*blows off a layer of dust* That’s better . . .
I have a million things I want to write about, post updates about, share pictures of, and the only thing for it is to just do it one step at a time. I’m going to attempt to keep some semblance of chronological order to avoid any confusion, but no promises 😉
First things first, Life chucked a whole bushel of lemons at me this week, and it’s inspired me to write about something that I now feel very strongly about: Becoming a Tooth Fairy.
This is how it happened:
I went to the dentist for the first time in I don’t like to think about how long, and the news was not good. In fact it was downright horrible. I knew horrible news was on its way, but I can be very good at denial and avoidance when I really want to be. As a kid, I had more than my fair share of cavities, and it’s been theorized that I just unfortunately have genetically weaker tooth enamel than the average person. But when you stop going to the dentist, you stop hearing bad news about the state of your teeth and it’s easy to pretend that brushing everyday and making an effort to floss every couple weeks is enough to get by.
And for some, it might be, until one of your fillings crumbles and you have a giant, scary hole in your tooth. I knew I was going to have to deal with said giant, scary hole, but again, I kept diving into denial and avoidance. Did I mention that at the moment I have no dental insurance? It’s always easier to brush aside things you have no money for in the first place. But last week when I started feeling pain originating from that tooth and going up half my face, I knew that I could deny no longer.
After consulting with my old dentist whom I hadn’t seen in a shameful number of years, the prognosis was terrifying. The bad tooth needed a root canal, it would take at least 2 appointments to deal with, and there were multiple other fillings needed on other teeth as well – we were looking at a very drawn out and awful process. The other option was to extract the tooth, which didn’t sound any less scary to me. But before we (myself and my parents who are generously paying for my dental care – Thanks eternally, I love you Mom and Dad!!!) made any final decisions, we decided to have a consultation with a holistic dentist that a dear friend recommended. And holy batman with a bucket of pixie dust, am I ever thankful that we did! Dr. Villarreal is hands down THE best dentist I have ever been too, he was determined to save my teeth without a destructive root canal or extraction, and I was able to go back into the office later the same day (yesterday actually) to get the most ugly and painful work done, with one more appointment next week to finish the rest of the slightly less scary fillings. For once, I am actually looking forward to going to the dentist for fillings because I know I’m in good hands and that I don’t have to freak out!
And with all the money that my parents are generously and lovingly spending on my mouth, I am determined to treat my newly fixed teeth like the Crown Jewels – and if you really think about it, our teeth kind of are like natural little jewels worth protecting. Dr. Villarreal made the very interesting point that Western medicine has sort of decapitated humans by treating dental health separately from the rest of the body, but our mouths are actually portals straight into our state of well being. The food we need to survive enters through our mouths, most of our common medicines are taken orally, and any bacteria and decay present in our mouths is very easily swallowed and taken directly into our bodies. Even for people blessed with more robust teeth and enamel than myself, one of the simplest things we can all do to improve our overall heath and well being is to take care of our teeth.
So as a newly deputized Tooth Fairy, here’s what I think is the most important, need to know information about dental care, curated from my awesome new dentist and some of my own research:
Toothbrushes: if you’re not using an electric toothbrush, seriously consider investing in one. From a hippy perspective of reducing waste, I don’t love the idea of throwing out the worn out brush heads when they need replacing – in my perfect world we would all use compostable brushes made of natural materials and still have sparkling teeth – but reality is most of us just don’t do brushing any justice with our manual brushes and hasty routines. If a fancy electric toothbrush simply isn’t in the budget, at the very least get a cheap egg timer to keep in the bathroom to ensure that you actually do brush a full 2-3 minutes, and definitely replace worn out brushes regularly.
Toothpaste and mouthwash: Scrap your fancy popular brands, it doesn’t matter how much they’re supposed to whiten your teeth or “rebuild your enamel” (urban myth – the inner parts of a tooth can re-mineralize with proper care, but the enamel is a different story), the chemicals in “regular” toothpaste and the alcohol content of mouthwash only dry out your mouth (even if you can’t feel it), kill off the helpful good bacteria, leave toxins in your body, and ultimately leave you vulnerable to more long-term damage that outweighs any of the instant gratification benefits. There are far better products to whiten your teeth and freshen your breath naturally!
Flossing: All right kids, we all hate flossing, it’s such a chore, but when the dentist tells you to do it, he ain’t kidding around, just eff-ing do it! I speak from personal experience, many of my cavities were/are in-between the teeth, and flossing is such a ridiculously simple way to clean those tight spaces and save yourself a LOT of trouble! Some people like those plastic toothpicks that can slide in-between the teeth at the level of the gums, and while they are great for stimulating your gums and dislodging bigger food particles, you really do need the floss for getting in the “contact space” i.e. the space where your teeth touch each other on either side – that’s where the real hidden damage and decay takes place! Also, I personally don’t buy into all the hype of these “water flossers” and “air flossers”. I’m perfectly happy with my $10 bulk pack of floss from Costco, as opposed to another expensive piece of gadgetry that may or may not work sufficiently.
Tongue scraper: Tongue scrapers are a simple, non-chemical way to remove more bacteria from your mouth and freshen your breath. The surface of your tongue could be compared to a thick mushroom garden – there’s lots of space under all the “mushroom caps” for bacteria to hide. Brushing really only has the effect of moving that bacteria around, but using a tongue scraper helps get it out of there. And despite the name, it’s not at all uncomfortable, it’s really more like a squeegee than a scraper.
Oil pulling: Oil pulling is a fantastic natural way to reduce the bacteria in your mouth, get a natural whitening effect (with some patience) and help freshen your breath. Sarah of Holistic Habits has a video that I love on the subject; she’s the one that turned me onto oil pulling in the first place:
IMPORTANT NOTE: if you have any metal fillings (aka mercury, even if you call it silver – think quicksilver, not jewelry silver) in your mouth, DO NOT oil pull! The process will pull the mercury out of your fillings, and you do not want to subject yourself to the risk of mercury poisoning or compromising your fillings!
Comments on diet:
- Sugar and gluten feed bacteria. Even if you don’t have other health issues regarding sugar or gluten, consider reducing the amount you eat so as to reduce how much you’re feeding bad bacteria!
- Regarding sugar – whether it’s artificial sugar in processed products, or natural sugar in things like fruit, it’s still sugar and it will still feed the bad bacteria. Your body would prefer you to eat natural things like fruit rather than candy, but you still need to be mindful of the quantities you eat; even if you brush after eating anything sweet, high sugar levels in your blood can still feed bad bacteria in your body and cause other problems.
- Calcium is still good for teeth and bones, but antibiotics in commercial milk is bad for you overall. Drinking lots of milk does not give you a free pass on dental care. And let’s not forget the importance of all the other vitamins and minerals your teeth, bones, and the rest of your body needs!
So think twice before you blow off flossing, or only spend 30 seconds mangling that old toothbrush around your mouth; it could mean all the difference between a healthy smile and healthy body, and spending multiple hours on your back in a dentist chair with half a toolbox in your mouth!