Mind Your Mouth – Queen of Dental Hygiene

Dental health is about so much more than just what toothbrush and toothpaste to use. Oral wellness is THE key to how healthy you are going to be into your senior years. Today’s post is dear to my heart. I want to review how oral diseases are directly connected to dementia, and what you can do NOW to change the possible trajectory of your future. Your brain health depends on it. Mind your mouth.

Brain Health Starts in the Dental Hygienist’s Chair

For years people have just accepted that dementia is inevitable. We have also sadly accepted that it is inherited or just a part of aging. The research says by the year 2050 the number of people with dementia worldwide will triple. I challenge you, my readers to “up your dental game” and help change those statistics.

I am not an expert in Alzheimer’s dementia but I have a loved one with this horrible disease. It has inspired me to learn as much as I can. I am reading Dr. Dale Bredesen’s book The End of Alzheimer’s Program. I have listened to the Awakening from Alzheimer’s online video series which I recently saw they are updating and re-releasing. I read research and look for the dental connections because mouth health is intricately connected to brain health.

There are many factors that go into having a healthy brain. I have learned much more about some critical links between what goes on in the mouth and its impact on what is going on between our ears. Dementia is a very complex disease and this post does not address all the causal factors. I am limiting my post only to dental issues that we can address and change. For much more information, I encourage you to read Dr. Bredesen’s book.

Brain health starts with knowledge

Mind Your Oral Pathogens

Dental diseases, tooth decay (cavities) and gingivitis, and periodontitis (gum disease) are caused by our body’s reactions to pathogenic bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses that take up residence in our mouths. Normally, our mouths house healthy bacteria, fungi, and viruses but too often this delicate balance gets out of whack.

The bad bugs take over for a variety of reasons.They grow and make new bacteria babies that make nasty biofilms underneath your gums which make your gums red, swollen and inflamed. These pathogens are then introduced into the body via the infected gum tissues that bleed easily. I call these “leaky gums”. If you see blood on your brush or in the sink, you have leaky gums. You have an infection.Too often, I get patients who tell me their gums have always bled. They have ignored it for years because it does not hurt or it goes away when they don’t floss. I tell them: “your gums have always been infected then”.

Bleeding Gums are Infected Gums

If you take the entire surface area of gum tissue that is infected, it would be about the size of the palm of your hand. If you had a wound on your leg that was the size of the palm of your hand and it bled when you touched it, would you be concerned?

Yes, please be concerned. Be very concerned. Healthy tissue DOES NOT BLEED. Never. Ever. Nowhere on or in the body is it okay to spontaneously bleed. This bleeding means there is an infection in the tissue and now the pathogens have direct access to your body. We also swallow and inhale these pathogenic bugs as well. Picture them enjoying a ride in your bloodstream, rather like a roulette ball. Where will they end up?

Meanwhile, your brain is protected by what is called the blood-brain barrier. However, research is now showing that obstructive sleep apnea makes this supposedly impenetrable barrier permeable. What should be a steel door allowing only vital nutrients and oxygen to pass through becomes a screen door and allows gum disease pathogens: oral pathogens such as Porphyromonas Gingivalis, Spirochetes, H. Pylori, Candida Albicans, and Herpes Simplex One virus to invade the inner sanctum of the brain.

Oral pathogens are CAUSAL for Alzheimer’s dementia. Yes! You read that correctly. (There are of course other factors as well but as your brain health hygienist we can definitely address our oral situation and make that so much better.)

These pathogens create a biofilm within the brain much like they do in the mouth. (Ever notice your teeth feel fuzzy in the middle of the day? That’s a “biofilm” you are feeling.) Biofilm is like a protective shield that insulates the bugs from antibiotics or other antimicrobial things that would kill them. Instead, these bugs then create inflammation within the brain. The brain tries to protect itself from these bugs and their toxic excretions (yes, bacteria poop called gingipains) by making the amyloid beta and tau tangles. That’s a very simple explanation for what is happening in the brain. Dr. Bredesen discusses this in more detail in his book in chapters 17 and 20.

The Fungus Amungus: Candida Albicans is a species of Yeast

Mind Your Teeth

Tooth loss is also connected to brain decline.

The research shows that the more missing teeth one has, a 48% higher the risk of cognitive impairment and a 28% higher risk of dementia

This research alone makes it imperative we fight for every tooth and work ever harder at preventing dental decay, gum disease and tooth loss.

Prevention is better than tooth loss

Tooth loss is a result of cavities as well as gum disease.

Cavities are caused by any and all of these issues: nutritional deficiencies, dry mouth, mouthbreathing, pH imbalance, bad bugs, and then throw in poor oral hygiene. That’s why it is so important to work closely with your dental hygienist as well as your primary care doctor to figure out “why” you have cavities and then correct the source of the problem. The root of the problem may be in your nose, your gut, or your shopping cart. That does not absolve you from brushing before bed because it could certainly be a lack of proper brushing on top of all those other issues.

New plaque is pink, Old plaque is purple, and Acidic plaque is blue

For a healthy mouth, it is critical to remove all the plaque every 12 hours. Beyond that, the plaque starts to organize and gang up on you. Acidic plaque leaches minerals out of the teeth. The plaque in this photo was too thick and coated for my young patient to remove with a tooth brush. It took me 45 minutes with my air polisher to completely remove it.

Plaque biofilm is actually a little 3-D city of microbes and they make a sticky slime coating to insulate themselves from your toothbrush assault. I think of it as an igloo- rather impenetrable. Your half-hearted 45-second slapdash toothbrush job won’t even penetrate it, let alone remove it. But, my very cool, extremely gentle 21st-century airpolisher will peel it right off, both above and below the gum line, and not damage tooth structure or gum tissue.

Work with your dental hygienist to find better tools that work in your hands so you can keep your microbes to a minimum, and your teeth and gums healthy.

Mind Your Microbes

As a biological dental hygienist, I practice prevention and impress that upon my patients. I use a phase contrast microscope and take plaque biofilm samples on every patient, no matter what age. Every time someone sees me for a dental health appointment, we are looking at what lives within their plaque biofilm. Please look at this post for more information on why I practice this way.

On my microscope, I can see various shaped bacteria as well as parasites and candida. I cannot see viruses (they are too small). There are 57 different varieties of spirochetes and they are all bad. Bottom line: They are not present in a healthy mouth. We can change the biofilm and heal the mouth as long as we know what we are dealing with and working toward. Armed with this knowledge I can help my patients use better tools, information, and oral health techniques to heal the mouth and address the dysbiotic plaque bugs.

Test, Don’t Guess

I also highly recommend my patients do salivary diagnostics for gum disease and decay pathogens, as well as additional testing for viruses and candida. Being aware of what is happening in the mouth allows us to address infections there and then signals a red alert for what could happen down the road in the brain (not to mention in the heart and contribute to many other chronic systemic illnesses).

Salivary diagnostics – P.gingivitis is above the thershold level and a grave concern in this report.
Spirochetes and Sticky, Inflamed Red Blood Cells

The thing is, we should test everyone yearly. Young as well as older folks. Maybe especially the younger population! I have had several youngsters – age five- that were teeming with spirochetes. What if this sets the stage for early onset dementia?

Gingivitis is present in 73% of children ages six to 11. How can we allow this high an infection rate in our children? This is not okay. What pathogens are contributing to their oral diseases? Testing will give us answers. We can do better, and for the sake of our children’s future health, I think we must. We cannot treat what we do not know is there until after the damage is done unless we test.

Mind Your Airway

I briefly mentioned the airway earlier. Does your child have crooked teeth? Do they mouth breathe and/or snore?

Crooked teeth are a sign of a cramped mouth which means an underdeveloped face and restricted airway. Airway development is so important for a healthy future.

We know that sleep apnea is a constriction of oxygen to the brain and is a known cause of Alzheimer’s dementia. Small jaws mean small airways and small airways have far-reaching consequences.

Crooked Teeth. Cramped Airway

Crooked teeth in children may well be the very beginning and the start of cognitive decline.

Crook Teeth in Adults Mean OSA

Help your child grow their face properly, with room for 32 beautiful straight teeth. Work with an airway dentist and an orofacial myofunctional therapist. Learn about proper tongue rest posture.

Mind Your Sleep

Sometimes adults use sleep aids to help them sleep or to return to sleep (sleep maintenance insomnia). These sleep aids (like Tylenol PM, Advil PM, Benadryl and so many more) contain anticholinergic drugs. The problem is that research points to the fact that these anticholinergic drugs cause irreparable memory loss. AND nobody is sounding this alarm!! We have a crisis brewing because upwards of 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders and insomnia.

Sleep is when we heal. We release something called growth hormone. Adults need this to be healthy. We release growth hormone in the brain during certain stages of our sleep cycles. If we do not sleep well, we may be reducing or eliminating this vital hormone.

And, sleep is when we cleanse our brains with lymphatic drainage. It is called the glymphatic system and happens during sleep. It is when we literally – take out the garbage and remove bad pathogens.

Sleep is when we take our short-term memories and put them into long-term storage, creating memories. Deep, healing healthy sleep is critical to our brain’s as well as our body’s health.

Please address sleep issues. Do not rely on medications to help you sleep. Open the airway, use a CPAP, learn better sleep hygiene techniques, exercise, and don’t eat within three hours of going to bed. Alcohol intake contributes to this sleep maintenance insomnia. Eliminate sugar from your diet as it causes inflammation.

Even adults can expand their dental arches and grow better airways and no surprise, but you’ll sleep better too! Find an airway dentist and grow healthy airways so sleep apnea is not a problem in the future. It is an investment in your health.

Mind Your Mercury Fillings

Silver fillings are actually more accurately called mercury fillings. They are composed of 50% liquid mercury mixed with copper, silver, tin, zinc and other trace metals. The main problem with these fillings is the mercury.

This was the opening line in a PubMed research study: Mercury (Hg) has been identified as one of the most toxic nonradioactive materials known to man. And we put these fillings near our brains?

Mercury Silver Fillings are Toxic to Your Health

Mercury vapors are highly toxic. They are released from dental fillings when they are placed in the mouth, when they are brushed, during chewing, and especially when they are removed.

Do you have mercury fillings and chew a lot of gum everyday? The vapors are absorbed into the bloodstream and pass the blood-brain barrier where they cause neurological impairment. It causes serious damage to the central nervous system.

This review of the literature strongly suggests that mercury can be a cause of Alzheimer’s Disease.

There is NO safe level of mercury. Please look at the interview with Dr. Boyd Haley for more information about mercury fillings. Silver mercury fillings are not safe, contrary to what the American Dental Association would have you believe.

Biological dental offices have been trained in the SMART protocols.

SMART stands for Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique. To find a SMART-certified dentist please review the IAOMT.com website. Even a small mercury filling can have brain health consequences.

SMART Mercury removal – Keeping our patients and staff safe. Be S.M.A.R.T!!

Mind Your Fluoride

And then there’s another sacred cow about to be tipped over. I wanted fluoride to be the miracle everyone in dentistry thinks it is but after reading the research I came to a much different conclusion. It is not effective in preventing dental decay and it causes much more harm. Please read my blog post Leaving the Land of Fluoride for more information. What I did not know until after I had written my post was that fluoride is actually bad for the brain too.

Fluoride, long the beloved tooth “vitamin” of the dental world is a neurotoxin and damages the brain. Neurotoxin are toxins that damage nerve tissues.

Neurotoxicants: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene. Since 2006, epidemiological studies have documented six additional developmental neurotoxicants—manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Dentistry uses two of these neurotoxicants regularly.

Fluoride can cross the blood-brain barrier and affects cellular energy metabolism. It induces apoptosis and inflammation in the central nervous system. Apoptosis is programmed cell death. Fluoride triggers abnormal brain cell death. It causes oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, connecting it to Alzheimer’s disease.

Fluoride passes through the placenta greatly harming our unborn children’s developing brains.

Newborn Brain Health is in Your Hands

Mind Yourself

Action Items:

Take dental health to an entirely new level. Use an electric toothbrush twice daily for at least two minutes.

Clean inbetween your teeth with floss, interporximal brushes and use an oral irrigator ( Waterpik is just one of many brands)

Clean your tongue (yes, it has all the same plaque as your teeth)

Clean your nose. Use your nose to breathe 24/7.

Exercise daily. Move your body.

Address sleep issues.

Learn proper tongue rest posture. Lips together, teeth apart, tongue up firmly on the roof of the mouth.

See your incredible brain-health dental hygienist more than twice a year.

Do salivary diagnostic testing for the entire family. Screen for the bad bugs and them address them.

Heal your gut.

Eat healthy food.

Stop eating sugar and processed foods. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

Drink more water and foods that contain water.

Be an active participant in your health. Just because insurance doesn’t cover it doesn’t mean you can disregard it.

Read great books like this one from Bale and Doneen:

Reading Worth Your Time

Biological Brain Health Hygiene: Minding it All

Dental hygiene is about so much more than just “cleaning teeth” and removing plaque and tartar from the last six months. Your dental hygienist is concerned about your oral health and its impact on your entire systemic health. Now you know how important oral health is to promoting and keeping your brain healthy.

Hope it makes you brush longer (and maybe even floss…) and please schedule that dental health appointment. Ask for a salivary diagnostic test to screen for oral pathogens: bacterial, viral, and fungal. Then work with your fabulous brain health hygienist to reduce and remove the bad bugs. Your brain is counting on you! A healthy mouth is a key part of true total body health. For brain health mind your mouth!

Smile! And until next time,

Barbara

Your Happy, Healthy Brainy Hygienist

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