Did you know that researchers studying Neanderthal skulls have found that Neanderthals didn’t have cavities? They certainly didn’t have toothbrushes or floss, so how was it that our prehistoric ancestors haven’t experienced the painful drilling and tedium of dental cleans and still maintained their perfect pearly whites?
There are only two causes of enamel erosion and decay: acid and sugar. Neanderthals didn’t have access to processed sugar or concentrated forms of food acids, such as smoothies, juices, sodas and energy drinks. However, our modern-day diets are filled with acids and sugars. It’s not only the lollies and soft drinks, it’s hidden sugars used as preservatives and enhancers in even savoury foods like tomato sauce, cereals, yogurt… You name it.
Swearing off sugar entirely is very difficult in this day and age which is why we need the help of dentists to combat the damage it causes. Regular cleans get rid of plaque build-up that hardens overnight and becomes unremovable by brushing and flossing alone. However, taking care of this build-up during your yearly cleaning isn’t enough. Good brushing and flossing is all that’s needed to remove it while it’s still soft, preventing long-term damage to your teeth and gums.
Up to 65% of Australians admit to not brushing and flossing as often as they should. Maybe the idea of a little filling here and there isn’t so scary that you stick to your dental hygiene routine religiously. But did you know that cavities aren’t the only thing to worry about if you’re not taking care of your teeth?
Dr Helen at Dr Helen’s Dental & Implant Studio in Prahran advises her patients of other dire consequences from lack of oral hygiene. As an implant expert, she sees lots of patients who have suffered complete tooth loss, widespread periodontal disease, and other serious diseases associated with poor oral health including:
Coronary Heart Disease: The same bacteria that breeds in unhealthy gums is the bacteria found in the hearts of coronary heart disease sufferers. Studies have shown even without changing diet or lifestyle choices, improving oral health actually reduces the bad bacteria in the heart.
Cancers: Oral cancer needs to be detected early to prevent debilitating consequences, such as the loss of the tongue, lips, and facial integrity. A quick check by your dentist at your routine check-ups is all that’s needed, but without it, these cancers can go undetected.
Compromised Immune Systems: The bad bacteria in your mouth can affect your whole body. Oncologists often prescribe routine dental care to their patients seeking cancer treatment, because the likelihood of secondary illnesses can actually be reduced if the mouth environment is healthy.
Longevity: Did you know that people who have all their teeth into their elder years tend to live longer than their denture-wearing counterparts? Adequate nutrition is hard to get if you can’t eat well, and this can have dire consequences later in life.
Dr Helen always tells her patients that prevention is cheaper, less painful, and far less invasive than treatment. Nothing fancy is needed: just a soft toothbrush, a piece of floss, and a healthy diet with lots of unprocessed foods and not a lot of sugar. Dental health isn’t separate from whole-body health, and when your smile is healthy, the rest of you will be, too.