Jaw pain or Facial pain

Many adults suffer from chronic jaw and facial pain. Some common symptoms include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, pain when biting, or headaches. Many things can cause facial pain, which can make it difficult to diagnose and treat. Your dentist will conduct a thorough exam, which may include X-rays, to determine the cause of the pain.

Possible causes of jaw pain or facial pain include:

  • sinus problems
  • toothache
  • infections
  • arthritis
  • injury
  • tooth grinding /Bruxism
  • periodontal disease

Sinus problems

A sinus infection (sinusitis) can cause a toothache. The pain in the upper back teeth is a fairly common symptom of sinus conditions. The sinuses are pairs of empty spaces in your skull connected to the nasal cavity. If you have sinusitis, the tissues in those spaces become inflamed, often causing pain.


Toothache occurs from inflammation of the central portion of the tooth called the pulp. The pulp contains nerve endings that are very sensitive to pain. Inflammation to the pulp or pulpitis may be caused by dental cavities, trauma, and infection. Referred pain from the jaw may cause you to have symptoms of a toothache.


Bacteria can enter the innermost part of the tooth through either a deep cavity or a chip or crack in your tooth. The resulting infection and inflammation can cause an abscess at the tip of the root. A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that’s caused by a bacterial infection.


Arthritis can affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) that opens and closes the mouth, sometimes making it painful to open and close your mouth. Different oral Infections can also occur: Bacterial infections can cause swelling around your tooth or over the jaw, severe pain, fever, and swollen nodes around your jaw


Traumatic dental injuries often occur as a result of an accident or sports injury. The majority of these injuries are minor – chipped teeth. It’s less common to dislodge your tooth or have it knocked completely out but these injuries are more severe. Treatment depends on the type, location, and severity of each injury.

Bruxism/ Tooth grinding

Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth when you’re awake (awake bruxism) or clench or grind them during sleep (sleep bruxism). Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder

Periodontal disease

Periodontitis is gum disease. It is a chronic inflammatory disease that is triggered by bacterial microorganisms and involves a severe chronic inflammation that causes the destruction of the tooth-supporting apparatus and can lead to tooth loss. It can also lead to other health problems.

Your dentist’s plan for treatment will depend on the source of your facial pain, but recommendations may include:

  • mouth protector
  • muscle relaxants
  • exercises
  • anti-inflammatory drugs
  • antibiotics
  • root canal therapy
  • periodontal treatment
  • extraction

If you suffer from jaw pain or facial pain, speak with your dentist or physician for diagnosis and treatment.


Cavities, or tooth decay

Cavities, or tooth decay, are the destruction of your tooth enamel, the hard, outer layer of your teeth. It can be a problem for children, teens, and adults. Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and over time the enamel can break down. This is when cavities can form. A cavity is a little hole in your tooth.

Cavities are more common among children, but changes that occur with aging make cavities an adult problem, too. The recession of the gums away from the teeth, combined with an increased incidence of gum disease, can expose tooth roots to plaque. Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel. They are susceptible to decay and are more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold. It’s common for people over age 50 to have tooth-root decay.

Decay around the edges, or a margin, of fillings, is also common for older adults. Because many older adults lacked fluoride and modern preventive dental care when they were growing up, they often have many dental fillings. Over the years, these fillings may weaken and tend to fracture and leak around the edges. Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices causing acid to build up which leads to decay.

You can help prevent tooth decay by following these tips:

  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean between your teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
  • Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking>
  • Check with your dentist on the use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and on the use of dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (where decay often starts) to protect them from decay.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examinations.


Root Canals Treatment That Can Save Your Tooth

If you have a severely damaged, decaying tooth or a serious tooth infection (abscess), your dentist may recommend a root canal treatment. Root canals are used to repair and save your tooth instead of removing it.

What’s Involved in Root Canal Repair?

The pulp is the soft tissue inside your tooth that contains nerves, and blood vessels and provides nourishment for your tooth. It can become infected if you have:
  • A deep cavity
  • Repeated dental procedures that disturb this tissue
  • A cracked or fractured tooth
  • Injury to the tooth (even if there’s not a visible crack or chip)
If untreated, the tissues around the root of your tooth can become infected. When this happens, you will often feel pain and swelling and an abscess may form inside the tooth and/or in the bone around the end of the root of the tooth. An infection can also put you at risk of losing your tooth completely because bacteria can damage the bone that keeps your tooth connected to your jaw.

Can I Get This Treatment Done During My Regular Check-up Visit?

Your dentist will need to schedule a follow-up appointment, or you may be referred to a dentist who specializes in the pulp and tissues surrounding the teeth. This specialist is known as an endodontist.

What Should I Expect?

A root canal treatment usually takes 1 or 2 office visits to complete. There is little to no pain because your dentist will use local anesthesia so you don’t feel the procedure. Once the procedure is complete, you should no longer feel the pain you felt before having it done. Before treatment begins, your dentist will:
  • Take X-rays to get a clear view of your tooth and the surrounding bone.
  • Numb the area around and including your tooth so you are comfortable during the treatment.
  • Put a thin sheet of latex rubber over your tooth to keep it dry, clean, and protected from viruses, bacteria, and fungus that are normally in the mouth.
During treatment, your dentist will:
  • Create an opening in the top of your tooth.
  • Remove the tooth’s nerve from inside the tooth and in the areas in the root, known as the root canal.
  • Clean inside the tooth and each root canal. Your dentist may treat the tooth with germ-killing medicine.
  • Fill the root canals with a rubber-like material to seal them against future infection.
  • Place a temporary filling on the tooth to protect it until a definitive restoration like a permanent filling or crown can be placed at the earliest opportunity.
After root canal treatment:
  • Your tooth and the area around it may feel sensitive for a few days. You can talk with your dentist about how to relieve any discomfort you may have.
  • Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics if the infection spreads. Use as directed, and follow up with your dentist if you have any problems taking it.
You will need a follow-up visit after the root canal treatment. At this visit, your dentist will remove the temporary filling on the tooth and replace it with a regular filling or a crown to protect your tooth from further damage. A metal or plastic post may also be placed in the root canal to help make sure the filling materials remain in place. This helps support a crown if you need one.

How Long Will a Root Canal Filling Last?

With proper care, your restored tooth can last a lifetime. Make it a point to brush twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste, clean between your teeth once a day, and see your dentist regularly to make sure your teeth are strong and healthy following such procedures.


The first step towards dental self-empowerment

How to know for sure that you’re heading in the right direction

Is greater oral health possible in 20 minutes?

Yes and no.

You see, while you can’t undo any ill health in the mouth in 20 minutes, you can accomplish the first (and most important) step in 20 minutes!

In this first step toward greater oral and whole being health, we have to start at the beginning.

Here is the bottom line.

If we don’t know where we are, how can we expect to get somewhere else?

Stated another way, if we don’t know our current location, how can we begin to chart a course to a new (more positive) destination (with our oral health)?

Bottom line, we have to know the current state of health of our gums and teeth before we can begin any course correction to create positive change.

It’s true that a well-trained, aware dentist can be a tremendous expert resource to support us in our own oral health. However, each of us is responsible for creating whatever health we desire.

The person looking back at you in the mirror when you brush your teeth is the MVP (most valuable person) on your journey to optimal oral health.

Here’s the most important action you can take to improve your oral health

Step one to creating greater oral health is to have an accurate understanding of where we currently are.

After all, without knowing our current location, how can we judge whether we are making gains on our health or losing ground?

So, how do we accurately assess where our oral health really is?

Surely a recent dental chart from your dentist would provide you with much of the necessary information to accurately track the progress of an oral hygiene protocol.

However, we have found that filling out a map on your own mouth provides the individual with a tremendous amount of information that empowers each of us to be able to create greater oral health in our own mouth.

There’s a vast difference between believing what a professional tells you and knowing what you know from having seen it with your own eyes.

In the oral health world, there’s simply no better way to accomplish this than looking in your own mouth…

If you want to make a massive positive change in your oral health, take 20 minutes and get to know your mouth.

Getting to know your mouth…

Here is the OraWellness Mouth Map. It is designed similarly to a dental chart.

Benefit #1… Knowing what areas in your mouth need your focused, loving care.

Here’s why… You’ll see with your own eyes the state of health of your gum tissue around each of your teeth.

  • You’ll notice if a certain area is red and swollen.
  • You’ll take note if it bleeds when you floss between certain teeth.
  • You’ll finally see the exact state of health in your own mouth.

With that ‘current location’ known, you can bring more attention and mindful care to those areas that are in distress.

Obviously, knowing where in your mouth to put your caring attention will go a LONG way toward creating positive change.

But there’s another powerful benefit of getting to know your mouth.

Benefit #2… Having a dated record of your findings

By having a date on your Mouth Map, you can, for example, decide that you’re going to practice oil pulling every day for a month to see if it will help you navigate to greater oral health.

Sure, we all believe that oil pulling daily (for example) will help.

But unless you have a dated record of what’s going on in your mouth AND look again after that 30 days of oil pulling, your belief will stay a belief and you won’t know.

However, by doing a ‘before and after’ Mouth Map, you will know that you created a positive change in your oral health.

You’ll see it with your own eyes.

That, friend, is dental self-empowerment.

Seeing with your own eyes that you created to change with your efforts empowers us in a very big way.

How to get to know your mouth…

We are going to take two passes through the mouth looking for signs of redness, swelling, spots that bleed when (gently) flossed or brushed, any tooth sensitivity, spots where the gums are receding, etc.

The first pass we will go tooth by tooth with our finger, toothbrush, or gum stimulator. We are looking to gently rub the tooth and gum surfaces while looking for any signs above. Remember to explore both the outside and inside surfaces of each tooth!

In the second pass, we are going to do the same exploration, only this time with floss to ‘look’ what’s going on between the teeth.

Step one: Download the Mouth Map and print it out.

Step two: Gather together the following: toothbrush, floss, mirror, gum stimulator (if you have one), pen, and OraWellness Mouth Map.

Step three: Start by marking today’s date in the bottom right corner. Also X out any teeth on the Mouth Map that are no longer in your mouth. (Note: teeth numbers 1,16,17 and 32 are wisdom teeth. If you had your wisdom teeth removed, X them out.

Step four: Using a toothbrush, finger, or gum stimulator, go tooth by tooth looking for redness, swelling, bleeding when probed, gum recession, or tooth sensitivity when touched. Mark it in the appropriate spot on the Mouth Map using some type of notation. (the Mouth Map gives examples)

Step five: Floss consciously. What we mean is floss and after flossing each contact, check for the following: blood on the floss, discoloration on the floss, foul smell on the floss. If any of these are present, mark it on the Mouth Map. (Note: be sure to use a fresh segment of floss for each contact so you can really see/smell anything going on at each contact.)

Congratulations! You have a first massive step toward optimal oral health!

You now have a record of what’s going on in your mouth today!

This record helps in two main ways.

First, you now know what spots in your mouth need more care and attention.

Second, you will be able to see for yourself whether your oral health protocol is helping or not over the course of the coming weeks and months.

There’s nothing quite as empowering as seeing for yourself how a spot that used to bleed when flossing no longer does. That’s taking control of your oral health! Welcome to dental self-empowerment


Aging and Dental Health

As you age, it becomes even more important to take good care of your teeth and dental health. One common misconception is that losing your teeth is inevitable. This is not true. If cared for properly, your teeth can last a lifetime.

Your mouth changes as you age. The nerves in your teeth can become smaller, making your teeth less sensitive to cavities or other problems. If you don’t get regular dental exams, this, in turn, can lead to these problems not being diagnosed until it is too late.

If you want to feel good, stay healthy, and look great throughout life, you might be surprised what a difference a healthy mouth makes.

Tips for Maintaining and Improving Your Oral Health

  • Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft bristles. You may also benefit from using an electric toothbrush.
  • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another flossing tool.
  • If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them daily. Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day. It’s best to remove them at night. 
  • Drink tap water. Since most contain fluoride, it helps prevent tooth decay no matter how old you are.
  • Quit smoking. Besides putting you at greater risk for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.
  • Visit your dentist. Visit your dentist regularly for a complete dental check-up. 

By adopting healthy oral habits at home, making smart choices about diet and lifestyle, and seeking regular dental care, you can help your teeth last a lifetime—whether you have your natural teeth, implants, or wear dentures.

Caregiving for a Disabled or Elderly Loved One  

You may have a parent, spouse, or friend who has difficulty maintaining a healthy mouth on their own. How can you help? Two things are critical:

  • Help them keep their mouth clean with reminders to brush and floss daily.
  • Make sure they get to a dentist regularly.

These steps can prevent many problems, but tasks that once seemed so simple can become very challenging. If your loved one is having difficulty with brushing and flossing, talk to a dentist or hygienist who can provide helpful tips or a different approach. Some dentists specialize in caring for the elderly and disabled. You can locate a specialist through the Special Care Dentistry Association’s referral directory. For those who wear dentures, pay close attention to their eating habits. If they’re having difficulty eating or are not eating as much as usual, denture problems could be the cause.

When you’re caring for someone who is confined to bed, they may have so many health problems that it’s easy to forget about oral health. However, it’s still very important because bacteria from the mouth can be inhaled into the lungs and cause pneumonia.


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).