blankEach year, starting around Daylight Savings Time, everyone’s schedule becomes even fuller and more stressful, and in the dental office we often experience people calling in with more dental issues and emergencies.

Most of us know how the time change can affect us, and having year end deadlines can create chronic stress as well.  Our immune systems are also more challenged and worn down, as the cold weather brings on seasonal colds and flues.  Additionally, the holiday season is upon us, a time when we should be winding down for the year.  Instead, the season brings another brand of stress, as family and financial issues are often highlighted.

Adrenal Fatigue Caused by Chronic Stress

What does all this have to do with health, specifically dental health?  In Chinese medicine, this season is related to the kidneys and to the adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys.  Many people in our very busy society tend to ‘run on adrenaline’, which acts as a kind of fuel to give us energy.  Unfortunately, the adrenals were not designed to supply fuel for our bodies the way gasoline fuels a car, but to help us in times of “fight or flight.”

When we are under chronic long term stress we can often make do and carry on.  However this is not a good long term program, as the adrenal glands and in fact our entire hormonal system becomes overused and overtaxed.  So at this time of year many people find that their energy levels and reserves are low.

Effects of Low pH in the Mouth

The kind of stress that ensues when our energy is at a deficit can often show up as an acidic environment in the body, including the saliva in our mouths.  Think of saliva as amniotic fluid for the teeth and gums.  It contains immune cells, minerals, and has a buffering capacity.  The pH of your saliva to a large degree determines buffering capacity.  When your saliva is in the more neutral range, around 7.0, it helps to maintain healthy enamel by re-mineralizing the teeth.  It also helps the gums to resist inflammation (gingivitis).

Once the mouth becomes more acidic and pH levels drop below 6.0, your teeth will begin to de-mineralize. This weakens the teeth, increasing the likelihood that sugars will be converted into food for bacteria, resulting in more cavities and gum issues.  If you are closer to 6.0 this is also evidence of stress and imbalances in your diet. Often alcohol, sugars and heavy carbohydrate diets can push the saliva pH into the acidic range. It is rare to have the pH drop below 6.0, and typically the cause is unusual stress.

PH balance is so fundamental to health that it is often overlooked.  It affects a myriad of functions and processes and when our system, including the mouth, starts to move to a more acidic condition there is more inflammation, dysfunction and cell death.  It makes sense to monitor the saliva pH, since it is so simple to do.  Any health food store carries pH paper.  You would check your saliva first thing in the morning, before you have anything else in your mouth.

Lifestyle Changes and Stress Management

Lifestyle factors such as lowering stress levels through meditation and yoga, and eating a high quality diet low in sugar and carbohydrates can have a positive effect on pH and inflammation.  People often don’t realize how important a daily stress reduction practice is to health and the quality of your daily experience, especially in the areas of resilience and coping with stress.

Dietary habits like limiting simple carbohydrates and all forms of sugar in our diets are also fundamental to our health.  Moderation is the key here as with most other things.  More on diet in part 2 of our post.

The advantages of a simple habit like pH monitoring make it worthwhile to incorporate into a daily routine.  This is also simple way to find out how well you are dealing with seasonal stress!

All the Best,

Dr. Carey O’Rielly

and Victoria O’Rielly

Carey O’Rielly is a holistic, biological and environmentally aware dentist practicing north of San Diego in Encinitas, CA.  Watch for new video captures of hidden microbes seen through a microscope at www.youtube.com/holisticddsBacteria Attacking White Blood Cells has had more than half a million views to date.  Visit Dr. O’Rielly’s web site and blog at www.myholisticdentist.com or follow  him on Facebook.