Each 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/holisticdds. Bacteria 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.
Carey O’Rielly DDS has been a practicing dentist for 35 years. He went to USC Dental School and Duke University for his undergraduate degree. He grew up in Laguna Beach and now lives in La Costa with his wife Victoria, who runs his office.
He began his career by owning and operating a network of six offices in the San Francisco Bay Area. Presently he owns a private holistic practice in North County San Diego’s Encinitas.
Dr. O started looking for solutions to his health challenges that resulted from the stress and environmental toxicity that built up over a ten year period running his dental network. He has dedicated himself to learning about oral systemic problems and how dentistry can affect your health. He has applied what he has learned over the last twenty years to ensure he, his staff and his patients are protected from the chemicals and toxic materials found in most dental offices. He has produced an environmentally friendly office that is also peaceful and calm.
He is an expert on dental materials having looked at hundreds of biocompatibility lab tests over the years. He has identified the most bio-friendly materials to use in his practice and which dental materials can be used to replace metal fillings and crowns, including BPA free and fluoride free ‘white’ fillings. He also uses metal-free Zirconia or ceramic implants and PRF (platelet-rich fibrin) grafting materials which come from the patient’s own blood.
Dr. O’Rielly teaches C.E. courses on the systemic effects of gum disease. He is an expert in using phase contrast microscopy for analyzing dental infections, where he shows patients what kind of microbes, i.e. bacteria, amoeba, and yeasts like candida are populating the mouth and affecting the body as a whole.
He has an educational blog and is writing a book on dental health called ‘Hidden Dental Infections: Healing Root Canals and Infected Teeth with the Erbium Laser’ where he discusses dental nutrition, toxic dental materials and the effects of old root canals on inflammation and overall health.