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Take a few extra minutes to brush after each meal and floss once a day, and you may not only save your teeth, you may save your life. Research shows that tooth and gum health are directly linked to the health of the body, and many diseases once thought to be irreversible may be alleviated by eliminating toxins and inflammation originating in the mouth.
Preventing gum disease (periodontitis), the leading cause of adult tooth loss, is gaining new urgency as research shows that gum disease can contribute to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The culprit, scientists believe, is bacteria from the mouth that leaks into the bloodstream.
People with periodontal disease are up to twice as likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and three times as likely to suffer a stroke. Adults with the highest levels of some oral bacteria have thicker carotid arteries, a predictor of heart attack and stroke; and people who suffer from angina and heart attacks have higher levels of certain oral bacteria. Plus, oral bacteria provoke inflammation, which can increase levels of white blood cells and C-reactive protein—high levels of both of these have been linked to heart disease.
Design Your Own Dental Care Kit
Pack a toothbrush, small bottle of rinse, and floss in a cosmetic bag or resealable plastic bag and stash in your office drawer, car, or purse so there’s no excuse to not have clean teeth and fresh breath after lunch or on the run.
Because diabetes can affect circulation, it can restrict blood flow to the gums. Diabetes also suppresses immunity, which can create the perfect setup for periodontitis. Research shows that treating periodontal disease can improve blood sugar control.
Natural Prevention & Treatment
Periodontitis has several warning signs, including gums that bleed easily; gums that are red, swollen, or tender; gums that have pulled away from the teeth; persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth; loose or separating permanent teeth; and a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
It’s a startling fact that more teeth are lost due to poor gum health than tooth decay. What can you do to prevent this problem? A conscientious oral hygiene program includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes with a soft toothbrush to remove plaque and bacteria, flossing at least once a day, rinsing with a mouthwash, and seeing your dentist every six months for a checkup and a cleaning.
“Don’t overlook the health of the tongue,” says David L. Lerner, DDS, PC, CAc, FIND, who practices holistic dentistry in Yorktown Heights,
N.Y. “Looking at the tongue gives a holographic view of the health of the body, according to Chinese medicine. To determine why a patient has dental disease, it is also important to look at the patient’s diet.”
“Prevention is the best solution,” adds Lerner. “Maintaining good nutrition will also help prevent cavities.”
Nutrition for Gum Health
Certain foods and herbs have been shown to be particularly beneficial for tooth and gum health. Here are some of the top smile savers:
Cranberries: As a tea or sugar-free juice, cranberry may help prevent cavities. Cranberry tea also makes an excellent mouth rinse.
Green tea: The powerful antioxidants in this ancient brew help reduce plaque.
Neem, rosemary, spearmint: These herbs help promote healthy gums and clean teeth.
Xylitol: This low-calorie sweetener helps stimulate saliva flow and deter cavities from forming.