Open Wide!

Happy 2017!

Are you glad to see the back of 2016? I must say, I am very happy to be moving into a new year. While 2016 wasn’t my worst year on record, it certainly wasn’t the best ever and I’m looking forward to the new opportunities that 2017 presents. 

One of those opportunities is to really focus on my own personal health and wellness this year. Like many of us, I tend to put everyone else’s needs ahead of my own, and that has consequences. I’m currently dealing with those consequences, and will be for the next few months. Lucky ME! But on the positive side I’m addressing this specific issue and anticipate a domino effect of improved health. 
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about keep reading…but long story short: See your Dentist on the regular! 

It all started about ten years ago. I lost my dental insurance, and was on a shoestring budget. I also had a 7 year old daughter and her needs were paramount to mine. Between me and her grandmother, she went to see the dentist every six months just like we’re all supposed to. To this day she has never had a cavity and has absolutely beautiful teeth. On the other hand, I went to the dentist exactly twice in that same time period. I figured as long as I was brushing, and wasn’t having any pain there probably wasn’t anything to worry about. Insert loud laughter here. 

This past September I was offered a great discount to go to a local dentist minutes from my house. Of course I said yes, even though by that point I had developed a tremendous amount of anxiety about getting my teeth cleaned—would it hurt? would they yell at me? would I have massive amounts of bad stuff going on in my mouth? Only one way to find out though, so I made the appointment and crossed my fingers. I’m not going to lie, I literally got so nervous I was shaking and crying on the way to the office. Luckily the hygienist is the sweetest person on the planet and did everything she could to comfort me and calm me down, including bringing me a heavy blanket to help ease my anxiety. 

Now you might be wondering why I’m telling you all of this. I mean, why should care about my years of avoiding the dentist or my recent dental exam? As always there’s a reason for my oversharing. 

Seeing the dentist and keeping your teeth and gums healthy are critical components in maintaining overall health. 

Think about this for a minute. Our digestion starts in our mouths, and if we have a problem happening with bad bacteria in our mouths, that’s going to transfer to the rest of our digestive system, which then affects every other system in our body including our mental health. Current research is linking Leaky Gut Syndrome and other gut imbalances, to Depression, ADD, and Alzheimers/Dementia. Researchers have also shown that dental plaque can enter the blood stream via our gums and cause arterial plaque and inflammation and eventually lead to cardiac disease. An unhealthy mouth can literally kill you. 

Knowing all of that, I screwed up my courage and opened wide for an exam and cleaning. I already knew my gums were inflamed, I could see it myself and everyday when I brushed I’d wince a little and tell myself not to worry about the slight bleeding. I was not surprised when the hygienist told me I had moderate gingivitis. I was surprised at how much the cleaning hurt due to that gingivitis, and vowed to become an ardent flosser henceforth. 

I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of that entire appointment, nor the two five hour treatment appointments that followed, but in the end my decade of skipping cleanings and exams has resulted in me spending over ten hours of my life in the dentist’s chair and several thousand dollars to get my mouth healthy again. And despite the discomfort immediately following my procedures, I’d do it all again to reap the overall improvement in my health. 

As I’ve written about before, I have a long history of lousy digestion. Starting as a kid when I couldn’t make it through dinner without a trip to the bathroom (oh hello, undiagnosed gluten intolerance) through my twenties and thirties when food poisoning and parasitic infections nearly killed me a couple of times, and right up to the present where I’m still figuring out exactly what foods trigger a digestive upset, I have had a lot of problems with my gut. But lo and behold, now that I’ve fixed the dental problems I didn’t even know I had, my guts are doing much much better! Huzzah! I don’t have to sprint for the loo at the drop of a hat. I don’t have bloating, cramping or gas nearly as much as before. I don’t wake up with stomach/abdominal cramping at night. And my brain fog, which I’d started to believe was a consequence of being perimenopausal,  has lifted. Now, do I have definitive proof that all of these issues I’ve been unable to heal through diet, mindfulness, and exercise, were 100% caused by the stuff going on in my mouth? Of course not. But I can report that healing my gums, removing decay and plaque, using a medicated antibacterial mouth rinse and flossing, has been eerily coincident with the alleviation of long standing digestive issues. Correlation is certainly not causation, but I can’t help but link my oral health with my gut health. I’m really looking forward to continuing to see improvements in my health and digestion as my body has less and less built up bad bacteria to deal with. 

While I still have some lingering anxiety regarding dental visits, I’ll be maintaining a strict schedule of cleanings and exams to make sure I’m never in this position again. And I hope any of you who have been avoiding regular dental checkups will learn from my story and get yourself to the dentist forthwith. The health implications of ignoring our teeth, gums, and mouths are too great to justify skipping regular exams and cleanings. And a little side note: everything tastes better now! 

Have a great New Year, and let’s make this one the best yet! Big (Healthy) Smiles, and Lots of Love!!

Do you have a story about the dentist? Share it below!