We call this acting-before-thinking strategy the ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ approach.

And so when we turn our attention to a common question we receive here at OraWellness, we see a very similar situation.

“Should I brush my teeth after every meal?”

Given the cultural misunderstandings we’ve all been taught, the logic of this question makes sense.

After all, we’ve been taught that bugs in the mouth are the (only) cause of decay, these bugs eat fermentable carbohydrates from the food we eat, and brushing removes the thug bugs and their food. While this is a partial truth (as you know, there are other more primary causes of tooth decay), does this mean that we should brush after every meal?

The problem with brushing after meals…

In a study published in the International Dental Journal titled “Can tooth brushing damage your health? Effects on oral and dental tissues” the authors state, “The toothbrush alone appears to not affect enamel and very little on dentine… Wear of enamel and dentine can be dramatically increased if tooth brushing follows an erosive challenge.”

So, what exactly is an ‘erosive challenge’?

To answer this, let’s go back to conventional wisdom. Even though we are taught that bugs in the mouth cause decay, we aren’t taught why this happens. The reason why bugs contribute to decay is that they secrete acids as part of their metabolic process and that acidic waste slowly dissolves tooth enamel.

This process is called ‘acid dissolution’.

Remember high school chemistry? Acids dissolve other compounds. In the case of our mouths, acids take apart (demineralize) the surface layer of our teeth. Before this scares you, realize that our bodies have a wonderful ability to remineralize this surface ‘acid dissolution of the enamel through contact with our saliva which we’ll detail shortly.

However, let’s be clear that acids cause ‘an erosive challenge’ to our teeth.

Going back to the study we quoted above, if we brush our teeth after an erosive challenge, wear of enamel and dentine can be dramatically increased (Just so you know we’re not over-sensationalizing this subject, the authors used the wording ‘dramatically increased’)

What does this have to do with brushing after meals?

The rub here is that most meals have some acidic component to them. Even if you aren’t drinking a ‘conventional soda’ (which is terrible for your teeth and the rest of your body by the way), we still have plenty of acid in most meals to cause an erosive challenge.

Common acidic foods and drinks that can challenge our enamel:

Here are some common acidic foods and drinks that can provoke an ‘erosion challenge’.

soda (Coke, Pepsi, etc)

‘healthy’ soda (kombucha, water kefir, etc)

anything sweet (sugar, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup)

salad dressing (vinegar is very acidic)

citrus (lemon, lime, etc)

fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, etc)

To be clear, naturally acidic foods are good for us (even sweet foods in very moderate amounts). They stimulate digestion helping us get more nutrients from what we eat as well as support a more balanced pH in our bodies. (Most of us tend toward an acidic internal environment, so having more naturally acidic foods helps our internal chemistry be more alkaline). This is the logic behind putting a squeeze of lemon in your water or having a side of fermented veggies with a meal.

You can feel the change in tooth surface…

If you tune into the feel of your teeth with your tongue, you can feel a roughness after eating or particularly after drinking something acidic. Then, after a bit of time, that surface roughness ‘goes away’ (is remineralized).

Since one of our primary aims with OraWellness is to help heal the disconnect most of us have with our mouths, here’s a free tool to help you get to know what’s going on in your mouth.

So, when it comes to eating and brushing, the game is to wait at least 20 minutes after eating before brushing.

You see, once acids in foods/drinks cause an erosive challenge, it takes a bit of time for the enamel that was weakened to harden back up. The last thing we want to do is unconsciously go scrub our teeth when the enamel is weakest as this has been proven to remove enamel from our teeth.

However, we can speed up the body’s ability to recover from acids in the mouth.

So how can we best support optimal remineralization after a meal?

The best ‘after a meal’ strategy we have found is to take a small mouthful of water and swish it around the mouth for several seconds after finishing a meal (unlike oil pulling, it’s fine to swallow the sip of water after the swish). This water bath helps to remove acids from the food/drink from the surface of our teeth to help stop the ‘erosive challenge’ while not physically scrubbing the softened enamel surface.

So, if you are brushing after meals and thinking that you are doing good, please pause, question the logic, and swish a sip of water instead!

Is Your Cell Phone Causing Your Teeth to Decay? (and how to stop it)

Have you ever been using your cell phone and felt/heard a weird sort of buzzing/whining sound? I have and it freaked me out. I felt a high-pitched stinging feeling in my ear.

Having this first-hand experience has caused me to take a closer look at what impact cell phones could have on our oral and brain health.

I know, none of us wants to hear more about how cell phones could be causing trouble to our health. But, thankfully, you are one of us who desires to look at the truth rather than stick your head in the sand and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

The risk of cell phones

Setting aside the obvious risk of using a cell phone while driving (as a side note, did you realize that cell phone use is now the #1 cause of traffic accidents?), the issue we want to bring to light is the fact that all cell phones emit an electromagnetic frequency. It’s a sort of low-level radiation.

Most of the PR you’ll hear on cell phones talk about the risks to brain health. Without diminishing this risk, we want to bring to the discussion the fact that a major component of the primary system our bodies use to protect our teeth from decay is under even heavier attack from cell phone radiation. I think of cell phone radiation as a low-level radar device that’s strong enough to scramble intercellular communication depending on how close to the phone the tissues are. More on cell phones soon…

The body’s main pathway to protect from decay

We have a system in the body that naturally cleans thug bugs out of the tiny tubes in each of our teeth. This system is the primary means our bodies have to maintain a cavity-free mouth. It’s called ‘Dentinal Fluid Transport’ and it was first researched by Dr. Ralph Steinman.

How Dentinal Fluid Transport Works

Dr. Steinman discovered that this system the body has to flush thug bugs from within the teeth is controlled by the hypothalamus, a part of our brain that sits right between our ears. Further, Steinman uncovered that the hypothalamus stimulates the parotid glands to secrete their impact to cause the dentinal fluid system to flow the health-giving way.

However, the bad news is this system can go haywire and in fact reverse which causes the flow of dentinal fluid to suck like straw from the mouth into the inner portions of our teeth (talk about a free ride for thug bugs INTO our teeth!).

It turns out that the parotid gland, as well as the main duct from the parotid gland, that delivers its secretions to support healthy dentinal fluid transport is located right under our cell phone.

So, while there may be risks to brain health (including the hypothalamus) from cell phones, given that distance plays a big role in how much risk exists for certain body tissue, we think the parotid gland is taking a beating and is not getting its fair attention on the issue.

Solutions to support healthy parotid glands

Like we mentioned above, distance is crucial. The further away we can get from the cell phone the better. Here are a few ideas to help.

1.      Use the speakerphone

Yeah, it may be inconvenient at times, but I’d much rather take the extra step and have the phone several inches from my head than literally laying right on top of the system that allows me to live a cavity-free life.

2.      Look into electromagnetic frequency redirectors

We have a Pong on our cell phone. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know. So, I tend to have it there (the placebo effect of having it there gives me a bit more comfort at least) and still use the speakerphone function.

3.      Use a headset

Call us old school, but we are not fans of Bluetooth technology that allows a person to keep those very convenient devices in their ears. Bluetooth technology emits radiation too and I don’t need more radiation into my brain by inserting a transmitter into my ear. If it works for you, great. I’ll stick with my wired headset or the speakerphone.

The ancient solution to a modern problem…

Like many of you know, our background is in the Chinese longevity arts (think tai chi). Our relationship began while studying these arts back in 1985 (oops, that dates us a bit I think).

What should you do if you despise flossing?

We’ve been talking a lot recently about the importance of flossing, not only for our oral health but for whole-body health as well. We also recently discussed a detailed analysis of what are the best flosses on the market as well as why we are not fans of flosser picks.

However, there are some circumstances where flossing may not be the best option for you.

So, to determine if flossing is right for you, let’s first do a quick review of why flossing is such a helpful part of the path to optimal oral health.

The microorganisms implicated with gum disease, what we commonly call ‘thug bugs’ are opportunistic. Essentially, the thug bugs break down the structure of the mouth (gum tissue and underlying bone tissue).

The reason we say thug bugs are opportunistic is that they can and do live in the mouths of people who don’t show signs of gum disease, however, their numbers are not sufficient to do damage. Thug bugs are only troubling when the host immune system (that’s us) is diminished sufficiently that the thug bugs can ramp up their numbers and colonize the gum line.

Fundamentally, it’s the job of our immune systems to keep the thug bugs in check and maintain a high enough expression of our immunity to keep the thug bugs from colonizing our mouths. (If you want to learn more about the foundational role that our immune system plays in helping us get out of harm’s way from gum disease and tooth decay as well as many other ‘non-mouth’ ailments, check out our free video tutorial series, the 5 steps to a healthy mouth.)

With the importance of immune response in place, there is much we can do ‘in the mouth’ to help reduce the risk of thug bugs colonizing our gum lines.

Dr. CC Bass established 100 years ago that the ‘in the mouth’ approach to stopping thug bugs’ is to disrupt and disorganize the bad bug’s effort to organize and colonize the gum line.

As an important side note, this is why calculus/tartar is so detrimental… Over time, thug bugs build calculus up as a protective cover to keep us from being able to disrupt and disorganize their health undermining efforts so they can destroy the health of the whole body without being ‘bothered’ by us.

Ok, so far we’ve established that the vital expression of the immune response is fundamental. We’ve also established that the way to help stop thug bugs in the mouth is to disrupt and disorganize them regularly.

Flossing is so helpful because it easily disrupts and disorganizes thug bugs.

Flossing is an easy way to regularly disrupt and disorganize thug bugs along AND under the gum line.

Where mouthwash only gets 1 mm under the gum line and a toothbrush only gets 2mm, floss provides the ability to easily disrupt thug bugs up to 4mm under the gum line. And if we apply the strategies we teach called conscious flossing, we add even more benefit to this easy oral hygiene strategy.

 So, when is flossing not the best strategy?

There are three main times that flossing may not be your best option to disrupt and disorganize thug bugs. The problem with flossing is it requires quite a bit of manual dexterity to floss effectively.

The last thing any of us wants to occur is for us to think we are doing good for the body (in this case by flossing) but not realize that the job we commonly do isn’t achieving the results we seek.

Two situations where the ability to manually perform flossing well are both when the person may not have the manual dexterity to floss effectively. After all, flossing does require a lot of detailed application of hand skills. The third situation is in the case of braces.

Who should consider other methods than flossing…

  1.     Physically handicapped or impaired person:

If we don’t have the manual coordination or control to be able to have steady hands and perform flossing effectively, using floss probably isn’t in our best interest as we could cause more harm than good.

  1.     Young children:

Yes, we want to teach our kids how to floss well. However, we also don’t want them developing the false understanding that the flossing they do when they are 3 is ‘enough’ to perform the optimal flossing technique.

Perhaps try allowing any youngsters near you to practice while you floss so they can develop the habit. However, we like the following strategy for kids and those challenged with physical limitations.

  1.     Anyone with braces:

Yeah, you can floss with braces, but if you think flossing, in general, is tedious, just imagine having to work the floss between the teeth while having metal all over the place.

The Solution to Not Flossing

The literature showing the power to disrupt and disorganize thug bugs via a flow of water has been proven over and over again for decades. While the proper term for these devices is an oral irrigator, most of us call them by their common brand names, Waterpik or Hydrofloss.

An oral irrigator is a wonderful solution for physically impaired people and young kids as well as the person with braces. We consider habitual oral irrigation to be a super awesome idea for any child. It’s fun, doesn’t require lots of dexterity, and is very, very helpful.

One word of caution, however…

Every oral irrigator we’ve tried over the years allows for the user to set the water pressure WAY too high for our comfort or for our health for that matter. The problem goes like this…

~ We find out about thug bugs and get kind of freaked out that we have a microscopic war zone in our mouths.

~ We hear that using a Waterpik will help to disrupt and disorganize the thug bugs.

~ So (here’s the fatal assumption) we figure that using the Waterpik on high pressure will be even better to blast the thug bugs from our gum pockets.

It’s not. It’s downright unhealthy for our whole bodies if we use Waterpiks in a high-pressure setting. If we use oral irrigators on a high setting we run the risk of actually pushing the thug bugs INTO our bloodstream (bad news) causing what is known as bacteremia.

We are trying to disrupt tiny bacterial colonies, not pressure wash grime off our driveways. 

So, the solution is to keep the setting on LOW. If your dial has a 1-10 scale, please no higher than a 3 or 4.

“What if I don’t have an oral irrigator?”

You can do quite a bit of good with the simple technique of vigorously swishing water in your mouth. The key here is vigor. I mean, give your neck, throat, jaw, and face muscles a workout for 30 seconds vigorously swishing water around your mouth. 

Even better than water would be to swish your saliva around your mouth! That way, you are also providing your teeth an excellent ‘REmineralizing bath’ with all the minerals naturally in saliva to repair any surface enamel loss. 

In the end, whatever strategies you choose to apply to disrupt and disorganize thug bugs in your mouth, do them regularly. The little time it takes for some well-chosen oral hygiene strategies not only helps us have fresher breath and a brighter smile but supports our whole system immune response as well.

Electric vs manual brushing, which is better?

Electric vs manual brushing, which is better?

We are honored to have been asked to contribute to an expert roundup regarding whether electric or manual toothbrushes are better for maintaining oral health.

In our opinion, the question, ‘which is better, electric or manual brushes?’ is a little too narrow, so it’s missing some important considerations. Let’s expand this a bit and give it the attention it deserves.

As we consider the reasons why brushing is so important, we see several tooth-brushing-related questions that could be addressed, including:

  • What is the best method to reduce the plaque (biofilm) which is implicated with tooth decay? Is electric or manual brushing more helpful for this application?
  • If electric is superior, which brand/style of brush performs the best?
  • If the manual is the way to go, which brand/style/brushing technique performs the best (and why)?
  • Where is the research that shows this benefit?
  • What do clinicians report when it comes to electric or manual brushing and their relative effectiveness at reducing plaque?
  • Since the foods that we consume on a regular basis can influence the plaque in our mouths when clinicians found the plaque, did they take the patient’s diet into consideration?
  • What about brushing to reduce gum disease–is electric brushing or manual brushing more helpful for this application?

I’m sure each of us can easily add some additional related questions to this list.

(For full disclosure, we are not medical or dental professionals. We are self-educated, and we draw from our own personal experiences as well as our experience creating a global brand that helps people navigate to greater oral health.)

With all of this on the table, let’s jump into the most important aspect to consider when it comes to the electric vs. manual brushing issue…

HOW you brush is more important than WHAT you brush with.

In other words, it is somewhat important to consider what tool you’re using to brush your teeth. However, if your goal is to navigate to greater oral health, then being mindful of how you brush is even more important.

How much conscious attention are you applying when brushing? 

 We feel that our level of awareness/attention while brushing is a much more critical factor than whether we’re using a manual brush, electric brush, brushing stick (miswak), etc.

After all, any tool we use in the mouth can help or harm depending on how we’re using it. Are we brushing gently and consciously, or are we quickly and mindlessly scrubbing away just to “get it done” prior to rushing out the door?

Any tool is only as useful as the amount of skill and attention with which we use it.

Our attention is one of the most precious resources we have. We’ve found that the best way for us to get the most benefit out of an activity is to choose to give our attention to one task at a time.

This also applies to our efforts to support our mouths (and bodies, too).

If we use conscious awareness while brushing, we can more effectively navigate to greater oral health. You see, consistent, gentle, and conscious brushing efforts help reduce plaque accumulation, disrupt ‘thug bugs’, and gently stimulate gum tissue.

However, if we go about the twice-daily brushing habit with the same unconscious, overly vigorous technique that we used when we first learned how to brush our teeth as toddlers, then over the years we may end up with receding gums and reduced enamel on our teeth.

Yup, repeatedly brushing in a rough, unconscious way is a common contributing factor in gum recession and enamel etching.

So, before we jump into considering what tools to use, we must first bring more conscious attention to our brushing.

The goal here is to get into the habit of brushing gently, thoroughly, and mindfully. We definitely want to avoid the temptation to take a mental vacation while scrubbing away.

For a deeper dive on brushing strategies, feel free to check out our articles, “How To Brush Your Teeth To Reduce Gum Disease” and “How to avoid 3 common tooth brushing mistakes that can damage your teeth and gums“.

Action step:

Here’s an exercise that anyone can do to bring more attention to their oral hygiene routine. It’s really simple: have a date with your mouth!

What we mean is actually sit down somewhere comfortable and explore gently cleaning your teeth without a time limitation. After all, whoever said 2 minutes was the golden rule for brushing your teeth anyway?

Additionally, there are a lot of common questions about, “How long should I brush my teeth?”

To do this exercise, gently brush until you can sweep your tongue over all the surfaces of your teeth and find no plaque.

Some areas will require a little more support than others. It may take a few times of stopping, feeling around with your tongue, and then going back over it until you feel zero plaque.

The areas behind the back molars and behind the lower front teeth tend to be particularly challenging. Here’s an article that explains more on how to remove plaque from lower front teeth.

Remember, bring conscious awareness to the task. 

We aren’t scrubbing away to get it done as quickly as we can (as over the years, this can lead to issues like receding gums).

We are taking our time, gently brushing a little, feeling for more plaque, and gently brushing more where needed.

The first time you try this, we suggest you do so with no paste; just use a moistened brush so that your tongue can really feel what’s going on.

If you want to take your oral health to the next level, here is an exercise that we consider to be the first step to dental self-empowerment. This simple exercise is super helpful for anyone who wants to make massive positive changes in their oral health.

Wrapping up…

So, the next time you’re brushing, notice how you’re doing it. Are you gently yet thoroughly cleaning your teeth or are you mindlessly scrubbing away?

There may be life in your old toothbrush yet: 10 amazing uses for your old toothbrush

There may be life in your old toothbrush yet: 10 amazing uses for your old toothbrush
How many toothbrushes do you think you have thrown away during your life? We are advised to change our toothbrush every three months, so in theory by the time somebody is 30 they will have already binned around 120 toothbrushes. Research shows that 80% of us choose to repurpose our toothbrushes, so here are the 10 best life hacks for your toothbrush which could save you valuable time and money and your environment. 1. Nail brush magic – Admit it, removing that stubborn dirt from beneath our nails can be difficult and even tedious. Use your old toothbrush to remove it in seconds! One person even told us they keep one in their handbag just in case they need to brush up on the go. 2. Wheelie good – A surprising number of people told us they use their old toothbrushes to clean the chain on their bicycle. It is the perfect size to get into those little places. 3. Back to the bathroom – Some toothbrushes are never destined to leave the bathroom. By far the most popular use of an old toothbrush is to help clean those hard-to-reach cracks and crannies in the bathroom, and it certainly comes in handy for scrubbing the grout between the tiles. 4. Putting the sparkle back – An old toothbrush is a perfect tool to give your jewelry back its shine and sparkle, giving you back your brilliant bling! 5. Getting fishy – This may not have been one of the most popular but was one of the more unusual uses. A few people told us they use an old toothbrush to clean ornaments in their fish tank, as they need a clean home too! 6. Paws for thought – One from the foundation team here, we think this may just be tickly torture but apparently, a toothbrush is perfect for cleaning a dog’s nails and paws. 7. Model behavior – For you modeling experts out there, and we’re talking more clay than Kate Moss, an old toothbrush is ideal to create texture on your creations. 8. Exfoliate away – To some of the male members of our office, this one surprised us as to how widely known it was. Many people use a toothbrush to exfoliate their lips when they are chapped. How somebody finds out this is an effective beauty tip is a different question! 9. Hair today – One for the home hairdressers, a toothbrush is perfect for picking out your highlights, so if you’re in the salon and see a toothbrush on the counter don’t be alarmed. 10. CRUMBS! Take a close look at your computer keyboard. Did you know that your keyboard has been proven to harbor more harmful bacteria than a toilet seat? A toothbrush is perfect for cleaning out all those little nasties. Going out for lunch might be a good idea too. It is important to remember to change your toothbrush, or head on your electric toothbrush, every three months to help stop the spread of bacteria and to ensure you are brushing your teeth effectively. Be sure that before the next time you go to throw one away, you think about how else you can put it to use around the house – and let us know if you find any usual use for your old toothbrush.

Oral health habits for life: five out and five in

Oral health habits for life: five out and five in
If you think about your health, no matter whether you talk about your oral health, your diet, or general fitness, it does all come down to habitual behavior, whether good or bad. Many people out there might have bad habits but perhaps aren’t aware that they could have an impact on their oral health. So, for the Oral Health Foundation, I’ve compiled a list of the top five bad habits that you need to kick and five habits to replace them with. Don’t snack all day! This is a habit that a lot of us are guilty of. You’re busy all day, running around like a mad person trying to get all your errands for the day done, and instead of sitting down and having a few proper meals each day, you end up having loads of snacks. I’d bet they aren’t all healthy either! Anything with sugar in it like biscuits or sweets can cause tooth decay, even more so if it’s habitual and you do it most days. Generally, it’s much better for your oral health and general health if you eat three meals a day instead of snacking but if you’re desperate for a quick bite between mealtimes, then try to stick to the savory side. Cheese, raw vegetables, and breadsticks are just a few examples! And snack no more than twice a day. Do chew sugar-free gum This one’s for you serial snackers out there. Chewing sugar-free gum can be a great way of keeping your mouth busy and keeping your mind off of harmful snacks that can wreak havoc on your teeth. In addition, after you’ve eaten a meal, sugar-free gum can reduce the acid attack which follows and help your teeth remineralize. It helps the mouth produce more saliva, which, is the mouth’s natural defense against acid. So, keep some around at your desk, in your car, or your bag and chew between meal times and take care of your oral health while you’re on the go. Don’t drink fizzy drinks Believe it or not, this is a habit that can have a detrimental effect on your oral health for two big reasons. Not only can they cause tooth erosion, because of their acidity, but they often also contain heaps of sugar, which is known to cause decay. Even if you just have one bottle or one can a day, it can do huge damage. It takes about an hour for your teeth to remineralize and recover after coming into contact with acid and sugar, no matter how little or long the contact time is. So, think about sipping one bottle of fizzy drink throughout a working day. Your teeth would never get a break! A habit to ditch for sure! Do drink water Plain and simple – water is king. Not only do our bodies need water to work properly and avoid dehydration but it is also the best choice of drink you can have when it comes to your teeth. Water isn’t acidic. Water isn’t sugary. Water isn’t harmful to your teeth in any way. So, try to go for a drink of water especially if you like to have something to sip on throughout the day. Don’t rinse your mouth out after you spit This is perhaps one of the less obvious ones. It’s not a case that you harm your teeth by rinsing them out with water after brushing. It’s more that you’re taking away something that could make them stronger. Fluoride can be a great help to your dental health because it strengthens the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay. It’s a natural mineral and is found in many foods and water supplies but because of how good it is for your teeth, it’s also in many kinds of toothpaste. But when you rinse your mouth out after brushing you wash away the fluoride that could be giving protection to your teeth long after you’ve finished brushing. Ditch the rinse and let the fluoride work – it’s dental magic! Do clean in between your teeth Did you know that your toothbrush can only clean around 60% of your teeth’ surfaces? This is because toothbrushes aren’t currently equipped to clean the spaces in-between teeth. They simply cannot reach. And guess where most tooth decay and gum disease begin… Whether you prefer to use floss or interdental brushes, it’s so important to make sure you don’t neglect those tight spaces between your teeth. At least once a day, try and make cleaning those spaces routine. Don’t brush straight after eating Now I know that I’m not the only one that’s been guilty of this in the past! Brushing straight after you’ve eaten or even drunk something. While it might make sense to do it, especially if you’re in a rush to go to bed, it’s not something you should be doing at all. The reason being is when you eat or drink something, especially if it’s acidic or sugary, it weakens the top surface of your teeth (enamel). Brushing straight away can cause particles of enamel to be brushed away, which after time can leave your teeth sensitive and painful. You’ve got to wait that hour for your teeth to remineralize before you take a brush to them. Do be Mouth-aware Bit of a solemn one here but still very important. A lot of us try to ignore some problems when they arise and hope they go away but your mouth is most certainly an area you should not be taking any risks with. Mouth cancer is a potentially deadly disease that can affect any one of us. The key to surviving is early detection and diagnosis. Any unusual changes you spot in or around your mouth whether it be ulcers that don’t heal, white or red patches, a lump, or a bump should prompt you to visit a dentist or doctor as soon as possible. If in doubt, get checked out! Be proactive and make an appointment with your dentist or doctor. Don’t use your mouth to open things This one needs a little explanation. Whether it’s a bottle, a packet, or a tough nut, the bottom line is, your teeth are not tools! The same goes for chewing pens, pencils, or even fingernails. All these things have the potential to weaken, chip, or even crack your teeth. When you’re sitting in the dental chair about to fork out hundreds for treatment, you’ll wish you just used the bottle opener for the purpose you bought it for! Do attend your appointments! Last but by no means least. Your dental team will be able to tell you how often you should be visiting and it’s likely to vary from person to person. For some, it may be once every three months. Others, once every six or even twelve or eighteen. The important thing is to make sure you visit regularly, as often as they recommend, and not just when you have a problem that needs fixing. Dentists may also be able to spot problems early and tackle them before they become serious issues. Not to mention that as part of every check-up your dentist will carry out a visual examination on you to look for the early signs of mouth cancer. Put simply, a trip to the dentist could save your life.

Medications and Oral Health

Medications and Oral Health
Many medications—both those prescribed by your doctor and the ones you buy on your own—affect your oral health. A common side effect of medications is dry mouth. Saliva helps keep food from collecting around your teeth and neutralizes the acids produced by plaque. These acids have the potential to harm the hard surfaces of your teeth. A dry mouth increases your risk for tooth decay. Your soft oral tissues—gums, cheek lining, tongue—can be affected by medications as well. For example, people with breathing problems often use inhalers. Inhaling medication through your mouth can cause a fungal infection called oral candidiasis. Sometimes called thrush, this infection appears as white spots in your mouth and can be painful. Rinsing your mouth after using your inhaler may prevent this infection. Cancer treatments might also have an impact on dental health. If at all feasible, consult with your dentist before initiating therapy. The dentist can ensure that your mouth is healthy and, if necessary, can prescribe treatments to help you maintain good oral health. Your dentist also is interested in the medications you are taking because many can affect your dental treatments. Your dentist may want to speak with your physician when planning your treatment. Rare but serious jaw problems also can occur in people who’ve received bone-strengthening drugs to treat cancer and, to a lesser extent, osteoporosis. These are just a few instances of how medications might have an impact on your dental health. Your dentist must be aware of any medications you are taking in order to give you the finest dental treatment possible. Tell your dentist about your medication use and your overall health, especially if you have had any recent illnesses or have any chronic conditions. Provide a health history including both prescription and over-the-counter products. Always let your dentist know when there are changes in your health or medication use. Be sure to talk with your dentist about how to properly secure and dispose of any unused, unwanted, or expired medications, especially if there are any children in the household. Also, take the time to talk with your children about the dangers of using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.