A guest post by Eva Twardokens (the famous “Eva T.”): two-time Olympian, coach, and Registered Dental Hygienist
A lot of folks out there are seeking the optimum diet and the ultimate exercise program in the name of health and longevity. Often, however, these same people have completely neglected their teeth.
You might as well have eaten that bagel and decided to lift light weights like Gweneth Paltrow.
Let’s be real! Your mouth is the beginning of your digestive tract, and as you keep your gut healthy, you must also keep the top end (your mouth) healthy as well. As easy as it is to get “leaky gut syndrome,” you can also get a sort of “leaky mouth syndrome” as well. In dental speak we call this periodontal disease.
If you have any degree of periodontal disease, it needs to be controlled. Much like you can correct a leaky gut by eating well, you can also keep systemic disease at bay by keeping your mouth clean and well maintained. Here is the basic information you need to get on your way to a clean, healthy, un-inflamed mouth.
Find a Good Dentist
Unless you are a dental professional, it is hard to know what a good dentist really is. As a consumer, you can weed out most of the bad ones by finding a dentist who is not production-oriented, and is willing to spend enough time with to understand your specific needs. These needs range from how the office deals with finances to addressing dental fear and explaining treatment and the equipment they use. (Expert tip: ultrasonic scalars and higher-tech x-ray machines are a must.)
A great way to narrow the field of dentists is to interview your friends, family, and co-workers about their dentists. Find out what they like about the dentist, and the reasons they choose to seek treatment there. Get three names, and then visit the offices. Meet the dentist and get a feel for the place. You will know when you find the right one.
Lions and tigers and radiation! Remember, dental x-rays emit just a tiny amount of radiation, and the benefits far outweigh the risk. So get them. The price you pay for not having films every couple of years will be in the form of injections, root canal treatments, and drilling. As my boss (the dentist) says, “The best drilling is none.”
If you have not had a Full Mouth Series, get one. This will detect any hidden abscesses (equals “yuk”). Pus may hide in your jawbone, causing chronic inflammation—and posing the risk of migrating to your brain. (Double “yuk.”) A Full Mouth Series will also detect any bone loss that may have developed from chronic inflammation. (You need healthy bone around your teeth so they don’t fall out!)
Your dentist might instead opt for a Panorex, which is less accurate, but a decent substitution for a Full Mouth Series.
Get a Dental Exam
Usually this will go along with your new films, so the dentist can accurately detect any abscesses or cavities. Have the dentist explain the areas of concern and get the treatment done! He should also clue you in on your periodontal status, and your bone health. The dentist or the hygienist will measure your periodontal pockets.
You should request a copy of the readings and have the form explained to you in detail—a good dentist will be happy to spend the time doing this for you.
Get Your Teeth Cleaned
I get mine cleaned every four months. “But my insurance only covers every six months!” Remember, your insurance company determining your treatment plan is about as ridiculous as the government telling you how to eat healthy. (If you follow this blog, that will make total sense to you.)
Regardless of the up-front cost, you’ll save in the long run if you get your teeth cleaned one more time per year. It is worth the extra $100, I promise.
Get a Night Guard
It is important that the dentist ask if you are grinding or clenching your teeth. People who are mystified about their recession, high cavity count, root canal rate, or chipped teeth should buy a night guard. You may be one of the people causing major damage in your mouth because you are clenching or grinding in you sleep with five times the force exerted when awake!
By the way, rubbery sports guards and bleach trays do not count as mouth guards. Get a professionally fit, situationally-appropriate guard from your dentist.
Be Nice to the Hygienist
Bottom line—she has sharp tools.
Don’t whine about how “heavy handed” the hygienist is if you haven’t had your teeth cleaned in a while. That probably means she is busting her knuckles to get all the accumulated crap off your teeth. Ask her to show you some, and then ask yourself, would you put that back in your mouth?
Ask the hygienist a lot of questions, like will she will be using an ultrasonic scaler? If she does, that’s good. If she doesn’t, ask her to use it combined with hand scaling. Most good ones already do this.
Finally, be grateful for your hygienist; she will always go above and beyond for you if you are!
Don’t find a way out of this one. Just do it, daily. I suggest getting it done in the shower. Enough said.
In Part Two…
I’ve given you some tips that should be first in line for defending your oral health. In Part Two of this series, I will elaborate on periodontal disease and what to expect if it turns out you have a nasty case. I will also talk a little about fluoride, dental materials, mouthwash, insurance, and ZOOM whitening.
Eva Twardokens (also known as “Eva T.”) is a two-time Olympian and six-time National Champion in Alpine Skiing. In 2012, she was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. She graduated from Cabrillo College Dental Hygiene School in 2001 and has been practicing in a general dentistry setting for 12 years. She teaches her patients how to aquire oral health, and how good oral hygiene practices contributes to overall health and quality of life.
She is also the founder of Eva T. Strength and Conditioning, a consulting site encouraging strength, health, and happiness through the integration of lifestyle choices, exercise, and functional medicine.