gum health guide

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Find out how naturally healthy gums benefit the whole body

Take a few extra minutes to brush after each meal and floss once a day, and you may not only save your teeth, you may save your life. Research shows that the health of the teeth and gums is directly linked to the health of the body, and many diseases once thought to be irreversible may be alleviated by eliminating toxins and inflammation originating in the mouth.

Preventing gum disease (periodontitis), the leading cause of adult tooth loss, is gaining new urgency as research shows that gum disease can contribute to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The culprit, scientists believe, is bacteria from the mouth that leaks into the bloodstream.

People with periodontal disease are up to twice as likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and three times as likely to suffer a stroke. Adults with the highest levels of some oral bacteria have thicker carotid arteries, a predictor of heart attack and stroke; and people who suffer from angina and heart attacks have higher levels of certain oral bacteria. Plus, oral bacteria provoke inflammation, which can increase levels of white blood cells and C-reactive protein — high levels of both of these have been linked to heart disease.

Because diabetes can affect circulation, it can restrict blood flow to the gums. Diabetes also suppresses immunity, which can create the perfect setup for periodontitis. Recent research has suggested that treating periodontal disease can improve blood sugar control.

Periodontitis has several warning signs, including gums that bleed easily; gums that are red, swollen, or tender; gums that have pulled away from the teeth; persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth; loose or separating permanent teeth; and a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.

It's a startling fact that more teeth are lost due to gum disease than tooth decay. What can you do to prevent this problem A conscientious oral hygiene program includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes with a soft toothbrush to remove plaque and bacteria, flossing at least once a day, rinsing with a mouth-wash, and seeing your dentist every six months for a checkup and a cleaning.

"Don't overlook the health of the tongue," says David L. Lerner, DDS, PC, CAc, FIND, who practices holistic dentistry in Yorktown I [eights, N.Y. "Looking at the tongue gives a holographic view of the health of the body, according to Chinese medicine. To determine why a patient has dental disease, it is also important to look at the patient's diet."

Lerner suggests a diet rich in fruits and green vegetables for vitamin C and calcium, essential to the health of teeth and gums. He also recommends B vitamins and CoQIO to maintain gum tissue health.

"Prevention is the best solution," adds Lerner. "Maintaining good nutrition will also help prevent cavities."

DID YOU KNOW?
Your toothbrush should be replaced every three months. If it starts to fray before three months are up, throw it out and get a new one.

Product Examples (above, left to right):
ECO-DENT DailyCare Original Mint Baking Soda Toothpowder promises healthier teeth and gums with naturally effervescent baking soda and sea salt, which gently remove plaque and debris and remineralize tooth enamel. It's concentrated, so a 2-ounce bottle provides up to 200 brushings. It's ideal for travel.

Get a gentle grip on debris and plaque with Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Dental Floss. Naturally waxed and saturated with natural antiseptic tea tree oil, keep this fresh-tasting floss on hand — next to your toothbrush or in your purse or office drawer.

Kill bad breath and germs, strengthen tooth enamel, and soothe gums with alcohol-free Healthy Teeth & Gums Anticavity Fluoride Rinse from The Natural Dentist. Sodium fluoride fights cavities, and aloe vera, vegetable glycerin, xylitol, and grapefruit seed extract reduce and prevent swollen gums. It's also available in a 2-ounce, travel-friendly bottle for a quick rinse after lynch.

Whiten and strengthen teeth with Tom's of Maine Natural Clean & Gentle Care SLS- Free Anticavity Plus Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste. Silica whitens without bleaching or harsh abrasives; naturally sourced fluoride fights cavities; xylitol (from birch trees or corn), glycerin and organic aloe soothe gums; and the foaming properties of glycyrrhizin (from licorice root) disperse ingredients 2 without sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).

DESIGN YOUR OWN DENTAL CARE KIT
Pack a toothbrush, small bottle of rinse, and floss in a cosmetic bag or resealable plastic bag and stash in your office drawer, car, or purse so there's no excuse to not have clean teeth and fresh breath after lunch or on the run.

NUTRITION FOR A BRIGHT SMILE
Certain foods and herbs have been shown to be particularly beneficial for tooth and gum health. Here are some of the top smile savers:

CRANBERRIES: As a tea or sugar-free juice, cranberry may help prevent cavities. Cranberry tea also makes an excellent mouth rinse.

GREEN TEA: The powerful antioxidants in this ancient brew help reduce plaque.

NEEM, ROSEMARY, SPEARMINT: These herbs help promote healthy gums and clean teeth.

XYLITOL: This low-calorie sweetener helps stimulate saliva flow and deter cavities from forming.

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By Sherrie Strausfogel

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