Imagine a future where your dental health is at its prime, and you greet the world with a confident and healthy smile. Achieving this vision is well within your reach, and it all boils down to two fundamental factors: the right nutrition to nourish your teeth from the inside and consistent dental hygiene practices to protect them from the outside.
In the upcoming sections, we’ll embark on a journey to uncover the keys to dental well-being. We’ll explore how proper nutrition can make a world of difference in your dental health. But that’s not all – we’ll also dive into practical dental hygiene tips, from ways to combat pesky dental bacteria to simple toothpaste alternatives. Plus, we’ll shed light on the advantages of using electric toothbrushes and water flossers. Your healthier smile is just around the corner!
Proper Nutrition for Dental Health
Proper nutrition is crucial for the development and maintenance of healthy teeth and gums. A diet rich in fat soluble vitamins and minerals can help to strengthen teeth and promote remineralisation. Vitamin D, Vitamin K2, Calcium, and Phosphorus are the main essential nutrients that are vital for dental health.
What is Remineralisation?
Tooth remineralisation is a process that occurs in the body where minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are deposited back into the tooth enamel to repair areas that have been damaged by acid erosion or decay. This process can occur naturally through the consumption of certain foods and drinks, such as dairy products, and by maintaining good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing regularly.
The process of remineralisation is important for maintaining healthy teeth and preventing cavities. When the enamel on teeth is damaged by acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, it can lead to a loss of minerals and weakening of the tooth structure. Over time, this can lead to the formation of cavities.
Remineralisation can help to repair early-stage cavities by depositing minerals back into the enamel, making it stronger and more resistant to decay. This process can also help to prevent the formation of new cavities and protect teeth from further damage.
Vitamin D is essential for the absorption and utilisation of calcium, which is the primary component of teeth and bones.
Regular sun exposure is the most natural way to ensure adequate vitamin D levels. For healthy blood levels, aim for 10-30 minutes of midday sun exposure several times a week, adjusting for skin sensitivity. Factors such as skin pigmentation, location, and amount of skin exposed all affect vitamin D production.
Individuals living farther from the equator may require more sunlight and/or vitamin D supplements during winter months. Applying sunscreen after 10-30 minutes of unprotected exposure can help prevent sunburn and skin cancer.
Does Sunscreen affect Vitamin D Production?
Sunscreen is used to protect the skin from sunburns and skin cancer by reflecting, absorbing, or scattering sunlight. However, this can also reduce the amount of UVB rays that are necessary for producing vitamin D. Studies have shown that sunscreen with a high SPF can decrease vitamin D production by up to 92.5%. However, circulating levels were only minimally affected. (1) Despite this, some research indicates that wearing sunscreen has a minor effect on blood vitamin D levels during the summer. (2) This is likely due to prolonged sun exposure compensating for the reduced UVB absorption. However, the long-term impact of frequent sunscreen use on vitamin D levels is still unclear.
Supplementing with Vitamin D
In case you need to supplement your Vitamin D intake, there are various forms available. These include Vitamin D3 sourced from lanolin (sheep’s wool), a vegan/vegetarian alternative form of D3 made from lichen, and Vitamin D2 obtained from UV-exposed mushrooms. You might want to experiment with these different types to find the one that suits you best.
Vitamin K2 is an often overlooked nutrient that plays a crucial role in the remineralisation of teeth and bones. It works together with calcium to strengthen tooth enamel and bone density. Vitamin K2 helps to move calcium from the bloodstream to the areas where it is needed, such as the teeth and bones, and prevents it from building up in the arteries or soft tissues. A deficiency in Vitamin K2 may lead to weakened tooth enamel and increased risk of cavities and tooth decay.
There are two main forms of Vitamin K2: MK4 and MK7. MK4 is found primarily in animal products, while MK7 is synthesised by bacteria, including the bacteria that naturally reside in our gut. Both forms of vitamin K2 play an important role in regulating calcium in the body, which helps to keep teeth and bones strong and healthy.
Foods that are rich in Vitamin K2 include egg yolks, fermented dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, as well as other fermented foods like natto and sauerkraut. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli contain Vitamin K1. However one should also be taking in Vitamin K2 as all forms of Vitamin K have special roles in the body.
If in your case it’s not possible to obtain adequate Vitamin K2 through dietary sources, supplementation may be necessary to maintain proper levels, especially for those with dental problems, and those who are on a vegetarian or vegan diet. For optimal results, a supplement of 500mcg of MK4 and 100mcg of MK7 in combination is ideal. Otherwise, a daily dose of 180mcg of Vitamin K2 MK7 may be considered, as it stays in the bloodstream longer than other forms.
Please note: Vitamin K can be dangerous for those taking anticoagulants such as warfarin as it can interfere with the medication’s effectiveness and increase the risk of blood clots. Always check with your doctor before starting a Vitamin K supplement.
Calcium is the main mineral that makes up teeth and bones. It is essential for strong teeth, and a deficiency can lead to weakened tooth enamel, which can increase the risk of cavities and tooth decay. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, leafy greens, and almonds. Most people get adequate calcium in their diet, especially if they consume dairy products. However if you think you might be on the low end, a supplement of Calcium Carbonate 600-1200mg per day may help. Another more complete alternative is Calcium hydroxyapatite, discussed below.
Phosphorus is a mineral that plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of healthy teeth. It works together with calcium to strengthen tooth enamel and promote remineralisation. A deficiency in phosphorus can lead to weakened tooth enamel and increased risk of cavities and tooth decay. Phosphorus-rich foods include meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products.
Phosphorus deficiency is rare in healthy individuals who consume a balanced diet. However, it can occur in individuals with certain medical conditions that affect nutrient absorption, such as kidney disease or certain genetic disorders. Vegetarians and vegans may also be at risk of phosphorus deficiency if they do not consume enough plant-based sources of phosphorus such as lentils, beans, nuts and seeds.
Calcium hydroxyapatite is a natural supplement that contains calcium and phosphorus in a ratio that closely resembles that of human bone. It is an effective way to supplement the diet with these minerals to support dental health and bone density. Calcium hydroxyapatite supplements have been shown to be effective in promoting remineralization of teeth and improving bone density in individuals with osteoporosis. These supplements are also safe and well-tolerated, with minimal side effects. Calcium hydroxyapatite is available in various forms, such as capsules, tablets, and powders, and can be found in many health food stores and online retailers. However, it is important to consult a healthcare professional before starting a new supplement regimen.
Killing Bad Bacteria in the Mouth
Killing bad bacteria in the mouth is essential for maintaining good dental hygiene.
Alcohol-based mouthwashes, while effective in the short term by killing germs and freshening breath, they have their downsides. They can lead to a dry mouth, reducing saliva that’s vital for oral health. This reduction can increase the risk of cavities and gum disease. Additionally, the alcohol content can irritate sensitive mouth tissues and, in rare cases, there’s a controversial debate about its link to oral cancer. While the use of these mouthwashes is generally safe, their ability to mask bad breath without addressing underlying causes is a concern. For those worried about these effects, alcohol-free mouthwashes provide a gentler and equally effective alternative, emphasizing the importance of informed choices in oral hygiene.
Colloidal silver is a suspension of tiny silver particles in a liquid. When used topically or dentally, colloidal silver is generally considered safe and can be very useful for killing dental bacteria that cause decay. It can be used as a mouthwash, spray, or in toothpaste, and is effective in killing harmful bacteria without the risk of systemically absorbing any significant amounts.
However, there are concerns about the safety of colloidal silver when ingested as a supplement for its immune effects. Though it has been used for centuries for its antimicrobial properties and is often touted as a natural remedy for various health conditions, research has shown that ingested nano silver particles can accumulate in the brain and may be neurotoxic (3), and larger silver particles in high enough quantities can cause argyria, a condition that turns the skin blue-gray.
Therefore it is important to only use colloidal silver topically or dentally, and to choose products from reputable sources. As with any new dental or health product, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before use.
Xylitol is a natural sweetener that can provide a range of benefits for oral health. One of the primary benefits of xylitol is its ability to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth. Unlike sugar, which feeds dental bacteria that produce acids and promote tooth decay, xylitol cannot be metabolised by oral bacteria, so it disrupts their ability to grow and reproduce. This can help to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease as well as reverse the process of early cavities. (4) Additionally, xylitol has been shown to promote the remineralisation of tooth enamel, which can help to strengthen teeth and reduce sensitivity. (5) Some studies have also suggested that xylitol may have anti-inflammatory properties (6), which could help to reduce inflammation and promote overall oral health. Overall, xylitol is a safe and effective way to support oral health and prevent common dental problems. It is used in some natural toothpastes and mouthwashes or you can make your own.
Acidity of Some Mouthwashes
Some ingredients commonly found in mouthwashes can increase the acidity of the mouth, including alcohol, citric acid, phosphoric acid, and benzoic acid. These ingredients can disrupt the natural pH balance of the mouth, making it more acidic and creating an environment that is more conducive to the growth of harmful bacteria and may directly contribute to tooth decay.
Acid draws minerals like calcium and phosphates out of tooth enamel and can also promote erosion of the tooth enamel and lead to tooth sensitivity and decay. It is important to choose mouthwashes that are pH-balanced and do not contain ingredients that can increase the acidity of the mouth. This can be done by reading the labels carefully and choosing mouthwashes that are specifically formulated to maintain a neutral pH balance in the mouth.
Alternatively, you can create your own mouthwash containing sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and saltwater mixed with xylitol and a few drops of peppermint oil to help maintain a healthy pH balance by neutralizing the acids in the mouth and inhibiting growth of bacteria.
Oral probiotics are a natural way to promote good bacteria in the mouth, which can help to prevent bad breath and fight the harmful bacteria that produce acids and promote erosion. They can be found in various forms, such as lozenges, chewing gum, and toothpaste.
Research has shown that the use of oral probiotics can improve oral health by reducing bad breath and promoting healthy teeth and gums. (7) However, it is important to note that the effectiveness of mouth probiotics can vary depending on the individual’s oral health and the type of probiotic used.
Alternatives to Toothpaste
Brushing your teeth is an essential part of dental hygiene. However, some people may prefer to use tooth powder as an alternative to toothpaste to clean their teeth.
Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, can be used to brush teeth as an alternative to toothpaste. It is a natural and mildly abrasive cleaner that can help to remove surface stains and neutralize the acidity in the mouth.
Hydrogen peroxide 3% can then be used as a mouth rinse to kill harmful bacteria in the mouth and whiten teeth. For best results, swish for 30 seconds or until the peroxide turns into a foam from releasing oxygen, then rinse the mouth.
There are a variety of natural toothpastes on the market. Here is a list of good ingredients to look out for:
- Xylitol: A natural sweetener that can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth and prevent tooth decay.
- Sodium bicarbonate: Also known as baking soda, it can neutralize acids, remove stains and is a mild abrasive.
- Calcium carbonate: Helps to remineralize and strengthen tooth enamel. (8)
- Peroxides: Can help whiten teeth, remove stains and kill bacteria.
- Salt: Can help to remove stains and plaque from teeth and is anti-bacterial.
- Papain: An enzyme derived from papaya that can help to break down stains and plaque.
- Peppermint oil: Can provide a refreshing flavor, improve alkalinity and promote oral health as an anti-bacterial.
- Clay: Contains minerals that aid in remineralisation, absorbs bacteria, and is alkaline in nature.
- Aloe vera: Can help to soothe and protect the gums.
- Neem: Can help to prevent gum disease and promote oral health.
- Coconut oil: May help combat harmful mouth bacteria that can lead to bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease (9)
Here are some ingredients to watch out for:
- Charcoal: Can help to remove stains but it can be overly abrasive and damage tooth enamel.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): A foaming agent (surfactant/detergent) that can irritate the gums and cause mouth ulcers.
- Other examples of surfactants are listed below
SLS can irritate the delicate tissues inside the mouth and cause the skin to peel away, leaving behind small, painful sores. This is because SLS has a drying effect that can strip the mouth of its natural protective layer of mucus, making it more vulnerable to injury and infection. Additionally, some people may be more sensitive to SLS than others, which can further increase the risk of developing mouth ulcers.
Here are more examples of surfactants related to SLS in order of most harsh to mild. Some people may tolerate them better, while others may still have the same problems and may consider a toothpaste without them:
- Sodium laureth sulfate – a milder form of sodium lauryl sulfate, but can still cause irritation in some people
- Sodium coco-sulfate – a surfactant that is similar to sodium lauryl sulfate but derived from coconut oil and considered less irritating
- Cocamidopropyl betaine – a mild surfactant that is less likely to cause irritation
- Sodium cocoyl isethionate – a gentle surfactant that is well-tolerated by some people
- Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate – a mild surfactant derived from coconut oil
- Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate – a mild surfactant that is often used in toothpastes for its foaming properties
- Sodium stearate – a waxy surfactant that helps to stabilize toothpaste formulations
- Sodium myristate – a fatty acid surfactant that is used as a thickening agent in toothpastes
- Sodium palmitate – a mild surfactant that is often used in soap and toothpaste formulations for its cleansing properties
- Sodium oleate – a gentle surfactant that is well-tolerated by most people and is often used in natural toothpastes
Benefits of Electric Toothbrushes and Water Flossers
Electric toothbrushes, such as Philips Sonicare® and Oral B®, have been found to be more effective at removing plaque and promoting gum health than manual toothbrushes. They use oscillating and rotating movements to clean teeth thoroughly and efficiently.
Water flossers, such as Waterpik®, are an alternative to traditional flossing. They use a stream of pressurized water to remove food particles and bacteria from between the teeth and gums. Water flossers can be particularly effective for people with braces, implants, or other dental appliances that make traditional flossing difficult.
Dangers of Excessive Fluoride and Systemic Ingestion
Fluoride is a mineral that is commonly found in toothpaste, mouthwash, and public water supplies. While fluoride can help to prevent cavities and tooth decay, excessive use can lead to fluorosis in children aged 8 years and under, when their teeth are still developing. Although children are at the highest risk of developing fluorosis, it can still cause white or brown streaks or spots to appear on the tooth enamel in adults.
In more severe cases, it can cause pitting, a dental condition characterised by small, pinpoint pits or holes in the tooth enamel, making the teeth more susceptible to decay and other dental problems. Therefore, for children it is important to use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash in moderation and under the guidance of a dentist or healthcare professional.
There is a hypothesis that excess fluoride can calcify the pineal gland, thereby reducing melatonin (and possibly other hormones) secretion resulting in sleep disorders. It may also be associated with a number of other conditions, though correlation does not necessarily mean causation. (10)
Fluoride is added to drinking water, and excessive ingestion has potential negative effects on neurological development in children and neurological function in adults. Studies have linked high levels of fluoride to cognitive impairment and lower IQ scores in children (11, 12), and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease in adults (13). Therefore it may be prudent to exercise caution and limit consumption of tap water depending on whether there is any, and how much fluoride is added to your water supply. This information can often be easily found with a simple search on the internet.
In summary, maintaining good dental health is crucial for overall well-being. A balanced diet and judicious use of supplements provide the essential nutrients helping keep teeth strong and prevent decay. Be mindful of fluoride and acidic mouthwash use and opt for neutral pH or alkaline mouthwash.
For effective cleaning, you may wish to consider alternatives like baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and hydrogen peroxide. Electric toothbrushes and water flossers are useful tools for oral hygiene. Following these guidelines may help you to keep teeth and gums healthy while preventing dental problems.
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Please note, this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical or dental advice. Always consult your doctor and/or dentist before altering your lifestyle and regimen, changing your diet or adding any supplements.