Brush away poor health

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

WHEN in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ist Dr Christof­fer van Tulleken ( pic­tured right) had to go with­out brush­ing his teeth for a few weeks he dis­cov­ered it had po­ten­tially deadly con­se­quences.

“Den­tal health is some­thing I have al­ways taken se­ri­ously and, as a gad­get fan, I’ve tried all the latest hi- tech elec­tronic tooth­brushes and ex­pen­sive tooth­pastes, gels and mouth­washes,” Dr van Tulleken says.

“But then I had to go with­out brush­ing my teeth for a fort­night and what I dis­cov­ered had im­pli­ca­tions not just for me, but for all of us.

“For two weeks I wore a gum guard on one side of my mouth when­ever I brushed my teeth, so that side didn’t get cleaned.

“At the end of this time, I brushed my teeth with­out the gum guard on and my gums bled a bit and there was pink, blood­spat­tered spit in the wash­bowl.

“I had de­vel­oped mild gum dis­ease.”

But some­thing much more sig­nif­i­cant had also hap­pened, the doc­tor found.

“Tests con­ducted showed by not brush­ing my teeth for just two weeks I had dam­aged my im­mune sys­tem,” Dr van Tulleken says.

“Lab tests showed my white blood cells, the sol­diers of the im­mune sys­tem, had be­come less ef­fec­tive at mov­ing to­wards an in­fec­tious in­vader when it was in­tro­duced to them.

“In­stead of head­ing straight to­wards the in­vader to at­tack it, the white cells were head­ing there slowly, in ran­dom, in­ef­fi­cient ways.

“This in­di­cated that my whole body had be­come in­flamed as a re­sult of an in­fec­tion in my gums.

“When our body is con­stantly re­act­ing to chronic dam­age or in­fec­tion, such as long- term gum dis­ease, it can push our im­mune sys­tem into dam­ag­ing over­drive that sets off chain re­ac­tions that cause harm through­out our bod­ies.”

Here’s what else not brush­ing your teeth prop­erly can do:


If you have chronic in­flam­ma­tion, it will se­ri­ously af­fect the rest of your health and your life.

It is strongly linked with the de­vel­op­ment of ill­nesses such as heart dis­ease, type 2 di­a­betes, Alzheimer’s, stroke and can­cer.

Pro­fes­sor Iain Chap­ple, of Birm­ing­ham Univer­sity, says this in­flam­ma­tion is com­pletely re­versible if you en­dure it for only a cou­ple of weeks. But leave gum dis­ease for sig­nif­i­cantly longer and you will be do­ing your­self chronic, ir­re­versible dam­age.

Gum dis­ease isn’t just bad for your teeth, it short­ens your life. Look­ing af­ter your teeth is one of the most im­por­tant health in­ter­ven­tions you can make.


Fill­ings are a sign not just of poor brush­ing but poor diet. When you eat sugar there is a pe­riod of dan­ger in which your enamel is at risk of be­ing eroded by the acidic en­vi­ron­ment cre­ated. That will fix it­self if that dan­ger pe­riod lasts for only a short time – like eat­ing sweet things only at break­fast, lunch and din­ner.

But eat at five- minute in­ter­vals through the day, your mouth will re­main acidic all day. All the brush­ing tech­nique in the world won’t save you.

And it’s not the qual­ity of the brush that counts – an elec­tric tooth­brush is no more ef­fec­tive than a cheap, prop­erly used man­ual one – it is the qual­ity and du­ra­tion of the brush­ing that re­ally makes a dif­fer­ence.

Not rins­ing and not spit­ting is cru­cial. Flu­o­ride is the only use­ful thing in tooth­paste and you want it to stay on your teeth all night.


For those with tooth de­cay there is good news on the hori­zon. Un­til now, tooth enamel could never re­grow. Once a den­tist drills away the de­cayed bit of tooth, it will never grow back.

Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Leeds have de­vel­oped a so­lu­tion con­tain­ing tiny pieces of pro­tein that, when ap­plied to a tooth, can help them re­grow over holes if they are dis­cov­ered at an early stage. The pieces of pro­tein act as a scaf­fold on to which the hard cal­cium that makes up our teeth can be laid down.

The prod­uct is still in de­vel­op­ment, but the early re­sults are promis­ing.

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