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Finally, after two years of masking in public places, we can see faces again! Deep breaths! Fresh air! Smiles! How is your smile doing after 2 years of hiding?

Did you know that our oral health impacts our overall health??

Chronic dental issues can predispose to chronic illness. While wearing a mask reduces the risk of spreading Covid and other respiratory pathogens to others, it can have negative impacts on our oral health. It may increase the risk of gum disease by reducing the of amount of water we drink. Water helps flush debris out of our mouths. And rebreathing carbon dioxide does not pose substantial risk but may affect acidity of the mouth which can increase inflammation leading to dental and gum disease.

Bacteria in the mouth can trigger gum disease which can erode the bone around the teeth leading to pockets of infection, bleeding gums, cavities. The bacteria can also enter the blood stream and increase inflammation increasing your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and in pregnant women, low birth weight and premature births. In fact, there are studies that show bacteria found in periodontal (gum) disease can trigger the formation of plaques in the brain such as those found in Alzheimer’s.

According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, people with gum disease were four times more likely to have Rheumatoid Arthritis.

And then, there is the issue with mercury amalgams fillings in our mouths, which are considered safe according to the American dental association. It is true the most damaging form is methylmercury which is found in seafood or the vapors from inhaled elemental mercury such as the pretty stuff in old thermometers. But, in my humble opinion, all mercury is toxic with no positive role in the human body and many serious health risks including neurological, psychological (mad as a hatter), immune, kidney, liver and mitochondrial damage. Why then, would we choose to put it in our mouths, next to our brains?

While I can go on and on about the importance of oral health in our overall well-being, I want to mention one more key point before I wrap this up today: malocclusion. Our bite can play a role in circulation and lymph drainage from our head and brains. Poor occlusion increases risk for gum disease, can be a factor in headaches and has been implicated in problems with coordination and may affect attention.

So, good oral hygiene extends beyond the mouth! Floss, brush, swish. I use a handheld Waterpik (TM) to power wash my gums after I floss. Avoid sugar as it increases plaque formation. Eat your vegetables and fruits. Drink plenty of water, and take off your mask when you can. Get outside and breathe! So nice to see your beautiful smiles again.


By Dr. Jennifer Means ND, LAc

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