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A Holistic View of National Dental Hygiene Month

woman looking at skyIt’s October, which means it’s also National Dental Hygiene Month – an appropriate time to give a shout-out to our awesome hygienists, Gloria and Lina, as well as for you to take a critical look at your home care.

After all, your oral health plays a very big role in your overall health – such as in the connection between gum disease and other chronic, inflammatory conditions. (Much more on that link here.)

And like any aspect of your health, maintaining good oral health requires your active involvement. In most cases, that means a minimum of two dental visits each year for cleanings, an annual exam, and, of course, effective home care.

You’re probably accustomed to hearing generic advice like floss and brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. But as a holistic dental practice, we see things a little differently.

Toothbrushing

While it’s important to brush your teeth – twice a day, according to conventional wisdom – it’s not much help if you’re not brushing effectively.

Since plaque – a dental biofilm – forms on your teeth every 24 hours, you need to break it up completely at least once during that same 24 hour period. Breaking up and removing that biofilm requires attention, technique, and the proper tools to get the job done.

You’ll find a good overview of proper brushing technique here.

Toothpaste

Read almost any article that talks about oral health, and you’ll be pitched fluoride. Yet it’s a toxin. And because it’s routinely dumped into both our water supply and mainstream dental products, no one really knows how much fluoride they’re exposed to each day.

Other ingredients to avoid include sodium lauryl sulfate and triclosan. And there are plenty of options available. You could even make your own!

Truth is, though, your technique, not your toothpaste, makes the most difference to your oral health. Toothpaste just makes it a little easier to break up the plaque.

Floss

Despite the recent controversy over flossing, you really do need to keep up the habit – or some other manner of interdental cleaning. Brushing alone cleans only about 60% of your tooth surfaces. You need floss – or an interproximal brush or oral irrigator – to clean the rest.

The Bigger Picture

When a holistic or biological dentist sees a patient, they will likely address far more than just your teeth and gums. Just as with your overall health, many lifestyle factors beyond oral hygiene affect the health of your mouth: diet, sleep quality and quantity, physical activity, tobacco and other drug use (including pharmaceuticals), chronic stress, relaxation, supplementation, emotional health…

Everything we do has some effect – good or ill – on our overall wellness. By taking a comprehensive view of your total health situation, oral and systemic, we can help you connect the dots and understand what you need to do to get your health to where you want it to be.

Image by mihhailov, via Flickr