3 Dental Tips to Promote Longevity3 Dental Tips to Promote Longevity

By Dr. Mao Shing Ni, Ph.D., D.O.M., L.Ac.

When was the last time you had a check-up with your dentist? We’ve always known that taking care of our teeth and gums is important, but new research, linking gum disease and plaque build up to early cancer death, suggests that it may be more important than we thought!

The Link Between Gum Disease and Cancer or Heart Issues

Over 50 percent of Americans from age 13 and up suffer from some sort of gum disease. Think that’s alarming? New studies confirm the link between a build up of plaque (one of the main causes of gum disease) to chronic illnesses, like heart disease, but go farther by suggesting that people with higher levels of tooth plaque are more likely to die prematurely from cancer.

Just so we’re all clear about gum disease, let’s review. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and refers to inflammation of the gums, as a result of plaque build up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky residue that develops on the exposed parts of our teeth—a combination of mucus, food debris, and bacteria. Once enough plaque builds up, gingivitis becomes what we call periodontal disease, not a pretty picture. This is a bacterial infection of the gums, and has been linked with higher incidences of heart attack, as the bacteria in your mouth is thought to also irritate the walls of your arteries. Symptoms of this stage include gum pain, visible plaque between teeth, loose teeth, receding gums, and shiny, red, or bloody gums.

Now, please note that this is not a cause and effect relationship that was discovered; while plaque build-up is indeed unhealthy, and also linked to poor health and degenerative illnesses, it will not necessarily cause you to die early or develop cancer. During the study, which lasted 24 years, more individuals who suffered from premature deaths were said to also suffer from plaque build-up and inflammation. The results from this study, published recently in BMJ Open, raise many questions regarding our dental hygiene, but most importantly, they emphasize the interconnectedness of human body and health—a long-held perspective in traditional Chinese medicine.

3 Simple Steps for Dental Care

What we take away from this study is a renewed focus on dental hygiene; it is so often pushed to the back burner that we forget to take simple steps to prevent any oral illness or imbalance. With this in mind, I have a few simple dental hygiene tips to share with you, so we may all maintain our health!

1. Prevention is Key

The age-old adage still stands strong: prevention is the best cure! In addition to making regular visits to your dentist, be sure to maintain a healthy diet that is low in sugars, alcohol, caffeine, and high in whole foods and organic fruits and vegetables. Simple practices like daily brushing and flossing, daily oral rinses, and massaging the gums with tonic oil will also help maintain a healthy and strong oral environment. You can mix your own tonic oil from a combination of camphor, eucalyptus and wintergreen in sesame oil, or you can purchase a carefully blended tonic oil here.

2. Cool Your Digestive Fire

In Chinese medicine, we consider the gums to be an extension of the digestive system. When the gums become infected and gum disease arises, that means that there is too much “heat” in the stomach. The heat I’m referring to is caused by unhealthy practices like having a poor diet, not getting enough exercise, living around pollution, or even emotional stress. To help cool the heat, I recommend consuming cooling foods, drinking helpful digestive teas, such as mint or ginger tea, and undergoing a course of acupuncture.

3. Acupressure Healing for Gum Disease

Although I often prescribe acupuncture to my patients, it’s not something that you can take with you wherever you are, like acupressure! Acupressure applies the same healing principles as acupuncture, stimulating energy channels, though with simple applications of topical pressure, rather than needles. Here is the acupressure point called “Three Yin Crossing.” The Three Yin Crossing is a useful point for a variety of conditions because it crosses the spleen, kidney, and liver channels. It helps regulate digestion and metabolism, reduces inflammation, and strengthens the body’s vital qi or life energy.

To find the point, start by crossing your right leg at a 90-degree angle over your left leg. Find the acupoint four finger-widths above your inner anklebone, in the depression behind your shinbone on your right leg. Apply steady pressure with your thumb until you find a slightly sore spot, and then hold for 3 minutes. Repeat on your left leg.

I hope that you—and your teeth—will live a long and happy life!

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