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Healthy Horizons Blog

The Mouth And Body Connection

the-mouth-and-body-connection-shutterstock_217270390The mouth reflects what happens in the body, and the body reflects what is going on in the mouth. Biological dentistry is an approach to oral care that accounts for the dynamic relationship between the mouth and the rest of the body. Biological dentistry goes beyond the traditional – and often mindlessly mechanical – approach of filling cavities, removing plaque and pulling teeth. Instead, the innovative approach of biological dentistry treats the oral cavity as one part of the larger body. The biological dentist creates an oral health plan that benefits patient’s entire body and not just the teeth and gums.

Keep in mind that the oral cavity serves as a portal to the rest of the body, especially to the lungs and digestive tract. Because it is a warm, wet place exposed to the outside world, the oral cavity provides a continuous source of infectious agents. Until recently, most dentists thought these infectious agents and the diseases they cause stayed in the mouth. Now biological and holistic dentists appreciate how these infectious agents and oral diseases affect the rest of the patient’s body.

How Gum Disease Leads to Other Health Problems

Bacteria can build up on teeth, making the gums more prone to infection. The immune system kicks in to fight the infection — this battle causes inflammation of the gums, resulting in red, swollen and painful gums. Inflammation continues as long as infection persists. Inflamed tissues release chemicals that, along with the inflammatory action, can eat away at the gums and bone that hold teeth in place. Inflammation and the chemicals it causes can also cause problems in the rest of the body. Left untreated, inflammation can lead to the serious form of gum disease, periodontitis.

This inflammation causes much more damage than just sore gums – swelling in the mouth increases the risk for medical problems affecting the rest of the body.

The American Dental Association says that periodontitis may be associated with other serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Chronic inflammation can interfere with the way the body uses insulin, which is a hormone that body cells need to absorb sugar from the bloodstream for energy. Studies suggest chronic periodontal disease can increase the risk for diabetes. Because of the two-way street between the mouth and the body, diabetes can also increase the risk for gum disease and inflammation in the mouth may be associated with heart disease too, according to a 2006 study.

Teeth, gums, tongue, palate, cheek, jawbone and tonsils are important features in the oral cavity and each plays an important role in a person’s overall health. The mouth-body connection works in reverse too, with the mouth reflecting the overall health of the body. Biological dentistry practitioners examine the mouth carefully for signs of ill health in other areas of the body. Practitioners who use a biological and holistic approach to dentistry understand this deep connection and therefore provide treatment that benefits the whole body as well as the patient’s mouth.

When to Get a New Toothbrush

When-to-get-a-new-tooth-brushshutterstock_153342092Did you know there might be more than a million bacteria living on your used toothbrush? According to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 70 percent of all used toothbrushes are contaminated with bacteria. Staph bacteria, E. coli, yeast fungus and the viruses responsible for the flu and strep can all take up residence on your toothbrush. You might be coating your teeth, gums and cheeks with these bacteria and viruses every time you brush. Putting these germs directly into your mouth increases your risk for getting sick.

Fortunately, good hygiene, biological dentistry and a robust immune system prevent your toothbrush from making you sick most of the time. Replacing your old toothbrush with a new, clean one will also help since a fresh toothbrush is much cleaner than a used one.

Toothbrushes are relatively clean and germ free when they come out of the sterile package but they do not stay pristine for long. Toothbrushes get germy because most people keep them in the warm, dark and moist environment of the bathroom where germs love to live. What’s worse is that people often keep toothbrushes near the toilet, another favorite spot for bacteria and viruses.

Toothbrush Replacement

Biological and holistic dentistry specialists recommend changing your toothbrush regularly because they know that oral health can affect the rest of the body, especially when it comes to germs. Bacteria and viruses introduced into your mouth can spread to your nasal passages and digestive tract causing respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. The germs in your mouth can lead to staph infections, strep, colds, flu and more.

The American Dental Association recommends everyone replace his or her toothbrushes every two to three months. Replace your toothbrush sooner if the bristles fray, as bacteria and viruses love to hide in nooks and crannies.

You should also replace your toothbrush after you recover from a cold, flu, or other digestive or respiratory illness. When you are sick, you can transfer germs from your mouth onto your toothbrush, where they wait to re-infect you later. Replacing your toothbrush after an illness also reduces the risk for passing germs from your toothbrush to other toothbrushes nearby.

Your holistic dentist may recommend you change your toothbrush every few days if you have a weak immune system due to illness or chemotherapy.

Replace your toothbrush more often if you cannot store it in a well-ventilated area away from the germy toilet, humid shower or other features in your bathroom that encourage the growth of germs.

When you replace your toothbrush, choose the right brush for your dental needs. A soft-bristled brush is usually best for removing plaque and debris where germs like to live. Replace a large-headed toothbrush with a small-headed one so you can reach all the areas of your mouth.

For more information about why it is important to replace your toothbrush regularly, contact Natural Horizons Wellness Centers today.

Why Regular Visits To The Dentist Are Important

regular-trips-dentistEver since you were a child, your dentists have recommended regular checkups and cleaning. Depending on your own dental health, this could have meant visiting your dentist as often as every three months or only once a year. Here are five good reasons why you need those regular checkups and cleaning.

An Ounce of Prevention

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly true when it comes to dentistry. During a regular checkup, a dentist looks for conditions that increase your risk for tooth decay, gum disease, and other serious dental problems later.

Routine cleaning removes hardened dental plaque, sometimes known as tartar or calculus, which is detrimental to the health of your teeth and gums. You cannot easily remove this dental plaque at home, even with regular brushing and flossing; professional scaling and cleaning is the only way to remove plaque effectively.

A Stitch in Time

“A stitch in time saves nine” certainly works to keep rips in clothing from growing worse, and the phrase is just as appropriate when talking about routine dental care. Routine checkups give dentists an opportunity to spot problems in the early stages of development, before they turn into larger dental issues.

A dentist can reverse the damage of a cavity in its earliest stages by administering fluoride treatments that restore enamel. Left untreated, however, the cavity can grow to affect the dentin and pulp deep inside the tooth. Your dentist may be able to perform a root canal to save the tooth, but he or she may need to remove a severely damaged tooth.

Avoid Complications

Regular dental checkups make it easier to avoid complications. Proper identification and treatment of a decaying tooth can reduce the risk for a painful abscess, where pus builds up around the tooth. A bacterial infection resulting from an abscess can spread and cause a variety of conditions, including fluid-filled cysts in your mouth, sinus problems, bone infections in your face or infection throughout your body. In some cases, it can cause dangerous swelling and intense pain under your tongue and in your neck, or even a blood clot.

Most of the time, you do not notice symptoms of these problems until they are in advanced stages — but your dentist can detect and treat these conditions in the earliest stages.

Save Money

Treating dental problems in the early stages is much less expensive than waiting until a serious problem has developed. A simple filling for a small cavity costs less than a root canal or tooth extraction and replacement.

Save Your Life

Your dentist at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers does more than save your teeth. When our dentists look in your mouth, they see important clues about your overall health, such as evidence of nutritional deficiencies, stress, eating disorders and even measles. Your dentist may be able to detect health problems occurring in other parts of your body outside of your mouth, such as some types of cancer.

For more information about why regular visits to your dentist are important, contact Natural Horizons Wellness Centers today.

When Should Your Child Get Braces?

child-bracesSome kids “chomp at the bit” to get braces because they view the dental work as a milestone in growing up. Other children are reluctant, concerned about how braces might look or feel. As a parent, you might have concerns and questions, too. How will you know if your child needs braces? If he does need braces, when should he get them? You might even wonder how braces actually repair crooked and misaligned teeth.

Fortunately, the dentists at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers can answer any questions you and your child may have about braces. Our dentists have the training, tools and expertise necessary to evaluate your child’s mouth, determine if there is a need for braces and apply those braces.

Why Your Child Might Need Braces

Your child might need braces because her teeth are crooked, crowded or overlapping. Your child may even have a malocclusion, commonly known as a “bad bite,” which happens when the top jaw is a slightly different size than the bottom jaw. When her top jaw is larger than her bottom jaw, it creates an overbite. If her top jaw is smaller than her bottom jaw, she will have an underbite.

Tooth decay, premature loss of baby teeth, injuries or even habits such as thumb sucking can cause tooth and jaw alignment problems. Crooked teeth and malocclusions can also be hereditary, passed from one generation to the next.

When Should Your Child Get Braces?

Dentists look for signs of these problems during regular dental checkups. If the dentist notices alignment changes, he or she may recommend a trip to the orthodontist to find out if your child needs braces. An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in treating tooth and jaw alignment problems. The orthodontist will evaluate your child’s teeth and jaws to determine which type of braces, if any, would be right for your child.

There are no age limits for a child’s first visit to an orthodontist — one might go at age 6 and another not until age 14. Orthodontists even treat adults, because crooked teeth are correctable at any age. Many orthodontists recommend an initial visit at about age 7, when the appearance of permanent teeth makes overcrowding and alignment issues apparent. While kids do not usually get braces that young, the early exams give orthodontists time to identify problems and create a treatment plan.

To determine if your child needs braces, our orthodontist at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers will thoroughly examine your child’s teeth, mouth and jaw. The orthodontist will examine your child’s bite and ask questions about any clicking, popping, pain or trouble chewing and swallowing. Our orthodontist may take X-rays or make molds of your child’s teeth to gain a better view of tooth and jaw alignment. If necessary, the orthodontist will recommend one of many types of braces, including standard wire, bracket and band braces, and new Invisalign technology that uses clear trays.

All types of braces perform the same task: correcting alignment problems by placing steady pressure on teeth to move them to a better position in your child’s mouth. Crooked teeth and jaw alignment issues can cause your child to have problems speaking, chewing, smiling and talking, so early action is always best.

For more information on when your child should get braces, talk to the dental professionals at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers, where we have dentists who can perform routine checkups to spot tooth and jaw alignment problems early, and orthodontists who will create a treatment plan to straighten your child’s teeth.

Natural Horizons Wellness Centers Provide Dental Care During Pregnancy

dental-care-pregnancyYou can expect to see your body change in many ways during pregnancy, including changes to your mouth and teeth. Many of these changes are the result of hormone fluctuations as you move through each stage of your pregnancy.

Fluctuations in hormone levels can leave your mouth vulnerable to bacteria and the development of plaque, both of which can lead to tender gums during your pregnancy. Changes in hormones can also increase your risk for tooth decay.

A few dental problems to look for during pregnancy include:

  • Gum inflammation
  • Advanced gum disease
  • Non-cancerous tumors on the gums

Gum inflammation, known as gingivitis, is most common during the second trimester. Gingivitis causes gums to swell, bleed a little and become tender. Pregnancy can also worsen periodontal disease, which is an advanced form of gum disease.

Pregnancy tumors are non-cancerous overgrowths of tissue on the gums, usually in the second trimester. These tumors are raspberry-like in appearance, bleed easily, and usually disappear at the end of the pregnancy. Many healthcare professionals believe the tumors develop as the result of plaque.

Pregnancy, Plaque, and the Health of Your Baby

When you are pregnant, your mouth does not develop more plaque but your body is less able to fight off plaque. When hormone levels are steady, especially estrogen and progesterone, they work efficiently to reduce plaque after it develops. Fluctuating hormone levels, however, do an inconsistent job of clearing up plaque and leave you at risk for gum disease.

One of the most important things to remember is that whatever affects you also affects your baby. Some studies suggest that periodontal disease increases the risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth and miscarriage.

Dental Hygiene during Pregnancy

When you are pregnant, continue the same dental hygiene practices you always use — brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, floss and see your dentist regularly. Brushing helps remove plaque and flossing strengthens your gums while reducing your risk for gingivitis and periodontal disease. Here are some more tips for making dental hygiene more comfortable and effective during pregnancy:

  • Brush three times a day if plaque is a problem
  • Try a softer toothbrush if pregnancy has made your gums are swollen and tender
  • Use an antimicrobial mouth rinse for added protection from plaque
  • Rinse your mouth with water after vomiting from morning sickness to reduce tooth exposure to stomach acids
  • Rinse your mouth with baking soda and water to neutralize acids after vomiting
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin C; avoid sugary foods and beverages
  • Drink water after meals and between meals to rinse away plaque and stomach acids

Be sure to schedule regular dental checkups at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers during your pregnancy. Always tell your health care professional that you are pregnant, especially before undergoing X-rays or starting a new treatment plan. At Natural Horizons Wellness Centers, we have the experience and expertise necessary to reduce plaque, help prevent gum disease and improve the health and well-being of you and your baby.