What Does Preventive Oral Health Care Really Look Like?

by | Jan 10, 2024 | Biological Dentistry, Oral Health

There are lots of reasons why folks seek out a biological dental practice like ours.

Sometimes, they suspect there may be a dental component to their long-standing health issues – lingering infection in root canal teeth, for instance, or cavitations. Others may be in fine health and want to keep it that way, so seek a dentist who’s committed to providing nontoxic, biocompatible dental care.

Yet others are simply looking for more than just dentistry-as-usual. And it’s not so hard to understand why.

Consider, for instance, the results of a recent survey of dental professionals and patients. Although the respondents were all based in the UK, there’s little reason to think that the results would be radically different for Americans.

Only about one-third of dental professionals said that they always offer preventive care advice to their patients. What kind of advice did they think would be useful?

While half (50%) said advice on additional oral hygiene products and brushing techniques were key, only 2 in 5 (41%) pointed to advice on diet as preventative care and just over a third (34%) would consider advice on caring for gums to be preventative advice.

That last number is mind-blowing when you consider that even mainstream dentistry now recognizes that gum disease is linked to a wide range of other inflammatory conditions. These include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, cognitive decline, and cancer. To not offer periodontal advice is to miss a real opportunity to support whole body health.

Even when prevention is discussed, it’s often just in the most basic of terms: Brush and floss more. Eat less sugar. We all know the drill, yet oral disease rates remain high and dentists are often viewed as little more than mouth mechanics whose role is merely to diagnose and fix dental problems, not health professionals uniquely positioned to help patients improve their total health through optimal oral health.

Understood comprehensively, prevention is about far more than just protecting the teeth and gums from infection and injury. It’s about supporting whole body health, physically and energetically. Here are 7 major keys:

  1. Nutrition. This is where it all begins, and avoiding sugars is only one aspect of eating right for oral health. It also involves getting all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your teeth and gums need to stay healthy. It involves maintaining a healthy gut by eating more real food, less ultra-processed products. (How do you know if a food is ultra processed? Look at the ingredients label. If it lists ingredients you wouldn’t find in the average well-stocked home kitchen, it’s ultra-processed.)
  2. Comprehensive home hygiene. Yes, brushing and flossing – with the right technique – matter, but there’s more you can do to maintain a clean mouth and healthy oral microbiome. Use an oral irrigator to flush the periodontal pockets around each tooth. Practice oil pulling. Use interdental brushes to apply ozonated oils. Brush or scrape your tongue daily.
  3. Exercise. Studies have consistently shown that those who are physically active tend to have healthier gums than those who don’t. Exercise is well known to reduce chronic inflammation, after all, and inflammation is one of the hallmarks of gum disease.
  4. Don’t smoke, vape, or chew. If you do, kick the habit as soon as you can. Using tobacco and related products puts your teeth and gums at risk. Smoking, in fact, is the number one risk factor for periodontal disease. As the disease progresses, so does bone loss. As you lose bone, the teeth loosen in their sockets, becoming candidates for extraction – if they don’t fall out first on their own.
  5. Sleep. Some research suggests that sleep debt is second only to smoking as a risk factor for gum disease. Lack of sleep is yet another thing that can fuel chronic inflammation, after all, as does the stress that can be amplified when running up sleep debt.
  6. Stress management. Find the stress control strategies that work best for you and use them. Not only can this help reduce inflammation; it may reduce the clenching or grinding behaviors that chronic stress can aggravate. Clenching and grinding raise your risk of tooth damage, gum recession, decay, gum disease, and more.
  7. Regular dental visits. See your dentist at least twice a year for exams and cleanings – or more often, if you have active gum disease. These visits are also opportunities to talk with you about what’s working and not working with your home care so we can offer customized coaching and advice to help you improve your oral and systemic health.
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