Brush away poor health
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:
BAD GUMS COULD LEAD TO DIABETES
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.
A $ 2 BRUSH IS AS GOOD AS ELECTRIC
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.
WE COULD REGROW ENAMEL
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.