While you may think good oral health can be achieved by simply brushing and flossing daily and seeing your dentist every six months, you might be surprised to learn that dental care is evolving and that you may not have learned everything you needed to know when you got your first toothbrush. Mark Burhenne, DDS, a functional dentist who is also behind the popular @askthedentist Instagram account, shares some important tips for improving your oral health.
1. Assess whether you have a dry mouth. According to Burhenne, approximately 50 percent of us seem to have a dry mouth issue, which is most likely related to mouth breathing or medication. Burhenne notes that a dry mouth increases your chances of developing gum disease and cavities because the pH of your saliva and the pH of your mouth drops into the acidic zone, which causes an oral microbiome dysbiosis, a disruption to the microbiome.
2. Optimize your intake and levels of vitamin K2. This fat-soluble vitamin has been shown to fortify the teeth. Although calcium and vitamin D3 often get all the accolades, vitamin K2, found mainly in animal products, helps carry and deposit calcium to the teeth and bones. It also builds new dentin, calcified tissue under the enamel, that makes cavities less likely to form, slows the rate of tooth loss as we age, kills cavity-causing bacteria, and more.
3. Eliminate fluoride. While this advice may seem contrary to what most dentists would advise, Burhenne points to numerous studies revealing the health risks associated with fluoride. Although it does remineralize the teeth, research shows that it may be a developmental neurotoxin and cause a lowering of IQ in children exposed to it in utero. “Even if you don’t swallow it, it is absorbed through the oral mucosa,” says Burhenne. It also doesn’t help that many of us are exposed to it in the water we drink, as fluoride is often added to the public water supply. Fortunately, there are other options when it comes to dental care such as hydroxyapatite, which remineralizes teeth, reduces tooth sensitivity, and more.
4. Add tongue scraping to your flossing and brushing routine. Much of what we eat is packaged and processed foods, high in sugar and carbohydrates. Not surprisingly, these foods can have an adverse effect on the teeth, destroying enamel and causing plaque to develop. Flossing, brushing, and tongue scraping are important to maintain the health of the oral microbiome.
5. Seek out the services of a functional dentist. Providing a full-body approach to dental care, functional dentistry focuses on the prevention of oral diseases and recognizes that the health of the mouth reflects an individual’s overall health.