There comes a time in each of our lives when we realize, “I am the captain, the MVP, of my health journey.” For some of us, this truth builds slowly in our consciousness over the course of our life. For others, some ‘date with destiny’ awakens us, and we abruptly realize that we need to accept responsibility for our health path.
Regardless of how we each reach the ’start here’ trailhead on our journey, when we do, we need a good map to help us navigate this path to optimal health.
But how do we know if the map we’re using is accurate?
How do we know if it will lead us in the right direction or to a dangerous crossroads?
Here’s an example of why having a good map makes a huge difference…
The image above is a real historical map of the ‘Island of California’ (yup, California was erroneously mapped as an island in the 1500s). As you’ll see, this piece of history will paint a pretty clear image of what happens when we follow a map without verifying its accuracy.
Legend has it that an expedition landed on the coast of California using this map as its guide. The ship’s crew members were instructed to carry small boats inland so that they would be able to cross the body of water that was thought to exist between California and the mainland of North America.
So, the crew dutifully carried boats to use on a sea that didn’t exist. The legend continues that the crew died in the deserts of eastern California, still carrying the boats.
What lessons can we learn from this error?
What happens when we follow an incorrect map?
Well, it may not lead us in the direction we want to go, so it may be wise to have a way to check your progress.
Following an incorrect map can have a wide range of possible outcomes, from a random stroke of good luck to, well, dying in the desert (and everything in between).
In other words, following an incorrect map doesn’t necessarily mean trouble, but you might not wind up where you really wanted to be, either.
That’s why feedback is so important…
Without feedback on whether or not we’re heading in the right direction, we may not be able to tell if the map we’re using is helping or harming. Weaving this back into our oral health journey, that’s why we are so adamant that the first step to dental self empowerment is getting to know your mouth.
How to determine if the map you’re using could use an update
It’s simple, really… How’s it working for you?
Given that 97% of our culture has some active form of oral disease (gum disease and tooth decay carrying the lion’s share), that strongly suggests that we need a different oral health map.
Interestingly, the incorrect map of the Island of California continued to circulate and cause trouble for nearly 150 years even after other explorers had proven it wrong.
Similarly, there are contrasting views and opinions (some outdated) among various groups of professionals today, including dental professionals. Some dentists are super pro-fluoride, for example, while other dentists argue the exact opposite.
They are using different maps.
We’re using the term “map” here to give a graphic representation of a story we believe. Some of these stories may be true, while others are just plain false. We like to call the latter “myths.”
Some oral health myths that are in need of updating…
Myth # 1: What goes in the mouth stays in the mouth.
The truth is, anything we put in our mouths can be absorbed through the cheek and gum tissue. In other words, we don’t have to swallow what’s in our mouth in order for that material to get into our bloodstream.
There are many questionable ingredients in oral hygiene products (sometimes even in those that are touted as ‘holistic’) that you wouldn’t want to be absorbed into your body, like fluoride.
Since we don’t like to point fingers, let’s just leave this subject with this fact: what we put into our mouths goes into the whole body. So, please be sure to always read your ingredient labels.
If you’d like to take a deeper dive on this, we welcome you to sign up for our free video tutorial series, the 5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth.
Myth #2: The mouth can be treated separately from the rest of the body.
Closely related with myth #1 is the general over-compartmentalization of different parts of the body.
This way of thinking about the body is very common in our culture, and even more common among highly specialized medical and dental professionals.
This makes sense: as we focus more and more on a specific area, it’s easy to become fixated on that part and lose sight of the forest for the trees.
Of course, it’s plain to see that the mouth is connected with the rest of the body. But many of the common strategies and practices within the fields of medicine and dentistry don’t take this obvious fact into consideration.
So, when trying to find the cause of an issue, often times only one part of the body is observed, tested, and treated, when in fact multiple systems in the body might be interacting and contributing to the problems. Or, a treatment might be prescribed with one localized area in mind, but that treatment may wind up having a more far-reaching impact throughout the body.
The fact is, the body is one ecosystem, one community.
We cannot isolate one part of the body and treat the part separately from the whole. Traditional healing modalities from around the world all know this. We must step back and take a broad view of the whole system and be able to drill down into the details of localized issues.
This is what we call the ‘global/local’ method of addressing oral health issues.
For example, traditional Chinese medicine emphasizes a connection between our organs and our teeth. And western medicine has also begun to recognize links between oral health and heart health as well as oral health and autoimmune diseases.
So, it’s not as simple as working ‘just’ in the mouth.
Looking through this broader, holistic lens, a toothache could be as simple as some gum recession and an exposed root coming into contact with a cold drink. However, this pain could also be a sign of something deeper going on with the organ system that relates to this tooth. Take a look at our Meridian Tooth Chart to see which organs and teeth relate to each other. It’s fascinating. (Note, the Meridian Tooth Chart doesn’t work on mobile devices yet.)
Who would have known that a simple filling could impact the whole body? But when we stop and take a broad view, we can easily see how seemingly unrelated parts of the body can in fact impact one another.
Debunking this myth allows us to really appreciate, for example, the profound healing that can come from making better dietary choices or simply cultivating the habits of smiling and choosing to speak words of beauty.
Myth # 3: All plaque is bad.
When it comes to the cultural understanding about plaque on our teeth, it seems that the consensus in most conventional circles is that plaque is bad in all forms.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking with someone who knows nothing about oral health or someone who is highly trained in the profession; plaque is often cited as the culprit for anything bad that’s happening in the mouth.
The natural follow-up thought (aka solution) is to kill all bacteria that create plaque.
We’ve been misinformed for decades that killing all the bugs in the mouth will provide the solution for greater oral health. Various types of bacteria live throughout the body, and they are necessary for our health. Like so many things in life, the solution is actually to create balance.
Many products on the market apply a ‘scorched earth policy’ of indiscriminately killing all bacteria in the mouth, and this can create some serious problems including weakening fillings and a potential increased risk of oral cancer.
On the other hand, using natural antimicrobials like those that are in our HealThy Mouth Blend is part of a strategy we call ‘balancing your oral flora‘. It helps to reduce the populations of certain types of bacteria that can create problems in the mouth, to make it more difficult for plaque to stick to/build up on the teeth, to balance saliva pH, and to stimulate saliva production, which fosters populations of the bacteria that are our buddies.
All of this helps to create balance in the mouth and keep our plaque thin but not obsolete.
You see, plaque itself isn’t good or bad; it just is.
As we mentioned, it’s created by bacteria, some of which we could not live without, and it’s the amount of plaque that determines whether it will be a help or a hindrance. In fact, plaque can actually help protect our teeth (strange but true).
These bacteria in our mouths are not trying to destroy our oral health (well, most of them aren’t, at least). They are trying to cover our teeth with a protective layer of plaque.
You see, among all the microbiomes in/on the human body, our teeth are unique.
Our intestinal tract, our skin and other microbiomes all have an outer layer of tissue that periodically sloughs off the old to allow new tissue to take its place. Our teeth are the only part of our bodies that are exposed to the outer world and that don’t slough.
So, some bacteria come along and see a ‘naked’ surface and say, “Dude, you need to cover that up!” They start to lay down plaque to protect themselves and this winds up also protecting the teeth by helping to buffer the dental impact of acids from the foods and drinks that we consume.
The problem isn’t the bacteria or the plaque overall, it’s the imbalance of species in the bacterial colony and whether or not we’re managing the levels of plaque.
Our goal is not to remove all plaque, it’s to maintain a healthy bacterial balance and to keep the plaque thin and clear (not thick and sticky).
So, rather than looking to wipe out all life in the mouth (which is both impossible and unhealthy anyway), let’s heal from this cultural myth and upgrade to a map that will guide us to more effectively support oral and whole body health.
Upgrading to a more accurate and holistic map
The best way we’ve found to navigate the path to optimal oral health is to balance your oral flora, your oral microbiome.
When it comes to ecosystems like our mouths that are these combinations of biology and chemistry, we must address the biology first, then the chemistry.
One shortcoming of so many oral hygiene products is that they approach this biological complex strictly from a chemical, ‘kill them all’ strategy.
So, instead of considering the mouth like a war zone with ‘us against them’, let’s think about how we can be a ‘good conductor’ of the ‘symphony in our mouth’ (remember, each of us is the BOSS of our own mouth).
To accomplish being a good conductor, we want to:
- only use products that are safe for the whole body and that were formulated from a holistic mindset, taking the whole body into consideration. (Note, if an oral hygiene product’s packaging contains a warning to call the poison control center, you can be pretty sure that the formula wasn’t made from a holistic mindset.)
- use products that help us balance our oral flora
- learn strategies on how to be a good conductor of the symphony in our mouth.
How to get started with your upgraded map
1. Find the ‘you are here’ on the map
Take 20 minutes of your life to find out what’s going on in your mouth today–fill out an OraWellness Mouth Map and keep this dated record of your findings. After all, how are we to know whether or not we’re heading in the right direction if we don’t first know our current location?
2. Upgrade your knowledge base
Here’s a FREE place to start… Download the OraWellness ebook “How to stop tooth decay and remineralize your teeth”. It’s free!
3. Learn how to balance your oral flora
Learn strategies and techniques that help you manage your plaque/biofilm. Here are some good places to start.
In the end, what matters is that we have confidence that we’re heading in the right direction.
Understanding (and rethinking) the oral health myths that we’ve been taught, having tools that take the whole body into consideration, and charting your oral health progress will guarantee that your map is sound and you’re heading in the right direction.
What other steps do you apply to make sure you’re using an accurate ‘roadmap to greater health’ for your family?
Please share in the comments below and let’s learn from one another!
The First Step to Dental Self-Empowerment [article]How to determine if a toothpaste ingredient is safe to use in the mouth [article]How to tell if your oral hygiene products are holistic or not [article]Is fluoride safe to use? [article]5 steps to a healthy mouth [free video tutorial series]Does flossing really lower my risk of a heart attack? [article]4 steps to stop gum disease from causing an autoimmune disease in your life [article]OraWellness meridian tooth chart [interactive resource]Can a simple filling impact our whole body health? [article]Smile your way to greater health and happiness [article]What’s in the HealThy Mouth Blend? [article]How to balance your oral flora [article]Can some plaques actually help our teeth stay healthy? [article]“Can brushing after a meal actually damage my teeth?” [article]Understanding the root cause of tooth decay and gum disease [article]How to KNOW you are heading in the right direction – the importance of feedback loops [article]OraWellness Mouth Map [FREE download]How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease [article and video tutorial]Is the key to greater oral health already in your mouth? [article and video tutorial]An easy step toward a cavity-free life [article]
Alcohol containing mouthwashes – impact on composite hardness [pubmed]Are alcohol containing mouthwashes safe? [British Dental Journal]