One of my biggest regrets is not taking care of my teeth when I was younger. Growing up, I ate a lot of sugary snacks and because of that, most of my teeth had to be drilled and filled over the years, which was painful and expensive.
I know first-hand how much pain and distress cavities can cause and my heart goes out to all those struggling to find a dentist (a survey last year found that 90 per cent of dental practices in the UK were turning away new adult patients from NHS). or who are turning to home dentistry or traveling abroad.
Although it’s a little late, I still want to take care of what’s left of my teeth, and in fact, there are many things you can do to keep them strong and cavity-free, no matter your age.
It’s not just about the appearance of your teeth: taking care of them is important because there is increasing evidence that bacteria hiding in inflamed gums can break off, enter the blood, spread and cause inflammation in other parts of the body and mouth. brain.
That’s why gingivitis (swollen gums) is strongly linked to an increased risk of heart disease and dementia.
A survey last year found that 90 per cent of dental practices in the UK were turning away new adult NHS patients.
A Boston University study showed last year that, in mice, when bacteria from inflamed gums reach the brain, they are attacked and devoured by white blood cells, called microglia, which protect our brain from invaders. But like sleepy guard dogs that have gorged themselves on a big piece of meat, those white blood cells are too “full” of teeth.
bacteria to actively seek out and destroy harmful plaque in the brain that appears to cause Alzheimer’s disease.
So to protect your teeth, brain, and other vital organs, the most obvious place to start is by brushing your teeth.
As everyone knows, the advice is to use toothpaste twice a day that contains fluoride: this protects the tooth enamel against acid-producing bacteria, which are the main cause of cavities and dental diseases. the gums. Since 1964, fluoride has been added to the UK’s water supply in Birmingham in the hope of reducing cavities.
But progress is slow and only about 10 percent of the population has access to fluoridated water, which could partly explain why we have such terrible teeth.
The Government has announced ambitious plans to add fluoride to drinking water in the rest of the country, starting in the northeast. This is something that has been resisted in the past by those who, I believe wrongly, believe that doing so could affect children’s mental health and cause problems such as ADHD.
You can also reap the benefits of fluoride by massaging some fluoride toothpaste into your gums after lunch. That was the conclusion of a study conducted by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden in 2012, which found that doing so increased “fluoride protection” by 400 percent.
Modern advice on when to brush your teeth is more surprising and goes against what I’ve been doing all my life: the British Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth before you sit down to breakfast, not after.
This is because if you brush your teeth before eating, you not only remove bacteria that have built up on your teeth overnight (and which contribute to dry mouth and morning breath), but the fluoride in The toothpaste will also protect your teeth from acids. in breakfast drinks, such as orange juice and coffee. If you brush your teeth immediately after eating, when your teeth are already weakened by acid, you can damage the enamel.
In addition to brushing my teeth, I floss twice a day. But should you floss before or after brushing?
In a 2015 study by Hamadan University of Medical Sciences in Iran, 35 dental students spent two weeks flossing before brushing their teeth or the other way around. It turned out that the method of flossing and then brushing removed much more plaque.
And it’s not just about flossing between your teeth: the proper way to floss is to take a piece between each space and scrape it against the sides of each tooth to clean any buildup. And finally, once you’ve flossed and then brushed your teeth, don’t rinse your mouth; that would remove the fluoride, which is best left to coat your teeth.
Certain foods can also help keep teeth in good shape.
I eat a lot of cheese, milk and yogurt, because in addition to being delicious, they are a good source of calcium, which helps protect and rebuild tooth enamel.
Studies have also shown that cheese is an excellent saliva generator (it’s not clear why) and saliva can neutralize acid on teeth that would otherwise promote cavities.
An apple a day, especially if eaten after a meal, could also keep the dentist away, if you eat the skin. This is because the fibrous shell will help remove some of the plaque and food debris left after eating.
Avoid sugary drinks and instead drink water, which improves saliva flow, or tea, which is rich in compounds called polyphenols that help suppress the growth of acid-producing bacteria in the mouth. Also cut back on sugary snacks. (However, I was surprised to learn that raisins, despite being sugary, also contain a substance that kills acid-producing bacteria on teeth.)
If you’re going to eat something sweet, it’s best to do it at the end of a meal or devour it all in one sitting!
Wearing a fitness tracker on your wrist to monitor your steps, heart rate, and sleep is common these days. But now researchers at Washington State University have gone further, with ‘smart earrings’ that track body temperature through your earlobes.
They suggest that tracking body temperature in this way could tell doctors how well a feverish patient is responding to antibiotics, or tell a woman when she is ovulating and at her most fertile (her body temperature rises by a fraction of degree).
Researchers want to develop more trackers that can function as jewelry, including a necklace to detect irregular heartbeats. Perhaps the ideal birthday gift.
Could doing planks help control blood pressure?
After reading a study that said we lose about 5 percent of our muscle mass every year starting at age 30 (unless we do something about it), I’ve been doing squats and push-ups every morning.
I usually manage at least 30 of each, although it never gets easier. And now I have added another type of exercise to my morning routine: the plank.
Recent research suggests that isometric exercise, which involves holding your body motionless in one position for a set amount of time (e.g., plank), helps keep blood pressure in a healthy range, something I’m interested in because I have a family history of accidents. cerebrovascular.
To do a plank, you balance on your elbows, with your feet on the floor behind you: then hold that position for about 30 seconds. It is important that you check how to do it correctly, online or with a fitness trainer, before you start.
But how does it help? I asked Dr Jamie O’Driscoll, a researcher in cardiovascular physiology at Canterbury Christ Church University, who recently published a study showing that isometric exercise can reduce blood pressure more than other types, such as running.
He thinks it’s probably because isometric exercise increases tension in your muscles when you hold your body in a fixed position, and then causes a sudden rush of blood when you relax, increasing blood flow and a drop in blood pressure. blood pressure. In addition to the plank, Jamie recommended I try the wall squat, which has a similar benefit.
Here, you lean your back against a wall and then slowly slide down, as if you were about to sit in a chair. When your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, or you start to feel uncomfortable, hold that position for about 30 seconds.
I found this to be too uncomfortable so I gave up, but I think the chart is working: my blood pressure, although already in the healthy range, is definitely slowly going down.
I’ve just started a tour of the UK, sharing tips on how to sleep better and eat healthily, but despite my TV experience, I find live shows stressful.
One of the best ways to help me cope with that stress is to reframe the situation as a challenge, rather than a threat. And a recent study from the University of Bath suggests that doing this will reduce the risk of mental health problems and diseases such as the flu.
So before I go on stage, I tell myself that my increased heart rate is a result of excitement, rather than fear. So far it seems to be working. If you’d like to come say hello, go to michaelmosley.co.uk/live