I had to give up my membership. Up until a few years ago I was a member of the “Perfect Teeth Club,” but now I have one porcelain filling. Growing up, my parents made sure I brushed twice a day, flossed every night, and went to the dentist every 6 months like you’re supposed to. And I had over 2 years of braces and another 2 of a retainer.
After college, I relaxed on the dental hygiene bit and skipped dental appointments for about 7 years. When I finally returned, I had some slight gum deterioration and the one cavity. Since then, I made some lifestyle changes that radically changed my oral health.
Here’s what I did:
1. I went off of processed grains. Especially wheat. Wheat flour (white flour or whole wheat flour) is highly acidic and glutinous. It deposits gluten – kind of like glue – on your teeth, and it can turn into tartar. This tartar plaque attracts the kind of bacteria which lead to dental caries (cavities).
Foods that cause inflammation in general – sugars, sugary drinks, acidic drinks with food dyes and artificial ingredients, processed grains and cereals – are best avoided at least 90% of the time. You truly are what you eat. I can look at someone and tell right away if they do their grocery shopping at the corner Mini-Mart or at the health food store.
No one’s perfect in the food and diet department and there is no such thing as the “one perfect diet.” Our dietary needs evolve over time, and there are always temptations or times when our food choices are limited. But, seriously, stick with water or herbal tea for drinking; skip the sugars (all sources); and focus your diet on healthy proteins and vegetables 90% of the time and you’ll be fine.
2. I relaxed my jaw. In addition to the cavity, the dentist found evidence of jaw clenching, which was wearing down my teeth and contributing to the gum problems. I actually wasn’t aware that I was clenching my jaw until she mentioned it. I declined the $500 bite guard with the intention that I was first going to consciously relax my jaw.
I noticed that I had almost continual tension there, so I took a deep breath and consciously relaxed that muscle. For me, I had most of the tightness when I made swallowing movements. I focused on exhaling through that movement and relaxing my jaw and eye muscles. Throughout the day, I had to consciously relax it again as it would tighten back up, especially if I got busy or distracted. Even doing something relaxing like watching a movie, especially a really intense one, I would have to think about relaxing my jaw. At the dentist follow-up appointments, neither the dentist nor the hygienist mentioned anything about signs of clenching.
3. I started oil-pulling. Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic medicine tradition where you swish a small amount of coconut oil in your mouth for a few minutes each day. I get a special type of oil from the health food store that has mint and other natural flavors added into it, but just plain coconut oil works fine. You can even add a few drop of essential oils – mint / frankincense / etc – for flavor. Oil pulling cleans the bacteria off your teeth. Plus it freshens your breath and whitens your teeth … naturally. I never liked the idea of whitening strips. Chemicals in my mouth to bleach my teeth? No thanks.
How about you? Do you have any particular dental concerns? Have you thought about trying a more natural approach to dental health before? What all have you tried?