How to take care of your teeth as you get older
Are you concerned about your oral health? If so, you’re not alone. The more the world of natural health learns about the importance of our oral health for our overall health, the more we should all pay more attention to this compelling aspect of our body. If this sounds like a good plan to you, I encourage you to immerse yourself in this article, as we explore the many natural ways we can take care of our teeth as we get older.
Scrape your tongue
Ever heard of tongue scraping? It’s an Ayurvedic technique that’s been used for centuries to improve oral health. This conscientious technique for oral hygiene has loads of benefits. It helps rid the mouth of unwanted bacteria. Tongue scraping also helps rid the mouth of fungi and toxins. It even gets rid of leftover food, as well as the dead cells that reside on the tongue’s surface.
So, why would we need to scrape the tongue’s surface to remove unwanted stuff first thing upon rising? Well, it’s quite simple, really. When you sleep, your digestive system continues to work for you, removing toxins from the body, which make their way to the oral cavity, landing on your tongue. According to Ayurvedic medicine, failure to get rid of these toxins means the bad bacteria re-enters our blood stream, which can lead to problems with digestion, respiration, and immune function.
Even studies like this one, published in the Journal of Periodontology, explain just how effective tongue scraping is for the removal of toxins from the tongue. In fact, it’s more effective than your toothbrush! To me, this is reason enough to do the simple and might I add, pleasurable morning ritual of tongue scraping.
Tongue scraping is best done first thing in the morning. All you need to do is buy yourself a tongue scraper. Then, upon waking, simply start at the back of the tongue and scrape forward. Rinse the film off the scraper, and repeat the action. You may want to do this 3-5 times. Scrape, rinse. Scrape, rinse. Scape, rinse. Easy as pie!
And if removing all that bad bacteria from the mouth wasn’t enough of a reason to scrape, tongue scraping also helps relieve bad breath, also known as halitosis. None of us want bad breath, right? So, get rid of halitosis by tongue scraping each morning!
Yet another benefit of morning tongue scraping has to do with our taste buds. As those toxins build up on our tongues, they can actually block our taste buds, making us less sensitive to the glorious taste of food. And the less you taste, the more you might crave, because you didn’t experience the full spectrum of pleasure. Tasting the full flavor of your food is undoubtedly more enjoyable and should be a part of a healthy life. This is yet another great reason to scrape your tongue.
Another boon has to do with the health benefits of both our immune system, as well as our digestive system. Did you know that your oral health is intricately linked to immune and digestive health? It’s a proven fact! Getting rid of toxic buildup on the tongue will naturally boost immunity. It also improves digestive health by getting rid of toxins that could impede the digestive system. All that said, there’s really no reason not to do a minute of tongue scraping each and every morning.
Oil pulling is also an oral health technique that hails from the ancient tradition of Ayurvedic medicine. All you need for this ritual is to have coconut oil on hand in your pantry, which you probably already have if you’ve been taking the advice from these blog articles. It’s a healthy pantry staple. Although, traditionally, sesame oil was used. So, that works, too. As does sunflower oil.
For any oil, cold-pressed, unrefined is best. So is organic. It’s been found via studies like this one, published by Harvard Medical School, that some of the Ayurvedic oils used for oil pulling—the ones that aren’t organic—actually contain toxins. Heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic have been found lurking inside some of these oils, which defeats our purpose of removing toxins. And of course, these are harmful heavy metals, proven to wreak havoc with our body and mind. This is why paying a little more on an oil you know is organic is well worth it.
Anyway, all you have to do with oil pulling is drop about a tablespoon of your oil of choice (I use coconut oil) into your mouth and swish it around without swallowing any. You should do this for anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes. While you’re swishing, you can do just about anything—stand in tree pose, wash the dishes, or sit in quiet meditation.
The lauric acid found in coconut oil has antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, which makes it really good for removing unwanted bacteria from the oral cavity. As you swish, toxins are pulled from your mouth. Hence, the term oil pulling. This is why it’s important not to swallow any. When you’re done swishing, you simply spit it out in the trash can, and with it goes all the toxins. (Be sure to spit it out in the trash to avoid clogging drains.)
Afterwards, you’ll want to rinse with warm, salty water (which we’ll talk about below), and then brush your teeth to finish the process. You’ll notice how much cleaner and smoother your teeth feel once you’re done. It’s so simple, and yet so effective. The kicker is just doing it. With any habit to sink in, the hard part is getting started. I’ve oil pulled off and on, and am just now getting back into it.
The experts say, 30-40 days is what you need to establish a new habit. If you can stick to 10 minutes of oil pulling first thing in the morning for 40 days, the habit should be set, and you’ll probably never go back. It’s kinda fun once you get into it, and you’ll love your shinier pearly whites!
Other benefits of daily oil pulling include:
- Glossier teeth
- Healthier gums
- Less plaque
- Decrease in gingivitis
- Anti-inflammatory effects
- Antimicrobial effects
Do know that oil pulling doesn’t come as a substitute for flossing your teeth or brushing them of course. It is, however, a very good substitute for mouthwash. As long as you oil pull, you can throw the mouth wash away. In fact, you should throw the mouthwash away because while it gets rid of bad bacteria in the mouth, it also gets rid of good bacteria in the mouth. This ritual should be seen as a part of your oral health regimen, not the end all be all. One more point to make here is that oil pulling isn’t safe for kids. Swallowing the oil might be harmful, and could even cause something known as lipoid pneumonia, which is rare, but possible.
Sea salt rinse
Immediately after oil pulling is when you should swish with warm sea salt water, if you choose to do this particular technique. This is a great substitute for conventional mouthwash, as it doesn’t rid the mouth of the good bacteria like the conventional stuff does. It’s a lot cheaper too, given the fact that the only two ingredients are sea salt and water. What’s more, it doesn’t have harmful ingredients like aluminum and other potentially dangerous contaminants.
So, why should we swish with warm sea salt water? Well, it has an alkalizing effect, which is really beneficial. Too much acid in the mouth is what leads to tooth decay and dental disease. This ritual is a good substitute to oil pulling, if that’s not something you’re up for. And if you want to step things up a notch, and make your own mouthwash, simply add a drop or two of a beneficial essential oil. Clove and peppermint essential oils are both good bets. They also make the breath fresher and prevent bad breath.
Is flossing necessary? If you swish with coconut oil each morning, it might not be. If you don’t, I say, yes. Flossing is necessary. But, like brushing, there are ways to floss that are better than others. When you floss, make sure you think of hugging each tooth, as opposed to just inserting the floss between the teeth, and flossing with an up and down motion. This is too harsh. Hug the tooth instead. Not all floss is created equal. I’ve found certain brands of floss that are much more effective than others. Pay attention to which floss actually gets food and debris out from between your teeth, and which ones don’t do much. Treat your teeth to the good stuff, even if it’s a bit more expensive. Your oral health deserves the best.
Your brushing technique is important if you want to take care of your teeth as you get older. Over brushing is far too common, and can do some damage. For starters, you’ll want to make sure you have a toothbrush with soft bristles. You’ll also want to make sure you brush your teeth in the morning and at night. Try brushing with your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle, and brush lightly. Don’t push too hard. And while the American Dental Association maintains that fluoride toothpaste is fine, I say, get a more natural, fluoride-free toothpaste. In fact, studies like this one, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that kids with fluoride in their water had lower IQs than kids who didn’t have fluoride in their water—something to consider.
Foods for your teeth
It goes without saying that the foods we eat are going to impact the health of our teeth, for better or worse.
Apples are full of fiber and fibrous foods make us chew more. When we spend time chewing, we create saliva. Saliva actually neutralizes acid in the mouth, which is necessary for oral health. Another reason to eat fibrous foods is that when you chew, you’re naturally giving your teeth a cleaning. When food breaks down in your mouth (healthy food that is) it cleans your teeth. So eat an apple (or any other fibrous food like celery, for example) a day to keep the dentist away.
The calcium in cheese makes teeth stronger and even helps prevent the onset of tooth decay. This calcium content is great for keeping our teeth strong as we get older. The casein in cheese helps prevent unhealthy bacteria from sticking to teeth. Another reason to love cheese! (As if we need one).
Just like eating apples, chewing gum increases saliva production, a boon for oral health. Of course, sugar-free gum is what we’re talking about here. The sugar-laden stuff is detrimental to oral health. Sugar-free gum, on the other hand, made from xylitol, helps decrease the bad bacteria in the mouth that leads to tooth decay. Mint gums are best, given the fact that some flavors contain artificial ingredients.
Sesame oil is the traditional oil used in oil pulling, and for good reason. It’s good for your mouth. Why? Because sesame oil helps prevent gingivitis and reduce plaque. Even studies have shown that using sesame oil to oil pull is an effective way to decrease bad bacteria in the mouth, getting rid of bad breath in the process.
Broccoli’s a great veggie for oral health. A study published in the European Journal of Dentistry explains how broccoli’s iron content creates an acidic barrier around your teeth that protects the teeth from sugary beverages when you drink them. While drinking soda and other sugar-laden beverages is no good for your teeth, this is no doubt an interesting fact, and an interesting study.
As you can see, there are all sorts of natural solutions for oral health—many of which are surprisingly simple, and even fun! If you want to keep your gorgeous smile throughout your life, take these natural oral care solutions into consideration, and do what you feel is right for your oral health.