I was in a meeting in London for work recently, and the overarching topic was health and well-being. Oral health was a topic we were fortunate to hear about from guest speakers from Public Health England and the Mayor of London’s office. Without disclosing the details of that particular meeting, that was the start of the inspiration for me sharing thoughts on this with you. Additionally, I had my six month checkup recently. My dentist and dental hygienist are awesome. Tooth number 8 is a discussion every time I go in (short story – I chipped my front tooth as a kid and get antsy whenever my dentist peeps go anywhere near it). Anyhoo…this is why oral health is heavily on my mind and it should be on yours, too. Check out these mind-blowing stats for the U.S. for year 2011-12:
- Quality of life as we age declines if we have tooth decay and tooth loss
- If you have less than 20 teeth, your ability to chew is compromised
- (Just) 48% of adults aged 20–64 had a full set of permanent teeth
- ~19% of adults aged 65 and over were edentulous (no teeth)
- ~91% of U.S. adults aged 20–64 had cavities in permanent teeth, and 94-97% of adults aged 35-64 did, too
Let’s talk about home shows where people comment on the decor, paint color, whether they like the flooring or not – you know, the cosmetic stuff. Rarely do you hear discussion of functioning electricity or plumbing until a problem is uncovered. Don’t many people do the same with health? hmm…
Beyond the optics of missing teeth and what that does to our smile, your mouth is actually a great indicator of overall health, as it provides clues on systemic diseases (AIDS, diabetes, heart disease, etc.). periodontal (gum) disease in pregnant women may put them at risk for pre-term or low birth weight babies.
Do I have you running for the floss and toothbrush yet?
Don’t panic. There are some easy things you can do to take better care of that grill of yours. And guess what? It’s much of the same stuff we’ve already talked about from a food perspective. This is simply adding in the mechanics (you can and should chat with your dentist/healthcare team for unique details related to your health). Check it out:
- Use toothpaste with fluoride and replace your toothbrush regularly
- Be planet-wise and turn the water off while you brush for those 2-3 minutes morning and night. This can save 200 gallons of water per month. Yep, 200.
- Eat a balanced diet. The American Dental Association suggests including these five things for dental (teeth) health:
- Water (especially with fluoride)
- Dairy (milk, cheese, and yogurt) – unless you are allergic, of course
- Lean proteins
- Fruits and vegetables (fiber and water content as well as stimulating saliva – good stuff)
- Nuts – unless you are allergic, of course
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, it’s just a fun way to focus on some things that matter. There are many things that are important for our teeth (and health).
Here’s the deal if you want to oversimplify a complex thing: hydration, chewing, and stimulating saliva are key to a healthy mouth/teeth as is getting the nutrients we need to support the function and strength of our body.
Chewing begins the breakdown of all the foods we eat to get at the nutrients in that food.
You need the teeth to get to the food and you need the food to keep the teeth healthy.
Sometimes small things add up to big things. Consider your total food intake, your exercise routine, and if you take – or are considering taking – supplements, talk with your dietitian/doctor/pharmacist so you don’t miss the mark on what they are intended for.
Food first. Supplements can be helpful if used appropriately.
So many things to consider! I’m not going to get them all here in this one post, but don’t worry. You don’t have to figure this all out alone.
Bottom line? Take care of your body, teeth, and mind. How you go about that is up to you. Figure that out with your healthcare team. Just ask. It’s what the good ones like me are here for. #yougotthis