12 Feb National Toothache Day
NATIONAL TOOTH-ACHE DAY
This month contains National Toothache Day. Who knew there was such a thing? Toothache can be one of the worst pains we can experience and often results in more painful (and expensive!) dentistry, which we all want to avoid.
But did you know that the health of your teeth and gums can have a huge impact on your overall health. Gum disease can increase your risk of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, and problems in pregnancy such as premature birth and low birth weight. According to Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the British Dental Foundation “The link between oral health and overall body health is well documented and backed by robust scientific evidence. Despite this, only one in six people realises that people with gum disease may have an increased risk of stroke or diabetes. And only one in three is aware of the heart disease link.”
While the exact mechanisms are still debated, it’s thought that bacteria cause plaque build-up which can trigger inflammation that enters the blood stream. Over time this inflammation slowly damages blood vessels in the heart, brain and other systems in the body.
Not all bacteria in the mouth are bad, however. As with the rest of the body, most of the bacteria present in our mouth is, or should be beneficial. The problems arise when what we eat, drink or use disturbs the delicate balance. For example, a new study indicates that mouthwash can destroy beneficial bacteria that can protect against obesity and diabetes, and that those who use mouthwash twice per day have a 30% increased risk of developing diabetes.  Alcohol, tobacco, sugary foods can also destroy beneficial bacteria.
So, looking after your teeth and gums is not just vanity. Follow these simple guidelines to protect your health:
- Brush teeth for 2 minutes twice per day, and use dental floss or dental brushes
- Cut down on sugar and sugary drinks and high carbohydrate foods
- Eat slowly and chew your food well to increase saliva production. Saliva contains enzymes that kill bad bacteria
- Eat foods which provide plenty of beneficial bacteria e.g. vegetables, whole grains, beans and pulses, low sugar fruits, plus fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut etc
- Vitamin D is important for the strength of bones and teeth so get out in the sun in summer, take a supplement in winter, and eat eggs, oily fish, butter, mushrooms.
- Rather than use mouthwash, consider dissolving probiotic powder in using that as a mouthwash. If you have a gum infection, you can mix the powder with a little water to make a paste and apply it to the area of infection. In fact, you can now buy toothpaste which includes probiotic bacteria, such as PerioBiotic Toothpaste by Designs for Health
- Consider “oil pulling” to pull bacteria out of gums and strengthen and whiten teeth. First thing in the morning put a tablespoon of sesame oil (non-toasted) or coconut oil in the mouth and swill it around your teeth for 20 minutes, then spit it out. http://www.oilpulling.org.uk/
 Humphrey LL, Fu R, Buckley DI, Freeman M, Helfand M. Oral Health and Periodontal disease and coronary heart disease incidence: a systematic review and meta-analysis, 2016, BMC Oral HealthBMC series – open, inclusive and trusted201616:122