Something to smile about

Written by Theresa Campbell

Healthy teeth and gums may provide myriad benefits.

Story: Theresa Campbell 

Open wide and say “Ahhh.”

Good oral hygiene goes a long way, and some dentists believe the mouth serves as a “window” to the rest of the body and may provide warning signs for diseases and health concerns.

In a 2016 study by the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden, it was noted: “Having gum disease increases the risk of a first heart attack by 28 percent.” Researchers believe that inflammation caused by periodontal disease may be responsible for the connection.

The American Heart Association’s response was cautious: “Although the findings indicate a strong link between gum disease and heart disease, it’s still unclear whether one actually causes the other. The two conditions have some of the same risk factors, including smoking, poor nutrition and diabetes.”

So, can diseases be detected in the mouth?

Dr. Dave Wollenschlaeger says the key word is “may.” “Dr. Dave” is an orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics practitioner who is in practice with his son, Dr. Chris Wollenschlaeger, in Leesburg. 

“There may not be absolute science directly supporting that as concrete, but there is evidence that it may,” says Dr. Dave, who does believe there is a link of bacteria getting into the bloodstream, which can cause various diseases and conditions.

“People who floss and take care of their teeth seem to fare better than those who don’t, so it’s important to floss. Good oral hygiene, getting your teeth cleaned professionally in the areas you can’t reach to keep the bacteria out of your mouth is important,” Dr. Dave says. “Even for people who have hip replacements or knee replacements or anywhere where bacteria can collect, the bacteria had to get into the system somehow into your body. Oral is one route. There is no harm and no foul by keeping your teeth clean.” 

Dr. Dave has seen an increased interest among physicians and dentists to partner together to address preventive measures for patients and guard against possible future health issues.

“Even my own family physician was checking when was the last time I got my teeth cleaned,” says Dr. Dave, who notes members of the Lake County Dental Association and Lake County Medical Association have requested speakers from each other’s group to speak about health matters of oral health and general health. 

The ‘secret sauce’ to a healthy smile

Here are some tips for avoiding the dentist’s drill.

Story: Dr. Steven Lin

When you see someone with a stunning smile, do you ever wonder how they got it? Teeth send a powerful message of your health and well-being but maintaining them can be a challenge. 

I’m going to tell you some unspoken truths about how to get healthier teeth. Not only will great oral health make you look better, it also will help you save money on dental bills. And here’s the real kicker: for life-changing health, there’s no better marker for many life-threatening conditions than your mouth.

Diseases that may first be picked up in the mouth include:

  • Heart disease.
  • Digestive disorders like irritable bowel disease.
  • Type II diabetes.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Infertility.
  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

To get a headstart going into 2020, I’m going to share with you some of the top tips I tell every one of my patients so they can have a naturally healthy smile and body.

Do’s and don’ts

Let’s start with brushing technique. As a dentist, I see some very common mistakes people make while brushing.

Brushing don’ts: 

  • Use a brush with hard bristles.
  • Grip your brush with a fist. Use your fingertips for a light touch.
  • Scrubbing too hard with an “elbow action.” Use light circular wrist motions.
  • Brush directly after a meal (wait 15 minutes).
  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash daily. 

Brushing do’s:  

Good oral hygiene is incredibly simple. Use a brush with soft bristles and proper technique. What is proper brushing technique? The modified bass technique is the way that dentists tell their patients to brush their teeth because:

  • It gets to where plaque can build up and cause problems with your teeth (under the gum line).
  • It’s gentle and won’t cause damage.
  • Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle.
  • The action is a “roll-down from the gum pocket.” Perform a wrist flick instead of an up-and-down motion (picture the bristles of the brush “scooping” the plaque out from under the gums). 
  • Roll the brush bristles down to pull plaque out of the pocket between the gums and teeth.
  • Perform this all around the mouth three to four times per tooth, inside and outside, except behind the upper and lower front teeth (known as incisors).
  • Behind the upper and lower incisors, put the brush at 90 degrees (straight up and down) and use an up-and-down motion. 

So, will brushing technique keep your teeth healthy for life? Here’s the surprising answer to this question: No. Brushing isn’t everything you can do for healthy teeth and gums. 

But there’s one key I explain to every one of my patients. When your car breaks down, there’s no use taking it to the car wash. A shiny coat of paint is fine, but we need to get under the bonnet and understand what’s wrong.

I’m going to explain some lesser-known habits for supporting healthy teeth and gums. Here are some more unconventional ways to promote healthy teeth:

  • Nasal breathing (delivers more oxygen and prevents drying of the mouth).
  • Good tongue posture (sitting up against the roof of the mouth. It’s great for your spinal posture).
  • Closed lips when not talking or eating. 
  • Tongue scraping (You get plaque buildup on your tongue, too.) 

Now let’s get to the “secret sauce” for healthy teeth. All of these factors help keep your teeth in good shape. But your teeth and gums need the right fuels to stay healthy for life.  

  • Your teeth have an inner immune system (fueled by vitamins A, D, and K2). 
  • Oxygen and nasal breathing contribute to jaw growth and deep bodily functions such as mitochondrial balance.
  • The oral microbiome (probiotic bacteria) help protect you against tooth decay, gum disease, and conditions like bad breath. It also connects directly to your gut. 

Eating a proper diet can strengthen your teeth, balance your breathing, help your digestive system, and grow healthy, straight teeth.

  • Eat foods rich in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2.
  • Butter (from pasture-raised animals).
  • Organ meats.
  • Egg yolks.
  • Whole fatty fish.
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut.
  • Remove refined foods, including sugars.
  • Sugar reduction – Give yourself a sugar audit (see a guide at drstevenlin.com). 
  • Remove refined flour, which breaks down as sugar in the body.
  • Processed vegetable oils, which stop you from absorbing crucial fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Balance the mouth and gut with probiotic promoting foods.
  • Eat lots of fiber-rich vegetables.
  • Enjoy lots of prebiotic fibers found in foods like garlic, onions, and leeks.
  • Eat cultured, fermented foods rich in probiotic bacteria.

Your body has all the tools it needs to protect you against dental diseases and other diseases. You just need to feed it the right things. The beautiful thing about dental nutrition is that eating for a healthy mouth means the body follows along naturally.

About the writer Dr. Steven Lin is a Sydney-based dentist, speaker and author of “The Dental Diet.” As the world’s first dental nutritionist, Dr. Lin is on a mission to prevent dental diseases, instead of simply treating them, by focusing on the link between nutrition and dental health.

A confident smile

Having straight, healthy teeth is a great asset. In his 30 years of practice, Dr. Dave has seen patients’ self-esteem and confidence levels soar after they improved their smile with the help of clear aligners, traditional metal braces or ceramic braces on their teeth. Many patients are youths, yet 15 percent of his patients are older adults, including some who want to get their front six teeth straightened on top, and a few healthy 80-somethings who want a smile makeover. “It can make a world of difference,” he says, adding improving the teeth can be a great investment. “Obviously, the patient has a role in this in keeping their teeth clean while having braces on or when wearing that retainer. We are just partners in this.” 

Clear braces

“Invisalign is just one modality of treating people with plastic aligners to straighten their teeth,” Dr. Dave says. “It has opened up a whole new avenue to people who had braces before and didn’t wear their retainers and now their teeth have moved around and the thought of going back to braces absolutely drags them down. It has streamlined things quite a bit and has made it much more practical.”

Other improvements

Dental veneers, composite bonding, teeth whitening and dental implants are other ways to achieve a smile makeover.

Regarding whitening: “I don’t think teeth should look paper white, but it is nice if they don’t look yellow and dingy when somebody smiles,” Dr. Dave says.

Dental implants are artificial replacements for a missing natural tooth, which can offer more comfort and stability than dentures.

“You can literally go in the morning with ugly-looking teeth and walk out in the afternoon with a new set of teeth,” Dr. Dave says. “They’ll walk out able to eat, smile and look like (actor) George Hamilton. But it’s not cheap. The average cost for acrylic teeth is about $25,000 and for porcelain teeth is about $35,000, which is beyond most people’s means. It’s definitely concierge dentistry.” 

My dental makeover

Story: Patty Padgett

Ten years ago, I retired from teaching and decided to substitute. One day, a small group of fifth-graders were whispering and giggling, so I inquired as to the reason for their behavior. One of the boys piped up and asked why my teeth were so ugly. I responded that some people aren’t lucky enough to have nice teeth.

After that day, I became so self-conscious about my teeth. I tried not to open my mouth very much and stood away from both adults and children when I spoke.

Several years later, I found a big foam tooth in my stocking at Christmas. My daughters had talked to my amazing dentist, Dr. Martha Mehr, of The Main Street Dentists in Leesburg, and had arranged to have eight top teeth and eight bottom teeth capped. I burst into tears. I guess I had made it clear over the years that I hated my teeth.

The procedure took about 10 hours over the course of three appointments, which included making impressions and taking photos and specific measurements of my bite. A master ceramist that Dr. Mehr had worked with for 20 years created the ceramic crowns to complete my smile. The final result was perfection!

I saw my medical doctor a few months later for my semiannual appointment. As I sat next to him to go over my lab results, he stopped suddenly and told me that my teeth were beautiful. I told him that my daughters had given them to me for Christmas and that Dr. Mehr had done the work. He said that I looked 10 years younger! Need I say more? 

About the author

Theresa Campbell

Originally from Anderson, Ind., Theresa worked for The Herald-Bulletin for many years. After experiencing a winter with 53 inches of snow, her late husband asked her to get a job in Florida, and they headed south. Well known in the area, Theresa worked with The Daily Sun and The Daily Commercial prior to joining Akers.
“I finally have my dream job. I’ve wanted to work for a magazine since I was a teenager, and I’m very excited to be here,” Theresa says. “There is such positive energy at Akers that it’s infectious.”
Theresa has three grown daughters—Julia lives in San Francisco, Emily is in Austin, Tex., and Maria is at the University of Central Florida.

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