About a year ago my OralB 3D electric toothbrush died. I went to the store intending to get a new electric toothbrush several times, but each time I was put off by both price and the sheer number of options available. I decided to just use a regular toothbrush for awhile and see how it went.
Well, it didn’t go well. After six months or so using a regular soft bristle toothbrush (twice a day, with reasonably good brushing technique), I got bad marks from the dental hygienist. My tooth enamel was hard and I didn’t have any cavities (previous adjustments to my home care routine were still working in this regard), but she accused me of not flossing (even though I’d been flossing daily), and noted that my gums had bled slightly during cleaning. I had some deeper pockets around some of my molars that indicated gingivitis and a risk of periodontitis. Also, the cleaning process itself was uncomfortable, which indicated some sensitivity and inflammation. I was surprised by this — I hadn’t noticed any gum bleeding when I was flossing, my gums looked healthy (at least the parts I could easily see in the mirror), and I hadn’t had any pain or discomfort. But I believed my dentist and I found the news to be alarming.
I know that sub-par gum health is bad thing. Gum inflammation and gum disease are associated with heart disease, and some studies indicate that gum disease may actually cause heart disease. I’ve probably mentioned this a dozen times on this blog.
So I knew I needed to make a change. The day after that dental visit, I bought a Sonicare toothbrush and a Waterpik, and instituted the following program:
1. Brush with Sonicare first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. Mouth pH is neutral at this point so enamel is not disturbed by brushing. Also any plaque accumulated over night is not injected into bloodstream by eating.
2. Floss and use Waterpik after breakfast. Also clean tongue with copper tongue cleaner.
3. Quick brush with regular soft bristle toothbrush 20+ minutes after lunch.
4. Before bed: floss, thoroughly brush with Sonicare, and rinse with mouthwash (fluoride and/or antiseptic). Several times a week gently clean between teeth and along gum line with Stim-U-Dent plaque remover (basically a big blunt toothpick).
I found the new routine easy to stick to. It took a couple extra minutes each day, but I rationalized this easily in terms of the prospects of improved longevity. Time spent caring for your teeth and gums is similar to time spent walking; it adds at least that much time to your lifespan. Dental hygiene time is free time!
After only a week I noticed that when I cleaned my teeth with the Stim-U-Dent (toothpick) I was hardly getting any plaque. The Sonicare product seemed to be doing an excellent job of keep my teeth clean, especially along the gum line.
Last week, somewhat reluctantly, I showed up for my dental cleaning and exam. My mood improved when my hygienist noted that my gums looked great, the pockets had reduced in size (my gums had tightened up), and there was no bleeding during cleaning. There was hardly any accumulated plaque on my teeth. Also, the cleaning process itself was not uncomfortable, and at times even oddly pleasant. Four months of the new system had worked.
Commit to a System
The experience strengthened my conviction that creating and implementing systems is a key aspect of maintaining good health. Sometimes to get the same result (healthy teeth and gums) it’s necessary to step up the system. What worked before may no longer be sufficient. Unfortunately, that’s just part of aging. The good news is that a few extra minutes of the right kind of daily maintenance can restore your health to a level as good as or even superior to what you experienced in your carefree youth (and if you’re young, you can prevent health problems and save a ton of money on health and dental care by implementing good systems early in life).
Ten years ago I was asthmatic, had a 32 inch waist, was prone to severe mood swings. Today, at age 45, I breathe easily (vitamin D, fish oil, paleo-ish diet), have a 29 inch waist (lower carbs, better sleep), and feel happy and motivated on most days (exercise, turmeric, life purpose). Poor health can be reversed, and many symptoms attributed to “aging” may in fact be simply due to substandard maintenance routines.
Commit to a system that works for you, and get healthy. Don’t accept poor health. If you need help getting pointed in the right direction, or have a story to share, feel free to comment below.