June 2004/ Evergreen Health
Good oral hygiene means rethinking everything you think you know
by Michael P. Bonner, D.D.S.
I suggest that you stop brushing with pesticides and gargling with antifreeze and, while you’re at it, realize the limitations of flossing.
‘What!’ you say. That’s right, our current approach to oral hygiene is not only exacerbating gum disease but, in many cases, can be the cause of it. But first, let me back up. Right now we have a glaring dilemma in dentistry because, on the one hand, almost every adult walking around today has some form of periodontal (gum) disease, and on the other hand, we have a dental industry with a wide array of American Dental Association (ADA)-approved products containing ingredients that dozens of studies indicate can do more harm than good (see “The 9 Untouchables” at right). For example, government statistics show that mouthwashes cause 36,000 cases of oral cancer a year and kill approximately 500 people from alcohol ingestion. All this from a product that does nothing to improve the oral health of an unknowing public trusting that these products will help them.
We have come to believe that daily brushing and flossing is the cornerstone of maintaining healthy teeth and gums. But the best brushers and flossers on the planet often still have gum disease because, one, the commonly used products themselves are toxic and two, these tools do not effectively get under the gums where up to 400 types of microorganisms — numbering in the trillions — are swimming, living and dying around the teeth, creating major inflammation and odor.
Healthy Gums, Healthy Body
Healthy gums are meant to provide a barrier, keeping these microorganisms normally found in the mouth in the mouth and not circulating throughout the body. If they migrate beyond the mouth, these microbes can create inflammation wherever the body is susceptible, including the artery walls where plaque forms that can cause heart attacks and strokes.
Any opening in the gum-tissue barrier allows microorganisms to enter the circulatory system, so the goal of a periodontal health program should be to regain and maintain a true soft-tissue barrier around the teeth. For this to happen, however, there must be a dramatic shift in how gum disease is perceived and controlled.
What’s so bad about gum disease? Hundreds of studies have looked at different aspects of the connection between gum disease and its effect on the entire body and have found it can be a factor in stroke or heart attack (increasing the risk by 200-400 percent, as well as doubling the risk for stroke). This is because gum-disease inflammation creates circulating substances called proinflammatory cytokines, which the liver turns into C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP can cause clotting and, depending where the clot occurs, a heart attack, a stroke, a deep vein thrombosis in a leg or even a blood clot in the lungs.
The medical profession is currently coming to the conclusion that high CRP levels are as serious a threat to health as high cholesterol; doctors are beginning to screen for it in blood tests as part of regular health check-ups. I strongly advise getting this test.
Additionally, there are supplements that you can take for gum health (listed at the end of this story) along with the following recommendations:
- Toothbrush. Always use a soft brush and brush twice a day. If you prefer a powered toothbrush, a Sonicare ultrasonic or a Rota-Dent will do a superb job of cleaning your teeth and gum margins. Choose your toothpaste and mouthwash carefully and read the labels to avoid the 9 “untouchable” toxic ingredients.
- Flossing. It’s exceedingly important to help keep decay between the teeth under control. Choose a floss you like so that you will use it everyday.
- Tongue Scraping. Most people’s tongues harbor trillions of microorganisms. A variety of tongue scrapers are available. Scrape your tongue from the very back to front until there’s no more odorous residue and your tongue is totally pink.
- Sulcular Irrigation. This is a critically important daily step to cleanse the hard to reach sulcus (area under the gums). I recommend a pulsating, hydromagnetic irrigator (HydroFloss or OxyCare 3000) as opposed to a nonmagnetic irrigator. It kills microorganisms, eliminates odors and reduces inflammation. Note: Some dentists believe that irrigation forces bacteria into the soft tissue and consequently into the blood stream. It does, but it is temporary and can be ameliorated by using the antioxidants listed.
The Insidious, Painless Disease
One of the key problems with gum disease is the public’s blasé attitude toward it. Very few people seem concerned, initially, when I gently probe their gums and find there’s bleeding. The public — and even the dentistry profession — still view oral disease as if it were somehow removed from the rest of the body. Yet your mouth is intimately connected to your whole body and I hope you can sense that we are entering a new era in which periodontal disease is viewed as a major cause of systemic disease.
THE 9 UNTOUCHABLES
Read the labels on your toothpaste & mouthwash and if any of the following ingredients appear, change brands!
Triclosan. Is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide. It’s in a class of chemicals suspected of causing cancer in humans.
Propylene Glycol (PG). Your Chevy recognizes PG as antifreeze and you probably know that antifreeze has killed many cats and dogs that have lapped it up. PG is used as a wetting agent in toothpaste, but it is so readily absorbed into the skin that the EPA requires anyone working around it to wear goggles and protective clothing.
Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH). In high concentration, NaOH, an extremely alkaline substance, destroys protein instantly. In the mouth, it dissolves oral soft tissues.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). A foaming agent in toothpastes, SLS is also a common detergent and surfactant used in car washes, engine degreasers and garage floor cleaners. Like NaOH, it dissolves proteins.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). SLES is also used as a foaming agent in toothpastes, and is known to have similar harmful effects to SLS.
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG). PEG is used in cleansers to dissolve oil and grease, and widely in toothpastes as a thickener.
Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40). This alcohol, found in a number of toothpastes, is very dehydrating and acts as a carrier for other harmful chemicals into your oral soft tissues. A fatal ingested dose is one ounce or less.
FD&C Color Pigments. These pigments (Red No. 40, Green No. 5, Blue No. 1, Yellow No. 10, Red No. 30 lake, Yellow No. 10 lake) that provide synthetic colors to toothpastes and mouthwashes are made from coal tar; animal studies have shown almost all of them to be cancer causing.
Ethanol (Ethyl Alcohol). Alcohol-based mouthwashes contain nearly 27 percent (54 proof) ethanol and are known to be a cause of oral cancer for approximately 36,000 users per year.
The Top 10 Nutrients for Gum Health*
(in order of importance)
- Vitamin C: 500-1,000 milligrams (mg)/day
- Bioflavonoids citrus bioflavonoids, rutin and hesperidin: 500 mg/day
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): 60-180 mg/day
- Grapeseed Extract: 100-200 mg/day
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): 1,000-9,000 mg/day in divided doses
- Vitamin E complex: 400-800 IU/day and Selenium: 100-200 micrograms/day
- Calcium: 1,000-1,200 mg/day and Magnesium: 500-600 mg/day
- Green tea extract: 100-200 mg/day
- Carotenoid complex: particularly alpha-carotene and beta-carotene:
10,000-20,000 IU daily
- B complex: 50-100 mg/day
*Based on the recommendations of Earl L. Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., co-author of The Oral Health Bible.
This material is for information only and no part of its content should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement.