Category Archives: Diseases, Injuries, and Dying

a graphic about teeth and dental care

Surprising myths and truths about dental care

I seem to notice many more  television commercials for dental care products and services, and most of them follow a theme. In the past most advertisements were for toothpaste aimed at  preventing cavities. Now they seem to focus on whitening, stain removal, and straightening, and promotions for dentures and dental implants. There is a series of ads for dental clinics that promise “not to rob you” featuring skits portraying people afraid that dentists will demand huge amounts of money for dental care.

woman dentist with a patient




The myths 

I think these ads reflect  myths about dental care that many of us believe and unfortunately base our dental care behavior  on. We need to dispel these myths with some truths about oral health, which includes our teeth and mouth.

These myths include

  • Care of our teeth is mainly a cosmetic concern, affecting our appearance only.
  • Dental care is a luxury, nice but optional, not a necessity, it can be ignored.
  • Dental care is expensive and out of reach without insurance or a high income.
  • Tooth disease and loss is inevitable, so we might as well just accept it.
  • Dental care is low priority, behind food, housing, and medical care in importance.


Surprising myths and truths abut

The truths 

But the truth, based on recommendations from experts in oral and dental care, tells us differently.

  • Care of our teeth is functional- we need a healthy mouth for eating, drinking, breathing, and talking. Our mouths also help us interact with other people emotionally- frowning, smiling, kissing, singing.
  • Oral care is a basic component of health care, vitally important to overall health. I’ll say more about this later.
  • Dental care can be affordable; it’s probably more costly if neglected.
  • Loss or disease of teeth and other mouth disorders are preventable and treatable.
  • Dental and oral care is vital to overall good health, and ultimately can be cost effective.
Family of 4 sitting at a dining table.

Our mouth- eating, talking, smiling-connects us with our family and friends.

The teeth and oral cavity, the “window to general health”

The oral cavity, or simply called the mouth ,includes the teeth and gums, as well as the lips, the tongue, the palate (roof of the mouth), and the mucosa (sides of the mouth).

diagram of the mouth from the National Cancer Institute

The underside of the tongue and nearby structures (lip, tongue, salivary glands, and floor of the mouth) are identified. Alan Hoofring (Illustrator) public domain

Why  dental care improves our overall health.

Over 100 diseases and at least 500 medications can affect our teeth and mouths. Regular dental care can monitor for these effects and prevent them from progressing into tooth disease.

Our mouths contain over 500 species of bacteria and other organisms, some of which are protective and some destructive to our teeth. Good oral care can keep these in proper balance to prevent tooth and gum disease.

People with poor dental health have a higher incidence of heart attacks and stroke. Experts have not determined if this is direct cause and effect or coincidence, but believe it may be due to increased atherosclerosis (hardened arteries from cholesterol) due to the chronic inflammation of gingivitis.

Bacteria from the mouth can lead to  pneumonia in susceptible persons, like those with emphysema or those hospitalized with critical illnesses or injuries.

Diabetes, when the blood sugar is not controlled, negatively impacts periodontal health, and periodontitis makes glucose control more difficult. Periodontitis is inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth.

Poor oral health during pregnancy increases the risk for miscarriage, low birth weight, preeclampsia, and stillbirth.

 Resources for understanding different types of dental and oral disease.

Gum Disease-Also called: Periodontal disease

Tooth disorders

Paying for dental care

Dental care should not be a luxury, and can be within financial reach with some research into available options. These sites can help you discover what you may quality for.

When You Don’t Have Dental Insurance

Free/Low-Cost/Sliding Scale Dental Clinics

The importance of dental care for children

Health teeth in adults ideally starts with dental care in childhood. Jenny Silverstone, blogger at Mom Loves Best, has created this  infographic about caring for children’s teeth. I suggest you also read her in depth article about helping children have healthy teeth. 

How to care for your child's teeth

Don’t neglect adult dental care

Continuing good mouth and tooth care as an adult can help you avoid tooth loss, painful gums, or other problems. If you have any problems with your teeth or concerns about your mouth, see your doctor or dentist right away.

a doctor looking into a patient's mouth

Michael Munger, M.D., examines a patient at his medical office in Overland Park, Kan. courtesy American Academy of Family Physicians








Here are some helpful things you can do:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
  • Ask your doctor if your medicines have side effects that might damage your teeth.
  • Look inside your mouth regularly for sores that don’t heal, irritated gums, or other changes.
  • See your dentist every 6 months for regular check-ups and cleanings. 


Using a power toothbrush may keep your teeth healthier, especially if you have any difficulty using a manual brush.I use an Oral-B Rechargeable Toothbrush by Braun.

(This is an affiliate link. )



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And please follow Watercress Words for more information and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH.

Thank you for  viewing  the advertisements and using the affiliate links  that fund this blog; with your  help, we can grow, reach more people, and support worthy causes that bring health and wholeness to people around the world.

Dr. Aletha  , sharing the HEART of health 

stethoscope with a heart


an apple on top of a stack of books

Being Mortal- a book review

Being Mortal 

Medicine and What Matters in the End

by Atul Gawande, M.D. 

(This blog post features affiliate links which pays a small commission to this blog from purchases, without additional cost to you)



Dr. Atul Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts and professor at Harvard Medical School. He writes for The New Yorker and has authored three other bestselling books.

In Being Mortal, he explores the way most people now live, age and die and for the most part it’s not a pleasant prospect.

Caring for elderly people

As people age and lose independence due to frailness, illness, mental decline and poverty, they often also lose whatever is most important to them- their home, pets, hobbies, possessions. And these losses often occur to protect them from harm as they progress into assisted living centers, nursing homes and hospice.

Dr. Gawande describes how his  family in India expected  to care for their elderly relatives, which differed from what he saw happen when they immigrated to the United States. After becoming a physician, he recognized that our care of the elderly often robs them of the well-being that he sought to promote in his practice.

He wondered how it can be done differently. To find out, he interviewed people who are developing novel ways to provide care to older people, care that preserves their independence, dignity and choices while still keeping them safe and protected.

Most of us either have relatives or friends facing these decisions, or are facing them ourselves. If not now, we all will eventually. Whichever the case, this book shows

“how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life-all the way to the very end.”

woman sitting in a cemetery

photo from the collection, an affiliate link

Caring for dying people

Finally, Dr. Gawande discusses end -of -life care- that is, care when a disease has become terminal and a cure is no longer likely. Sometimes it is difficult to determine when that occurs. As he says, it is rare in medicine when there truly is “nothing more we can do”.

However, just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. Some treatments, rather  than extending life just prolong the suffering. Still it is heart wrenching for patients and families, along with their doctors, to decide that it is time to forgo treatment and instead opt for palliative care, with or without hospice.

(Palliative care focuses on symptom management and social and emotional support for patients and families.)

Dr. Gawande poignantly describes this process by sharing in detail his  father’s cancer diagnosis, treatment, progression, hospice care and death. He shows how difficult a process this can be, given that even he and his parents, all of whom are physicians, struggled to come to terms with the reality of terminal illness and the dying process. Though they were all familiar with and experienced in dealing with the medical system, they still felt unprepared to face the decisions required at the end of life. But in the end, both he and his father felt at peace with the outcome and Dr. Gawande senior did experience “a good life-all the way to the very end.”

Being Mortal is also available as a convenient low cost ebook from (Using this affiliate link supports this blog.

drawing of various electronic devices-phone, PC, tablet,

graphic from, an affiliate link 


I  also enjoyed listening to this interview with Dr. Gawande-

 Atul Gawande on Priorities, Big and Small– a podcast interview with Tyler Cowen

Other books by Dr. Gawande

Complications : A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science

In gripping accounts of true cases, surgeon Atul Gawande explores the power and the limits of medicine, offering an unflinching view from the scalpel’s edge. Complications lays bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is―uncertain, perplexing, and profoundly human.

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance 

The struggle to perform well is universal: each of us faces fatigue, limited resources, and imperfect abilities in whatever we do. But nowhere is this drive to do better more important than in medicine, where lives may be on the line with any decision.

Atul Gawande, the New York Times bestselling author of Complications, examines, in riveting accounts of medical failure and triumph, how success is achieved in this complex and risk-filled profession

The Checklist Manifesto:How to Get Things Right

Atul Gawande shows what the simple idea of the checklist reveals about the complexity of our lives and how we can deal with it.


I appreciate your sharing  this post on your social media pages.

And please follow Watercress Words for more information and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH.

Thank you for  viewing  the advertisements and using the affiliate links  that fund this blog; with your  help, we can grow, reach more people, and support worthy causes that bring health and wholeness to people around the world.

Thanks for visiting.        26952564_10213093560871954_4239554644472378905_o

Dr. Aletha