“What do you know about teeth, Shawn?” Touché. Feel free to take anything I say here with a grain of salt. My resume for qualifications on mouth hygiene are the following:
- I almost applied to dental school before I was selected in the MLB draft.
- My brother is an orthodontist.
- My uncle was a dentist.
- I did an internship at a dental office one summer.
- I’ve never had a cavity.
- I am a lifetime tooth-brusher.
- I am not a dentist.
Haha, OK, I understand if you take anything I say with a grain of salt, but I encourage you to read through this with an open mind. The mouth is important. Your oral health is a window into your body’s overall inner wellness. Here are 10 tips that can transform how you care for your mouth.
- Eat the Right Stuff.
- Eat food that you have to chew. The over-consumption of processed foods has led to a country with under-developed tooth and jaw structure. We have become too accustomed to foods that practically dissolve on our tongue. Our ancestors used to eat nose-to-tail when they ate an animal. This meant having to rip meat off of bones, shred through tough pieces of meat, and tirelessly chew through ligaments and tendons. Just food for thought: If you are still cutting your child’s food into tiny little pieces and they are old enough to chew their own food, consider giving them larger pieces of food that they have to rip, tear, and chew for themselves. Your helping may be hurting.
- Stop eating sugar. This is an obvious one. Sugar causes cavities and tooth decay. Be mindful of hidden sugars in foods you may be eating often.
2. Don’t Floss So Hard!
- Your gums shouldn’t bleed. Bleeding leads to inflammation in the mouth and becomes a nice entrance area for infection-causing bacteria.
- Easy-does-it. Be gentle. You don’t need to floss daily, or even weekly. Use floss as a tool to get out food that is stuck in your teeth. Occasionally, gently floss between all of your teeth, avoiding the gums.
3. Buy New Toothpaste.
- You don’t need fluoride everyday. Chances are that you are brushing with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride is no bueno when ingested. But, when applied to the teeth topically, and spit-out, it can help prevent cavities. Fluoride-free toothpaste is just as effective at cleaning your teeth and should be used on a more regular basis. I especially like toothpaste that contains xylitol. It is a naturally derived solution to strengthening your enamel. What do I do? I brush daily with a fluoride-free toothpaste and will use a fluoride-containing toothpaste once per week.
- Watch out for these ingredients. Most everyone I know is using a toothpaste from Crest and Colgates of the world. These “big players” contain so many ingredients that you have no business messing around with. Avoid these:
- Artificial Sweeteners. Ok, so you know you shouldn’t drink Diet Cokes and use Sweet n’ Low, but did you know you’re still getting aspartame in your toothpaste!
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate. This stuff makes the toothpaste bubble up and foam. Sure, it makes you feel like you are doing a good job brushing, but it can cause small tears and lesions in your mouth’s tissue. Bad stuff.
- Propylene Glycol. This is in anti-freeze and linked to damage to your central nervous system. Stay away.
- Carrageenan. This stuff can be naturally derived but has been linked to colon cancer, gastrointestinal issues, and even insulin resistance in mice.
- Artificial Colors. If you see Blue #1, Yellow #5, or anything as such, avoid it!
- Triclosan. This helps prevent bacterial contamination. It was just banned for use in soaps and body washes. So we would expect it to be banned from toothpastes soon enough, but who knows! It is still for sure used in Colgate Total.
4. Chew Gum.
- Avoid the “big players.” Chewing gum is great for your teeth and your jaw. You will want to again, avoid the “big players” in the gum industry as they are still using toxic artificial sweeteners. Opt for xylitol based gum. Here’s what I am chewing: Pur and Mighty Gum.
5. Buy a New Toothbrush.
- Spend the Money. You really should be using a pulsing toothbrush, something like the Sonicare. They are heads and shoulders better at cleaning your teeth with a fraction of the effort. As well, you get more clean while using less toothpaste. Even if you just use a Sonicare with water, you are still getting a good clean.
6. Stop Using Mouthwash.
- It works way too good. Do you use mouthwash to kill the bacteria in your mouth? Well, it is doing a good job, but way too good. You need bacteria in your mouth. Mouthwash doesn’t differentiate between the good guys and bad guys and can disrupt your body’s microbiome. A good alternative? Swish and gargle warm water with sea salt. This will help reduce bacteria, fight off bad breath, and its super cheap!
- Start oil-pulling. Oil pulling is an ancient practice that can help improve the health of your mouth and even help whiten and remove stains from your teeth. My favorite recipe is a spoonful of organic coconut oil with a drop of peppermint oil. I will prep these beforehand using ice cube trays and store in the refrigerator for easy grab-and-go use. I do this every morning and swish the oil for 5 minutes.
7. Brush with Minerals.
- Try this product. The amount of minerals we get from foods we consume in today’s world are a fraction of what our ancestors were consuming. It’s these minerals that are responsible for strengthening our teeth. I use this Tooth Powder once or twice per week to expose my teeth to more minerals. I don’t recommend using it more often than that because it is a bit abrasive.
8. Eat Alkaline Foods.
- Think fresh foods. Too much acid in the body can leech calcium from your bones, and teeth since your teeth are bones. You will want to eat foods that counter-attack the high acidic processed foods and dairy products that line our grocery store shelves. Eat mostly fresh greens, vegetables, a little fruit, nuts, and seeds.
- Greener is better. A little superhero in your body is called nitric oxide. I won’t go into too much detail here for sake of being concise, but its a big deal. A good chunk of this molecule’s production occurs in your mouth and everything mentioned thus far will help to create a good environment for this to happen. In addition to the above, eating foods high in dietary nitrates will help to boost your body’s production of nitric oxide. As a general rule of thumb, dark leafy greens are the best. Take time to chew these completely before swallowing to get all the good out of them!
9. Drink Better Water.
- Avoid tap water. Tap water usually contains fluoride, which we have already detailed is “ehh, ok” for your teeth but should not be ingested. Beyond just fluoride, there are plenty of other reasons why you should never drink (or cook!) with tap water.
- Opt for spring water. If you are drinking bottled water, opt for spring over filtered or purified. Spring water contains minerals that can help strengthen your teeth.
- What about alkaline water? In general, alkaline water is overrated. But, for oral health, it does increase saliva production which can lead to a healthier, cleaner mouth. Don’t drink alkaline water with your meals, it can actually disrupt nutrient absorption. Instead, drink it between meals in moderation.
10. Consider Your Fillings.
- Amalgam Fillings.Did you know amalgam fillings are about 50% mercury. Mercury in your body is bad news, very bad news. When you chew or drink hot liquids, the heat can cause leeching of the mercury into your mouth, and it makes its way into your body. If I had them, I would see a biological dentist to have them removed and ask for a proper method to detox after the removal. Consider this: Do you use a sauna and have amalgam fillings? Could the sauna be causing mercury to leech into your body? Isn’t the sauna detoxing me from mercury? All good questions to consider.
I don’t see many people that care for their mouth the way it deserves. It’s not about spending more time taking care of it, it a matter of taking proper measures that consider the health of your entire being.