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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. 

(source: familydoctor.org)

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. )

 

 

I appreciate your reading and 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.

Dr. Aletha  , sharing the HEART of health 

stethoscope with a heart

 

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7 questions about health you need to ask now

What does “health” mean to you?

Health- flux and adaptation

Let’s continue exploring the heart of health by looking at a couple of interesting books. In a previous post we considered the WHO (World Health Organization)definition of health

“a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being

and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Or you could also say

There's a Lot More to Health than Not Being Sick by Bruce Larson

“There’s a Lot More to Health than Not Being Sick”

So, what is “a lot more”? 

I’m introducing you to two medical writers who believe  health is multifaceted and not centered around the presence or absence of disease.

(Note: this post uses affiliate links to sites where you might make a purchase which will help fund this blog; your help is appreciated. )

Enjoying life to the fullest

Despite the author’s  impressive credentials, I was skeptical about a health book called “The Lucky Years”, as if health is just a matter of the luck of the draw or throw of the dice.  book cover- The LUCKY YEARS by David B. Agus, M.D.

The author is David B. Agus, M.D. , Professor of Medicine and Engineering at the University of Southern California , , author of two bestselling books and a CBS News contributor.

In The Lucky Years- How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health Dr. Agus covers some hefty topics including

  • how the human body ages
  • Innovative cancer treatments with immunotherapy , DNA sequencing, and molecular targeting
  • The use of clinical trials to study new treatments for cancer and other diseases
  • How cancers metastasize (spread)
  • Potential uses for stem cells
  • New insights into the development of antibiotic resistance
  • Proteomics- study of the body’s proteins
  • The relationship of antibodies to common viruses to onset of chronic diseases

Rather than highly technical detail he offers a broad overview of these new technologies and how they may help treat and potentially prevent the main causes of death, that is cancer and chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

He recommends patients understand and use technology to maintain and improve their health and not rely solely on their doctor to do so and to actively participate in the healthcare system.

He believes that health data will be used to prevent, detect and treat disease and to prolong life.

Large quantities of such data, organized in a secure database, will help us predict risk and recommend preventive measures, such as already done with

  • Colonoscopy to prevent deaths from colon cancer
  • Aspirin and statin use to prevent cardiac deaths
  • Management of low grade cancers conservatively, avoiding the use of surgery or chemotherapy

Health is in perpetual flux. 

I agree with Dr. Agus’ views on what health is, or rather what it is not.

“I don’t know what true health is, particularly on an individual basis.

For person A, health can be living totally free of illness and disability.

For person B, however, perhaps health means managing a condition well and enjoying life to the fullest despite some disability.

While we can certainly try to measure health in a variety of ways- weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, blood cell count, hormone levels, markers of inflammation, how you look, and how well you sleep, for example- none of those figures or generalizations will tell the whole picture.

And they won’t reveal how many years and days you might have left on this planet.”

He offers this advice –

“I encourage you to view your total health as a complex network of processes that cannot be explained by looking at any one pathway or focal point. Health is in perpetual flux.

The body is an incredible self-regulating machine. You don’t need to do much to support its health and optimal wellness.”

A constant state of healthy adaptation

Nutritionist Hailey Pomroy, author of Fast Metabolism Food Rx, recommends using food as “metabolic medicine.”  book cover- FAST METABOLISM FOOD RX BY HAYLIE POMROY

“Food integrates with your body to create health in a powerful way.”

She explains health using a formula E + M = H which means

Eating, Exercise, Environment  plus

Metabolism, metabolic pathways, Me  equals

Health, Homeostasis, Harmony

In this formula, E stands for everything we put into our bodies as well as everything around us, including people, your job, the weather.

M is what is inside of you, including your genetic makeup, and what happens when your body processes (or metabolizes) food, nutrients, toxins, medications.

“Health doesn’t always mean you are disease free, It means your body has created a homeostasis or internal balance, …is a constant state of healthy adaptation or flux.”

Considering their advice, think about what health means to you.

Use these questions to get started.

  1. Do you use any type of technology to manage your health and medical care? If so, is it helpful, or just more busy work?
  2. What is your relationship with your personal physician? Do you rely on your doctor to tell you what you should do, or recommend what you should do to stay healthy and treat ailments?
  3. Do you know what  medical conditions you are at risk for, and what you can  do to prevent them?
  4. What health measures are important to you, like blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, BMI, mammogram, and why?
  5. Are you “living life to the fullness” and if not, why not? What could you change to make that happen?
  6. How do you use food?
  7. What factors make up your E and your M? Do they add up to the Health that you want to create?

If none of these questions fit your answer, that’s ok, I want to hear your thoughts on health. Share your answers in the comments, or in a message if you prefer to remain anonymous, I will share and discuss them in a future post. Thank you.

Contact Dr. Aletha

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