Natural Beauty & Fashion

 

 

How is it that some people who have never used a toothbrush have also never had a cavity?

 

 

man using miswak to clean teeth

 
Muslim and African cultures clean their teeth with a stick called miswak, which naturally has a high concentration of cavity-fighting fluoride. (Photo: Zurijeta/Shutterstock)
There’s a 99 percent chance you are not super rich. But there is a good chance that you are part of the orally hygienic elite 1 percent.
 
While it’s common in the U.S. and other developed countries to use nylon and electronic toothbrushes, most of the world’s population, especially indigenous cultures and developing countries, still use old-world techniques to keep their teeth clean — if they use anything at all.
 
But are modern oral hygiene products and techniques infinitely better than the sticks, animal bristles and bones, twigs, feathers and porcupine quills that non-first-world societies used centuries ago — or continue to use today — to clean their teeth?
 
Is what one eats more important in determining oral hygiene than the materials used to clean the teeth and gums?
 
In other words, if tribes, clans and indigenous societies stick with their traditional diets and don’t eat processed sugar and junk food, is teeth-brushing even necessary?
 
Lack of oral hygiene can lead to heart disease, maybe
A 2010 study published in the British Medical Journal concluded that people who brushed less than twice a day had an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, due to inflammation and loss of connective tissue and bone support of the teeth. In the BMJ study, people who brushed their teeth less than twice a day, habitually, had a 70 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The study, however, did not consider the participants’ diets.
 
But Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit nutrition education foundation, tells Mother Nature Network that in traditional societies that have no access to Western foods with processed sugars and white flour, many of these indigenous people have no cavities, and flash smiles with perfect pearly white teeth, even though tooth brushing is rare, (or was rare, depending on the society).
 
“Within a very short time of forgoing their traditional, native diets, though, cavities become evident,” says Fallon, adding that the next generation of natives who eat processed food will begin to develop crooked teeth.
 
Fallon points to the research pioneered by the foundation’s namesake, Dr. Weston Price, an Ohio dentist, referred to in some circles as the "Charles Darwin of nutrition." The late Price, in the 1930s, traveled the world as a sort of a cultural dental anthropologist. His book, "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration," features many photos of the teeth of various native societies, from isolated villagers in the Swiss Alps, to the Maori of New Zealand, to the coldwater fishermen of Scotland’s Hebrides islands.
 
Vitamin K to the rescue
Price discovered a substance he termed "Activator X" that all the natives with healthy teeth had in their saliva. Price didn’t know exactly what Activator X was, but shortly after his studies, science classified the cavity combating compound as vitamin K. A studypublished in the Journal of Dental Research states that in 1942, it was proven that vitamin K prevented the formation of acid buildup, which is a major cause of cavities.
 
Some of the foods that are high in vitamin K that Price observed traditional societies consuming were:
 
  • Chicken or goose liver
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut
  • Grass-fed animal fat
  • Grass-fed, raw butter
  • Egg yolks
 
So should you run to your nearest health food store and swallow a pill of vitamin K and not worry so much about brushing your teeth twice a day? And perhaps buy some goose liver?
 
“There’s nothing wrong with brushing twice per day. We are genetic mongrels in America. None of us has a perfect diet, so I would definitely recommend brushing your teeth,” Fallon says.
 
It’s not just junk food that causes cavities
Dr. Jacquie Fulop Goodling, a Manhattan-based orthodontist who has traveled the world educating people about oral health, addresses a common misconception that modern-day processed foods alone contribute to dental caries.
 
“Diet plays an important role but even natural carbohydrates like bread, rice and pasta — the staple in many diets — break down into simple sugars, which can cause decay. Also, there are many factors contributing to periodontal disease and diet is only one of those factors,” Goodling says.

Some societies that don’t use toothbrushes
“In many regions of the world, people are cleaning their teeth with twigs, most often from oak and neem trees,” says Dr. Steven Goldberg, a Boca Raton, Fla., general and cosmetic dentist and inventor of a modern oral care product, DentalVibe.
 
“They break a twig in half, splay and soften the broken end and then rub it on their teeth, in effect, wiping the surface of their teeth clean,” Goldberg adds.
 
Arab Bedouin tribes still clean their teeth by using the twigs of the arak tree, which contains antiseptic properties. Other Muslim and African cultures use a similar stick, called miswakwhich naturally has a high concentration of cavity-fighting fluoride.
 
paper posted on the National Academy of Dentistry’s website says that Hindu Brahmins and priests clean their teeth using cherry wood for an hour, facing the rising sun. Another religious group in India, Jains, cleans their teeth using fingers and without using a brush.
 
In other rural areas of India, people use twigs from mango, cashew or coconut trees.
 
What some cultures use for toothpaste  
Some folk in rural India, Africa, Southeast Asia and South America use brick, charcoal, rangoli powder, mud, salt or ash for cleaning the teeth. This may result in gingival recession, abrasion and dentin sensitivity, says the National Academy of Dentistry.
 
Should Americans ditch their toothbrushes and clean with sticks instead?
The inconvenient truth about going to the dentist at least twice a year and replacing your toothbrush is that all the discarded toothbrushes and toothpaste containers end up in the landfill. But it seems that Americans are in no rush to clean their teeth with twigs. Toothpaste, whiteners, sugarless gum, mouthwash, manual or electric toothbrushes, floss, and other oral care items retailed at $9.1 billion in 2008, according to the U.S. Market for Oral Care Products, 7th Edition.
 
Whether or not you choose to go native and clean your teeth with a tree twig, “Oral hygiene can be a very important component to our overall health. The mouth is full of bacteria and not caring for it can cause inflammation. The gums can become unhealthy if proper dental hygiene is neglected and this can create low-grade infection that can cause inflammation and other problems throughout the body,” says Rebecca Crowley-Huey, physician assistant at BodyLogicMD of Houston, who adds, “Brain fog, autoimmune disease, gut infection or imbalance, and fatigue can be some of the problems caused by inflammation and your mouth is sometimes your first line of defense against foreign material.”
 
Two times a day is much better than only one time per day, says Steve Krendl, a dentist at Hopewell Dental in Heath, Ohio. “A thin film of organic matter, called a biofilm, forms quickly on our teeth throughout a day. Left undisturbed, this turns into plaque, which can harden within 24 hours.”
 
Now that’s something to chew on.

 

 

Aromatherapy oils and lavender

Aromatherapy can improve your mood, ward off unfriendly bacteria and help reduce stress, according to various studies. Researchers just aren't sure how that happens.

 
Photo: Olga Miltsova/Shutterstock
Only a decade ago, the mainstream medical establishment scoffed at alternative healing techniques like acupuncture and massage, which were considered quackery by some doctors.
 
Now Americans spend in the ballpark of $30 billion annually (latest figures from the National Academies Institutes of Health) — much of that amount out of pocket — on what the federal government now calls complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and a slew of research validating the healing power of some of these non-Western approaches has been published.
 
And perhaps the most difficult form of CAM to scientifically validate is aromatherapy, in which essential oils of plants are extracted for various uses, including:
 
  • Relaxation
  • Pain relief
  • Immune stimulation
  • Mood improvement
  • Constipation
  • Psoriasis
  • Beauty products
 
Does aromatherapy really work?
Ancient cultures certainly thought so. Aromatherapy has been used for centuries. Legend has it that Hippocrates — the so-called father of modern medicine and the namesake for the oath that physicians recite, ensuring they will do the patient “no harm” — used the oil of rose petals to cure disorders of the uterus.
 
Fast forward a couple thousand years and essential oils may have been proven to help those with serious mental disorders. In the British Journal of General Practice, an analysis of a dozen aromatherapy trials concluded that aromatherapy has “a mild, transient anxiolytic effect” on dementia.
 
The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health concludes on itswebsite that aromatherapy may result in positive effects on behavior and the immune system. (The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate aromatherapy products.)
 
In a review of small clinical trials published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 72 patients with severe dementia were treated with lemon balm essential oil and they demonstrated improvements in behavioral symptoms comparable with results seen in patients with less severe dementia treated with “neuroleptic agents”(i.e. tranquilizers).
 
Who doesn’t think aromatherapy works?
Oddly enough, aromatherapy’s biggest critics may be the authors of the aforementioned studies. Though some of the research proves the medicinal potential of essential oils, the authors say the findings are inconclusive. In the British Journal of General Practice study on dementia, the authors suggest that the findings are not strong enough to solely recommend aromatherapy. “Nor is [aromatherapy] effective for any other indication,” says the review’s hypothesis. 
 
The other study on aromatherapy’s potential to treat dementia, in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, concludes that although aromatherapy can be beneficial as an adjunctive therapy, “the study cannot be used as evidence that it is a viable alternative to sedative drugs in people with severe dementia.”
 
The same authors suggest that aromatherapy oil should not be seen as a “safe alternative to existing pharmacotherapy until properly conducted safety trials have been completed.”
 
Why the mixed results?
There are several reasons why it’s difficult for modern medicine to unequivocally support aromatherapy’s benefits. For one, weather and geography can produce different yields and strengths of the same plant in two different locations. Also, funding for aromatherapy studies hasn’t exactly been pouring in. Although more widely accepted than even a decade ago, essential oils aren’t as high a priority for study as pharmacological compounds, though both contain plant extracts.
 
There may be too many variables and not enough money to properly conduct large-scale double-blind controlled studies.
 
How does aromatherapy work?
All plants contain molecular gases. Through the processes of distillation and evaporation, these molecular gases, which proponents of aromatherapy sometimes refer to as the plants’  “life force” or “essence” (hence the term essential oil) these gases break down into liquid form. It can take thousands of flower petals to create one small bottle of essential oil.
 
Vaporizers, sprays, diffusers, steam inhalation or breathing in a soaked cloth are some of the ways medical professionals or massage therapists administer essential oils.
 
Scented candles may also include essential oils, though candles may contain synthetic oils.
 
What else are essential oils good for?
Your teeth and gums might also benefit from essential oils. In a study in the journal of Periodontology, researchers concluded that essential oils could aid in the reduction of plaque and gingivitis.
 
And if you’re a bacteria-phobe, you’ll be glad to know that there is some scientific validity that essential oils help ward off unfriendly bacteria. It’s only been in the last 25 years or so that the oils’ potent anti-microbial properties have been clinically proven, such as this review in Current Medicinal Chemistry, which concludes that certain oils of spices and herbs — specifically thyme, oregano, mint, cinnamon, salvia and clove — are perhaps the strongest neutralizers of bacteria and fungus.
 
Is aromatherapy safe for everybody?
For the most part, yes. But certain populations should avoid  the practice or at least ask their physician if it’s OK to use essential oils as an adjunct therapy. This includes pregnant women, those with asthma and other respiratory diseases and allergies, as well as those with epilepsy and high blood pressure.
 
Have you received aromatherapy? Did it help you? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Eco friendly soap

Eco-friendly soap isn't just better for the environment, it's good for your skin and you.

 
Photo: Shutterstock
There’s little shortage of scientific proof why you should wash with eco-friendly soap rather than synthetically produced antibacterial soap, which can be detrimental to both your health and the environment’s.
 
Even those who exclusively clean with biodegradable soap at home, however, may at some point be faced with a dilemma: being exposed to potentially contagious germs (think: shaking hands with someone at a party who just sneezed, or going to the bathroom in an airport) or cleaning their hands with, say, antibacterial soap.
 
Assuming your immune system is strong, if you don’t have access to eco-friendly soap outside your home, consider risking exposure to some bacteria rather than using non-biodegradable soap, especially antibacterial varieties, which may:
 
  • Weaken your immune system
  • Decrease fertility
  • Alter hormones
  • Cause birth defects
 
Triclosan found in several products, declared ‘toxic’ by the EPA: The Orthodontic Cyber Journal reports that triclosan, developed about 30 years ago, is found in many household products, including popular name-brand soaps. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered triclosan, found in anti-microbial and anti-bacterial-marketed soaps, as a pesticide.
 
Studies, such as one published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have also proven that triclosan negatively impacts cardiac and skeletal muscle health. Another study in Toxological Sciences concluded that triclosan impaired thyroid hormones in rats.
 
No ‘lye-ing’ about it, eco-friendly soap is better for the environment: The EPA, which has been prodded by several environmental advocacy groups to ban triclosan, has recently updated its assessment on triclosan, stating on its website that the inorganic compounds “bioaccumulate, potentially posing a concern for aquatic organisms.”
 
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Public School of Health concluded in a study that antibacterial soaps were leaching into municipal wastewater treatment systems, ultimately accumulating as “municipal sludge,” which oozes into crop fertilizers.
 
A common ingredient in eco-friendly soap [here’s an example of a soap that helps preserves orangutan habitat] is lye. If you need an environmentally friendly upgrade to your home, also consider castile soaps that are made exclusively from plant oils and do not contain animal-derived sources, common in most leading brand-name soaps.
 
Home-grown eco-friendly soap: If you want to make your own home-made eco-friendly soap, one way to do so requires just three ingredients: water, oil and lye.
 
There are also online recipes for shea butter soap and many other varieties of eco-friendly soap. Just remember to pack some with you next time you’re out and about.
 
Do you use eco-friendly soap? Have any recipes you’d like to share for homemade soap? Let us know below….
 
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, Calif., and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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