Research is showing we are, indeed, what we eat. Even further, it shows the detrimental health effects of our consumption of foods laden with chemicals and growth hormones. Some of these have been associated with cancer, leukemia, obesity and heart disease.
In an effort to be a healthier nation, many adults are turning to non-GMO, organically grown, and antibiotic-free foods.
As far as dental health, most people are already aware that sugar accelerates the risk for cavities. It’s pretty alarming when you realize the bacteria formed from the presence of sugar in the mouth are potent enough to eat through tooth enamel.
Yet, in our attempt to be healthier and ‘go natural’ in what we consume, a few trends are rather concerning from a dentist‘s standpoint. I’d like to caution you about a few …
Charcoal toothpaste has become a more common offering on store shelves. Some people use it for its supposed “detoxifying” properties and for whitening teeth. Its abrasiveness may be able to remove some surface stains, however, there no evidence of its whitening potential. To boot, using it may actually damage tooth enamel. Brushing teeth with abrasive substances such as baking soda and charcoal toothpaste can damage the enamel. Additionally, charcoal particles can become embedded in cracks of tooth enamel or the edges of crowns and veneers, leaving behind dark specs.
Kombucha is a fermented tea that is rich in probiotics and prebiotics. These increase the good bacteria in the gut, improving digestion and overall health. However, when it comes to your teeth, kombucha has been described as no better than cola. On a pH scale, Kombucha is higher than white vinegar (generally 2.4 pH with kombucha in the 2.5 – 3.5 range). And, it not just tooth enamel that’s at risk. The acidic levels in kombucha lowers the pH in the mouth, increasing risks for cavities and gum disease.
Water with a squeeze of lemon or lime sounds refreshing. Certainly far healthier than soda, juice or energy drinks, drinking plain water with a little citrus is believed to be good for energy and the immune system. Some people feel it is ‘detoxifying’ as well. (It is actually the liver and kidney that filter the body’s undesirables.) While we encourage frequent water consumption to keep the mouth moist, the lemon or lime wedges you’re adding may be doing irreversible damage to your teeth. Lemon and lime are extremely acidic and able to dissolve tooth enamel. This leaves teeth vulnerable to decay and yellowing.
Oil pulling is an ancient ayurvedic practice that involves swishing coconut or olive oil in the mouth for 10-15 minutes a day. The claims are that the oil “pulls” toxins from the body. Some users have online postings claiming that oil pulling can treat gum disease and whiten teeth. Although the practice of oil pulling won’t have a negative effect on your oral health, relying on this unproven method for oral hygiene is risky. When gum tissues are tender or bleed when brushing, a dentist should be seen to evaluate for the presence of gum disease. Appropriate and prompt treatment can prevent its progression to periodontitis, which can release potent bacteria into the bloodstream. Gum disease is also the leading cause of adult tooth loss. For people who feel there are health advantages to oil pulling, it is important to continue to brush twice a day, floss daily and drink lots of water to keep the mouth moist.
Rather than grabbing candy bars or chips for a snack, people are gravitating more and more to packets of dried fruit. That’s great. Fruit and nut packets are generally healthier choices and provide more fiber and a better boost to energy. However, dried fruit is still a sugar source. Too, the sticky nature of these snacks get stuck in the pits and fissures of teeth. This means the remnants of dried fruit such as raisins or dates linger on teeth longer, providing greater risks of decay.
Wine has grown in popularity after it was touted as being good for the heart. (The findings of this research is widely debated as flawed.) However, it was recommended that consumption of about 6 ounces of red wine per day has antioxidant properties. According to a December 2017 “BBC Future” article, “wine normally is considered the ‘healthier’ option because of its antioxidants called polyphenols. Also found in fruit and vegetables, polyphenols reduce inflammation in the body, which is a factor for disease. There are ten times as many in red wine than white.” The research showed that small amounts of wine can protect against heart disease due to its anti-inflammatory properties. This is based on consuming no more than the wine contained in a champagne flute and only with a Mediterranean style meal. (https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191021-is-wine-good-for-you)
Everyone wants a healthier body. But, your oral health should never be sacrificed trying some new trend unless it’s recommended by your physician. Your teeth and gums are an integral part of your overall health and warrants a solid commitment. Research has linked oral bacteria to a number of serious (and even deadly) conditions, including some cancers, stroke, heart attacks, and arthritis.
Take steps to keep your smile healthy and stick to the tried-&-true measures for good health. Eat three balanced meals a day, limit sugar, get plenty of exercise, brush and floss, see your dentist every 6 months, and SMILE! The mere act of smiling has been shown to boost endorphins, which are the chemicals in the brain that perk up mood.