The Mouth-Body Connection: Links Between Oral Hygiene and Whole Body Health

The Mouth-Body Connection: Links Between Oral Hygiene and Whole Body Health

We all know the phrase, “mind-body connection,” but what about “mouth-body connection?” Does what goes on in the mouth affect the rest of the body, and vice versa? More and more research has been conducted to determine the link between oral hygiene and the health of the body, much of which has focused on systemic issues caused by gum disease.

When we fail to look after our oral hygiene, we put ourselves at risk of developing something called periodontitis (gum disease), a bacterial infection in the mouth. Gum disease causes gums to bleed, which allows the bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream. Read on to learn more about the systemic diseases and health complications linked to this bacteria in the blood!

Cardiovascular Disease | As bacteria from the mouth travels through the body via the bloodstream, it can affect the blood vessels in negative ways. The bacteria can cause arteries to create plaque and harden, something called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis causes issues with blood flow and can go so far as to block the heart, leading to a heart attack.

Stroke | As the blood vessels continue to respond negatively to bacteria from the mouth, and incur the damage caused by atherosclerosis, arteries in the brain can begin to weaken and blood clots can begin to form. Both of these things are precursors to a stroke. The bacteria can also cause hypertension, another disease that weakens the arteries, which can lead to a stroke.

Endocarditis | Repeat exposure of the inner linings of the heart, the chambers and the valves, to bacteria from the mouth, can create growth pockets of bacteria as they attach to these tissues and cause them to become inflamed. This inflammation of the heart tissue is called endocarditis and can be fatal.

Respiratory Infection | Bacteria from the mouth can enter the lungs through breathing. This can lead to respiratory infections including pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The bacteria can worsen existing conditions.

Diabetes | Gum disease can complicate diabetes as bacteria from the mouth weakens the body’s ability to use insulin and convert sugar in the blood to energy. This, in turn, leads to higher than normal blood sugar levels and increases in blood pressure.

Kidney Disease | The bacteria from gum disease weaken the immune system, increasing the likelihood of infection. People who have poor oral hygiene are more likely to have kidney disease.

Osteoporosis | Gum disease contributes to the loss of bone tissue in the mouth, and can contribute to bone loss throughout the body, including the hips, back, and wrists.

Rheumatoid Arthritis | As previously mentioned, the bacteria from gum disease cause inflammation in the body. If someone already suffers from the inflammatory autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, their pain can worsen with the addition of gum disease.

Dementia & Alzheimer’s | Bacteria in the blood affects the brain, too. When the nerve cells in the brain are repeatedly exposed to the bacteria, they can die, leading to the kind of memory loss present in dementia and Alzheimer’s. The effects can go both ways. Learn more in our blog How Oral Health Impacts Mental Health (and vice versa!).

Pregnancy Complications | Women who have gum disease have an increased risk of complications for the birth of their child, including premature birth, a low birth weight, and infection in their newborn. This is due to bacteria in the blood traveling to the developing infant.

Infertility | It can take longer for women with poor oral hygiene to get pregnant than those who have healthy mouths.

Erectile Dysfunction | As mentioned, bacteria from the mouth causes blood vessels to become inflamed, blocking blood flow to all parts of the body.

Cancer | There are links between poor oral hygiene and increased risks for blood cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, and oropharyngeal cancer.

Your mouth is the gateway to your body. Take better care of your overall health and avoid complications by respecting your “mouth-body” connection and exercising proper oral hygiene! If you would like to learn more about how to keep your whole body healthy starting with your mouth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Owen Mandanas! Dr. Mandanas is an integrative dentist who takes a holistic approach to healthcare.

Foods That Naturally Strengthen Children's Teeth

7 Foods That Naturally Strengthen Your Child’s Teeth

Many dentists are quick to talk about the foods that we should avoid feeding our children if we want them to have healthy teeth. We are given lists of “no-no foods” to post on our fridge doors, including the likes of candy, soda, sugar, etc. These lists are helpful, but what if we want to take a more proactive approach? What are the foods that naturally promote healthy teeth in our children? Check out our list of 7 foods that do just that!

1. Water

Okay, water is a drink, not a food, but it is a drink that works wonders when it comes to naturally strengthening your child’s teeth! Water is the primary ingredient in saliva, which contains calcium and phosphorous. Both of these minerals are used by the body to rebuild enamel and teeth-supporting bone structures. Saliva is also a natural rinsing agent, loosening plaque and hydrating gums. Finally, saliva increases the number of natural, bacteria-fighting antibodies in the mouth and neutralizes damage-causing acid. Increase your child’s water intake to increase saliva production and reap these benefits for their teeth!

2. Raw, High-Fiber Veggies

Crunchy and stringy veggies naturally scrub plaque from teeth when chewed. Next time your child is looking for a quick snack, give them some celery or carrot sticks, broccoli or cauliflower, green beans or snap peas!

3. Protein/Mineral-Rich Foods

Foods that are high in vitamins A, C and D, calcium and phosphorous are good for your child’s teeth. Vitamins A and C fight gingivitis-causing bacteria. Vitamin D helps the body use calcium and phosphorous which are building blocks for healthy teeth. Calcium also raises the pH level in your child’s mouth, reducing acid, which eats away at your child’s enamel. Foods that contain these minerals include protein-rich beef, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu and beans as well as potatoes, spinach, other leafy greens and whole grains. Next time you are making dinner for your child, look for recipes that contain these natural ingredients!

4. Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds are also vitamin and mineral rich, including vitamin D and calcium. They also contain natural fats and oils that coat your child’s teeth, shielding them against bacteria and strengthening their enamel, making them resistant to cavities. Pack trail mix for your child wherever you go to take advantage of the teeth-strengthening power of nuts and seeds!

5. Vitamin C-Rich Foods

Vitamin C fights the bacteria in the mouth that convert sugar to damage-causing acid. Vitamin C-rich foods include oranges, limes, kiwis, strawberries, papaya, cantaloupe, peppers, tomatoes and sweet potatoes to name a few. Many of these foods are also acid-rich, so exercise caution and choose lower-acidity vitamin C-rich foods for your child.

6. Dairy Products

Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are high in calcium, vitamin D and phosphorous. As we have already learned, these vitamins and minerals strengthen your child’s teeth and raise the pH level in their mouth, lowering acid levels and protecting their enamel. Dairy products also promote saliva production!

7. Sugarless Gum

Gum is typically not recommended by dentists because of its high sugar content, but sugarless gum is different! Not only does sugarless gum stimulate saliva production and naturally scrub your child’s teeth like veggies do, but many brands of sugarless gum contain a natural sweetener called Xylitol. This natural sweetener fights tooth decay-causing bacteria in your child’s mouth.

Incorporate these 7 foods in your child’s diet to strengthen their teeth! If you would like to talk to a dentist about more ways to naturally promote healthy teeth in your children, contact Dr. Owen Mandanas. Dr. Mandanas is an integrative dentist who will look at the whole picture of your child’s health to better take care of their mouth.

Natural Remedies for Dry Sockets

Natural Remedies for Dry Sockets

Two days after your tooth extraction, you begin to experience excruciating, throbbing pain. Perhaps it extends to the ear and the eye on the extraction side of your face. Bad news. You probably have a dry socket.

Dry sockets occur when a blood clot either does not form after a tooth extraction or is lost. When this happens, the jawbone and nerves that were protected by the blood clot become exposed, causing significant pain and delayed healing. Good news. There are natural remedies for dry sockets that can relieve your pain within minutes to hours.

Clove Oil – Clove oil is used by dentists in so many applications that the smell of clove oil is often what patients identify as the smell of a dental office. Why is clove oil used so frequently in the dental field? Because it has antiseptic properties that fight bacteria in the mouth. These properties can be harnessed to treat a dry socket. Simply rinse the socket gently with warm salt water to clean it then apply a clove oil dressing, made by rolling a piece of cotton or gauze into a ball and adding a drop of clove oil. The ball should be small enough to fit in the socket without compacting but big enough to prevent food from entering it. Replace the ball every 24 hours until the pain is relieved. This process can take up to 5 days, but some relief can be expected within minutes to an hour.

Salt Water – Stir 1/2 teaspoon of salt into an 8 oz glass of warm water until the salt dissolves. Warm water can reduce swelling while salt can prevent infection. It is good to rinse gently with this solution 24 hours after a tooth extraction to prevent dry sockets. If you already have dry sockets, rinse gently with the solution 2-3 times per day to see results.

Cold Compress – A cold compress can be made using an ice pack purchased from the store, ice cubes and a towel, or a towel soaked in cold water. What is important is that the cold object is applied to the wounded area with pressure. Hold the compress to the side of the face that is affected for 15 minutes, 4-5 times per day to reduce swelling.

Honey – Honey is a natural antibacterial. Some studies report that honey can sterilize dry sockets within 3-6 days. Make a honey dressing in the same way that you would make a clove oil dressing, only by dipping the cotton or gauze ball into the honey with a pair of tweezers.

Black Tea – Black tea is a natural antibiotic, capable of reducing pain and swelling. Place a black tea bag in hot water as you would to make tea. Once the tea is sufficiently brewed, remove the tea bag and let it cool. Once cool, place the tea bag on the dry socket and hold it there for 5-10 minutes. Afterward, use the tea you made to rinse your mouth.

Apple Cider Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, preventing infections. To make an apple cider vinegar dressing, dip a cotton ball in the vinegar and place it on the dry socket, holding it there for 10 minutes, 2 times per day.

Garlic – As unpleasant as it may sound, garlic is another natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory, good for treating dry sockets. Make a paste using garlic cloves and a little salt. Apply the paste to the socket for 30 minutes before removing and rinsing with warm water.

Turmeric – Turmeric is a natural pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric with a little water to make a paste and apply it to the dry socket. After 20 minutes, rinse the area with warm water. Do this 2-3 times per day.

Valerian Root – Valerian root is capable of alleviating the sensitivity of the nervous system. Make a tea by placing a piece of the root in boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Sip the tea 2 times per day.

Tea Tree Oil – Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic that can heal dry sockets. Dip a cotton swab in water then place 1-2 drops of tea tree oil on it. Press this against the dry socket for 5 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Do this 2-3 times per day.

Now that you know some of the natural remedies for dry sockets, which will you choose? For more natural ways to take care of your teeth after dry sockets, read Natural Ways to Improve Teeth Health.