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James and I moved to Southern Utah last summer, which meant we had to get re-established with all the connections that make a new town “home.” When it came to finding new dentists, James of course, didn’t miss a beat. For as long as I’ve known him, James has gone to the dentist twice a year (probably on the exact same days each year) so big shocker here (not), he got established with a new dentist immediately. I however, being the easily-distracted-by-shiny-things gal I am, kept forgetting about it.
A few months ago, James and I were out bike riding and we stopped at a taco joint. We were sitting outside enjoying our lunch, and I noticed a shiny-new dentist office next door, Virgin River Dental. Oh yeah! I need a dentist! I quick looked up the Google reviews for Brett Davis DMD, and once I saw how glowing they were I clomped over there in my clip shoes and FINALLY made an appointment.
All my life I’ve been cavity-prone. It’s one of those not-fair things about my life because I swear to you I do everything right with taking care of my teeth. Still, whenever I get in a dentist’s chair I totally get the shaft. Sure enough, after meeting Dr. Davis that first time, he had a long list of work I needed. “Well, your gums are super healthy! But your old root canal has infection under it so that needs to be a priority. And see your 2 crowns here? You’re eventually going to need to replace those. And besides that, you have about 2,000 fillings that are severely wearing down. Oh and you have about 3,000 little cavities forming we’ll want to watch, too… But other than that, you’re looking good!” Dental insurance, oh how you’re my favorite thing right now.
Since Dr. Davis and I have been spending lots of time together lately, dental health has been on the forefront of my mind. Coincidentally, one of the newsletters I get (Harvard Health) showed up with a link to an article about the connection between gum disease and heart disease. The article went on to explain that people who have poor oral health have higher rates of cardiovascular problems.
Well isn’t that just peachy.
That got me thinking about the importance of dental health and its impact on our overall health. The idea that brushing our teeth can affect our health isn’t something I’d ever considered before, but it turns out there is lots of research linking periodontal diseases with some systemic health conditions. Besides that revelation, I realized there was so much more I didn’t know… the effects of aging, the fluoride controversy, if there’s more I should be doing to improve my oral health, yadda yadda yadda. In my quest to learn more I decided who better to take my questions to than my personal dentist?
I asked Dr. Davis if he would mind answering some questions so that I could share them here on The Fit RV, and he graciously agreed. The interview is below, but I first want to point out the most striking thing he said:
“The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body.”
He had me at “body”. Anything that messes with our bodies has the potential to mess with our health, and therefore deserves our full attention. So, I hope you’ll do your own body some good and read on. (…and then go brush your teeth!)
Big thanks to Dr. Davis for such thoughtful and interesting responses! It gave me a lot to think about, hopefully it will do the same for you. And if you have your own questions or comments, feel free to leave them down below and I’ll be sure to pass them on to Dr. Davis!
Q and A with Stef’s Dentist:
Is dental health tied to your overall health? If so in what ways? Can brushing and flossing make you live longer?
The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, so yes, it can affect our overall health. There are many studies that link oral health to things like heart disease and other health issues, and while the exact mechanics of how is unclear, I believe it is through the bloodstream. Our gums are very vascular and have a high concentration of blood vessels, which is a good thing since it makes our mouths heal quickly. However, when the health of our gums and teeth are compromised, those vessels give all the bacteria in our mouths access to the rest of the body, as does just simply swallowing. While many bacteria are harmless, the ‘red complex’ of bacteria hide in the nooks and crannies of the mouth and cause destruction of the periodontal tissue. This is why we must be diligent about keeping up on good oral hygiene and being sure we come in for regular cleanings and needed dental work. If we don’t, bacteria will continue to thrive and multiply, making us vulnerable for all sorts of issues. As for longevity, no one can tell you how long you are going to live but keeping your ENTIRE body healthy, including your mouth, can only have positive consequences.
What aspects of dental health are a natural part of the aging process (kind of like needing reading glasses as you age), and what parts can we do something about?
While enamel is very strong and resilient, it cannot repair itself once it’s worn down. So after years’ worth of wear and tear, teeth and old fillings certainly can break down. Like anything though if we take good care of our teeth they can last a long time without any issues. I’ve seen many older adults that have beautiful teeth and perfectly healthy gums.
Are some people just more prone to dental problems? Because why is it that I seem to have cavities every few years and James never does AND WE BOTH HAVE THE SAME DENTAL HYGIENE ROUTINE?!?!?
Basically no oral environment is the same, even with the same hygiene routine. There are many reasons for this, including genetic factors and how strong your enamel actually developed. Each person is exposed to different bacteria, and your body’s ability to handle that will determine the level and extent of decay. We all have different levels of salivary flow as well. If yours is low, which can happen due to certain medications or health issues, it creates an environment for cavity causing bacteria to thrive leading to a very high risk for cavities. Also, the way our teeth bite together can have a big impact on how long they last and how likely we will have problems. The teeth are designed to bite in a certain way and if our teeth are misaligned, that can result in more issues. With so many factors at play, we cannot expect the same results from any two patients no matter how similar their hygiene practices are.
What is the deal with fluoride; there seems to be some controversy over it?
Too much of anything can be bad. Take water for example. Water is essential to life and we can’t live without water, yet consuming too much can actually kill us! Fluoride, in its recommended doses, is highly beneficial to the teeth and is recommended for everyone. It mixes with the saliva and creates a substance that strengthens the enamel and helps reverse small cavities and prevent future cavities. While it is true that when very large amounts of fluoride are consumed it can cause issues, at the doses that we recommend as dental professionals, it is absolutely not harmful.
What recommendations do you have for best dental hygiene practices?
Ultimately, my product recommendations vary per patient. Everyone is different and has different needs, but here are a few general recommendations.
a) Brush 2x per day and floss once per day. The MOST important time to brush and floss is at night. If you’re going to skip a time, don’t skip night time! Throughout the day bacteria and food debris build up on our teeth. As we sleep our saliva shuts off (that’s why our mouths sometimes feel dry while we sleep and we have bad breath in the morning). The combination of built-up bacteria, food debris, and dry mouth while we sleep creates a “perfect storm” for cavities.
b) Electronic toothbrushes are better than manual. We recommend Oral-B toothbrushes to our patients because of their efficiency and effectiveness when cleaning the teeth. The rotation of the Oral-B is great especially at sweeping problematic bacteria away from the gumline. Just make sure to always use soft bristles. Medium or hard bristles will wear away the enamel. Also many of us push too hard with our toothbrush and this can damage our gums and teeth, so make sure your electric toothbrush has pressure sensors!
c)Waterpiks are a good thing. Waterpiks clean between your teeth and below the gumline to get rid of plaque that traditional dental floss leaves behind. Waterpiks can reduce gingivitis and improve gum health.
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT! I’ll be heading to the store next to buy an Oral-B, who’s with me?!
Quit neglecting your mouths, gang, healthy mouths make healthy bodies!!!
See you, and your pearly whites, on the road!!!