Try This: 6 Tips To Protect Your Oral Health 🦷

Did you know our oral health is deeply connected to our overall longevity? Especially our risk for both Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

Today, I’m sharing six ways to support your dental health from my recent conversation with Dr. Mark Burhenne (aka @askthedentist).

Just to be clear, this isn’t the boring old brushing and flossing advice we’re all used to.

Below, you’ll find unique and practical tips you can start doing today to upgrade your oral health and protect against chronic disease.

But first, let’s talk about why your oral health matters beyond safeguarding your smile.

The Connection Between Our Oral Health and Risk For Chronic Disease

Our oral health is deeply connected to the health of the rest of our bodies. When we don’t take proper care of our teeth and gums, our risk for gum disease and chronic conditions goes way up, and here’s why:

The oral microbiome, much like our gut microbiome, consists of tens of thousands of different bacteria species — some good, some bad. When the harmful bacteria outnumber the beneficial ones (from eating a sugar-filled, nutrient-poor diet, improper brushing, not flossing, or using conventional mouthwash), problems start to arise. 

These problems mainly stem from inflammation (aka gingivitis), which, when left untreated, causes weak and tender gums and an increased risk for gum disease. When this happens, pockets form around the teeth, giving the opportunity for bad bacteria (like the P. gingivalis bug) to travel from the mouth and into circulation.

In the case of gum disease, when P. gingivalis and other harmful bugs enter the blood, it can increase the risk for heart attack or stroke by up to 3X — YIKES! — and leads to a near 70% increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. We wrote about this in a previous Try This newsletter here.

Now, let’s discuss a few obvious and not-so-obvious tips to lower our risk of gum disease and related chronic conditions.

Try This:

  1. Don’t brush too hard. When I first started seeing my dentist, Dr. Rouzita Rashtian, she pointed out that I had gum recession on the left lower side of my mouth. This was a total shock to me as someone super on top of my oral health.

    But after she explained why, it made total sense! She said that since I’m right-handed, I apply more pressure to the left side of my mouth while brushing, which was wearing down my gumline. Who would have thought?

    Now, I follow her and Dr. Burhenne’s advice to apply light pressure and lightly grip my toothbrush like a pencil instead of the death grip I used before. According to Dr. Burhenne, this is the number one mistake people make while brushing. Here’s a breakdown of him explaining how to properly hold your toothbrush and brush.

  2. Massage your gums. This tip brings back memories of my parents having me massage my gums as a kid. I wasn’t aware of it then (and I’m not sure my parents were either), but according to Dr. Burhenne, this ancient Ayurvedic practice helps deliver fresh blood and nutrients to the gums, can help kill bad bacteria, and strengthen the gum line. Place your index finger on your gums and move in a circular motion while sliding along your gumline. Here’s a short 60-second YouTube clip that breaks it down step by step.

  3. Don’t use conventional mouthwash. Conventional mouthwash could be damaging your oral microbiome. Not only does it wipe out the bad bacteria that cause bad breath, but it also wipes out the good bacteria that keep our gums healthy and produce nitric oxide — a gaseous molecule that promotes smooth blood flow, and higher levels are associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

    Check out this newsletter for recommendations for clean mouthwash, non-toxic toothpaste, and dental floss.

  4. Tongue scraping. If you’re not tongue scraping already, here’s why you should start: tongue scraping is a low-cost way to prevent cavities, remove harmful bacteria, and improve your breath, digestion, and even the taste of your food. It does this by scraping the excess gunk off your tongue and restoring the balance of your oral microbiome.

    If you’re new to tongue scraping, check out the Ask The Dentist: How To Scrape Your Tongue guide to learn more.

  5. Don’t forget to floss. We all know that flossing is essential for oral health. The question is, has that gotten you to adopt the habit regularly? If not, let me explain why you should.

    Remember the 70% increased risk of Alzheimer’s and the 3X increased risk of heart attack and stroke we discussed earlier?

    When you don’t floss, bad oral bacteria settle into your gums. Your immune system recognizes these bacteria as foreign invaders, triggering an immune response that weakens your gums. Eventually, this can increase your risk of gum disease and make you more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s and heart disease. If that’s not enough, from a vanity perspective, you can add tooth loss, decay, and bad breath to the list.

    Looking for a clean floss recommendation? Dr. Burhenne is a fan of PFAS-free floss like this Silk Floss by Radius, and I currently use the PFAS-free version of Smart Floss.

  6. Mouth taping. If you’ve been following my podcast for a while, you know that mouth taping is one of my favorite health hacks, and there is a reason why I bring it up so consistently.

    Not only is mouth taping a game changer for sleep quality, but it also helps boost nitric oxide production. It also prevents harmful bacteria that accumulate in your mouth from breathing. If you haven’t tried mouth taping yet, this is your sign to try it!

    For a step-by-step guide on how to get started, check out my Mouth Taping 101 guide and my favorite low-cost mouth tape.

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