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Dr. Stanton Young on Living Healthier
Manhattan resident Stanton Young, D.D.S., received his doctor of medical dentistry from the Medical University of South Carolina and a post doctorate residency in general practice from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. In this interview, Young explains why dental health is vital to overall health.
What role do teeth play in a healthy lifestyle?
Oral health plays a role in general health, especially periodontal disease. If you don’t have good gums, inflammation, plaque and bacteria build up in the mouth and around teeth. Inflamed teeth become swollen and bacteria leaks into the bloodstream. People don’t realize the connection between bacteria that originate in the mouth due to poor oral hygiene and blood-related problems, including heart murmurs. Anytime your gums bleed, you’re weakening your immune system. An oral cavity carries airborne bacteria that slip into your system very quickly.
Good, healthy gums are critical to good health. You must floss everyday; no exceptions. It’s more important to floss than brush the teeth sometimes.
What type of toothbrush do you recommend?
Get a “pie cleaner” brush that slides between the teeth and stimulates the tissue. I’m not a fan of toothpicks—they’re too abrasive and can be harmful to gums.
What does bad breath indicate?
If you have a bad taste in your mouth, you may have an abscessed tooth, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Most people don’t realize the connection between bad teeth and heart disease. On a cardiologist’s orders, I had to pull out two teeth for someone with heart problems. An abscessed tooth is very harmful to the overall health and well-being of the body; you must take care of it immediately.
Bad breath is often a sign of impacted lower wisdom teeth and pockets of bacteria around them. For other causes of bad breath, chewing gum can help, as long as it’s sugarless. However, chewing gum can stimulate saliva flow and digestion, so it may not be a good idea for someone who wants to lose weight. Also, for the millions of people who have temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or tight jaw), chewing gum worsens things.
What can we do about sensitive teeth?
The toothpastes for sensitive teeth do work and you can take them long term. If you have sensitive teeth, you probably have a very acidic diet. Eliminate vinegars and lemons, to start.
What do you tell a new patient to do during the first 30 days of practicing better oral hygiene?
There are four principles I tell all my patients when starting on the first 30 days of better teeth and overall health:
Clenching and Grinding. This wears down teeth and enamel. It can lead to bone loss and gum recession. Overall, there’s an increase in sensitivity. If your teeth are being filed down because of grinding, it will affect your smile. So keep your jaw relaxed; make a conscious effort to do this, especially when you’re at the gym, working, studying or in any stressful situation.
Sugar. Avoid refined sugars if you don’t want decay. That includes honey or artificial sweeteners and desserts. Sugar feeds the bacteria in the mouth, the bacteria then releases an acid byproduct in mouth, which lowers the mouth’s pH and leaches minerals from the mouth. Gastric reflux and bulimia are very destructive to the mouth. Soft drinks are guaranteed decay to the gum line.
Practice good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day, but not four times a day. Too much brushing is not good and is abrasive for the teeth, making them more sensitive. Use a soft or extra soft brush only. Most importantly, floss everyday.
Don’t smoke. Smoking stains teeth, creating inevitable gum problems. You’ll loose teeth prematurely and you’ll be at a very high risk for oral cancer.
Is it ever too late to start taking care of our teeth and gums?
No, it’s not too late to make some improvements. You can stop the progression of gum disease, and gum tissue can regenerate. Flossing allows you to clean five millimeters below the gum line. With flossing, you’ll begin to see results after three days. In a week, 90% of any bleeding will have stopped. It’s not healthy for gums to bleed when you floss. This is a sign that your gums want some attention. When you bleed anywhere in your mouth, think of it as an opportunity for bacteria to enter your bloodstream.