Are we doing dental health-care all wrong? We continue to scale, polish, and lecture about oral hygiene, and our patients do their best to comply. Yet, dental disease is still at epidemic levels. So what's going on?
I had a patient who had uncontrolled bone loss and red, bleeding tissues, and she was losing teeth. She would see me every three months, and I would give her my best recommendations, to no avail. Suddenly, at one appointment she completely surprised me. Her gums were completely different—pink, tight, and minimal bleeding.
Why the transformation? She had totally changed her diet. She no longer ate carbohydrates and sugar, and it made all the difference for her oral health. That was an “aha moment” for me. I knew I needed to look at dental health differently: Maybe instead of focusing so hard on removing all the plaque and tartar during dental hygiene recare appointments, we look at the our patients' nutrition and talk to them about achieving a healthy microbiome?
A, B, and C are good places to start, and here’s why:
Vitamin A: A fat-soluble vitamin, it builds and maintains healthy teeth, bones, and oral tissues. It is also important for vision, reproduction, and fetal development.
Vitamin A deficiency can result in tooth decay, dry mouth, dry eyes, and dry skin.
B-complex vitamins: Water soluble, they are essential for healthy gums, and they accelerate gum healing.
Deficiencies in Bs result in mouth sores, dry mouth, cracked lips, bleeding gums, bad breath, angular cheilitis, and geographic tongue.
Vitamin C: C is important for wound repair and is an antioxidant. It helps the body form and maintain connective tissues, including collagen found in gums and teeth. It prevents gum disease, builds strong enamel, and improves bad breath.
Deficiencies in vitamin C can result in scurvy, bleeding gums, easy bruising, poor wound healing, impaired immunity, swollen and painful joints, a decrease in total collagen production and compromised collagen composition, and dry scaly skin.
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Barbara Tritz, MSB, BSDATE, BRDH, is a biological dental hygienist and orofacial myofunctional therapist whose blog, Queen of Dental Hygiene, provides patients the information they need to help them on their healing journey. “Our one-hour appointment time was just not long enough to share all the many important facts I wanted our patients to learn. Dental hygiene is about so much more than just teaching brushing and flossing," says Barbara. “We are healers, educators, and lifesavers, and we need to give our patients the tools and skills to empower them to true wellness and health.”