Category: holistic dentistry

How Everyday Acids & Bases Affect Oral Health & Human Homeostasis

Oral Health and Human Homeostasis

Human saliva has been linked to general health & wellness ever since Aeschylus, the ancient Greek tragedian penned, in 455 BCE, “I have learned to hate all traitors, and there is no disease that I spit on more than treachery.”  When everyday acids erode your teeth and cause cavities, it feels like treachery!  It causes sufferers to wonder if they’re cursed somehow; all their brushing and flossing seems to be in vain as regular check-ups continually discover new issues.  Well of course they are not cursed, or destined to suffer regardless of their efforts, these people may have chemically imbalanced mouths and for the reasons we discuss below, they have slipped out of their natural homeostasis.

What is Homeostasis?

Walter Cannon, Homeostasis

Walter Cannon -1926, The Wisdom of the Body

The concept of the regulation of the internal environment was described by French physiologist Claude Bernard in 1865, but the word homeostasis which we still use today, was coined by American physiologist Walter Cannon in his ground-breaking 1926 book, The Wisdom of the Body. He defined the term as the human body’s ability to regulate certain factors like its own internal temperature and the concentration of lubricating substances like tears and sweat.  At Archer Dental we look for signs the body is manufacturing enough saliva, the lubrication for teeth, and whether or not it exists at the correct pH balance. Measuring and regulating the pH level of tears, tissue, hair, urine and saliva can yield important insights into patients’ medical heath.  Each of these fluids, including your blood, can tell stories about what’s happening inside your human body.  At Archer Dental we’re concerned primarily with your oral heath, but in a more holistic perspective we do try to make ourselves aware of each patient’s general homeostasis.

In biology, homeostasis is the state of steady internal physical and chemical conditions maintained by living systems. This dynamic state of equilibrium is the condition of optimal functioning for the organism and includes many variables, such as body temperature and fluid balance, being kept within certain preset limits (homeostatic range). Other variables include the pH of extracellular fluid, the concentrations of sodium, potassium and calcium ions, as well as that of the blood sugar level, and these need to be regulated despite changes in the environment, diet, or level of activity. Each of these variables is controlled by one or more regulators or homeostatic mechanisms, which together maintain life.  The connection between oral health and general health has been proven.  In the year 2000, the U.S. Surgeon General declared that oral health reflects general health and is essential to achieve a state of wellness.

What Makes A Healthy Mouth?

There are lots of bacteria and other things alive in your mouth.  That’s a fact. Even after a thorough brushing and swishing with mouthwash, some some of these tiny organism will always remain. New research into the dental microbiome expands what we know about bacteria on teeth. New scientific studies show how how unhealthy mouths may be implicated in non-oral health outcomes such as heart disease and stroke.  A lot of the science explores the energy and growth environment available to the tiny organisms, and how humans inadvertently make it so easy for malign forces to multiply in their otherwise healthy mouths. The enemy thrives in acid.

acid base beverages

Tap water is pH level 7 which is exactly neutral; water is neither an acid nor a base.  As the numbers get smaller than 7, the substance becomes more acidic, and as they get larger than 7 (up to 14), it becomes more alkaline or basic. Saliva in a healthy mouth can range anywhere from pH 6.4 to pH 7.6. These numbers vary widely when eating foods and drinking liquids. Even a normal meal has wide pH level variances.  Cooked lean meat is quite acidic, while steamed broccoli and egg plant are very alkaline – good meals balance pH loads!  Coca cola is quite acidic, while carrot juice is the same strength alkaline.

Studying the pH level of saliva important to oral health care and there are plenty of everyday acids that we put in your mouths that can erode our teeth.  Healthy human saliva has a pH of 7.4, just like blood.  When acidic foods and beverages are consumed, the pH is tipped, creating an imbalance that demineralizes tooth enamel.  This happens when the pH levels in the mouth drop below 5.5.

Studies show, and the video embedded below chronicles in real time, how the pH level of your saliva can drop below 5.5 when drinking acidic beverages. When this happens, the acids in your mouth start to demineralize (break down) tooth enamel. If the tooth enamel becomes too thin, the dentin is exposed. This can lead to discomfort when consuming hot, cold, or sugary drinks  When teeth experience demineralization, this erosion causes a thinning of the enamel, exposing the dentin.  Dentin is bone-like, but it contains microscopic tubules that lead right to the pulp, where the nerves are.  If tooth enamel is eroded, consuming hot, cold, or sugary drinks can become quite painful.

Everyday Foods and Beverages that Affect pH Balance of Saliva

Our teeth are exposed to acid everyday. When you eat or drink something sour and it tastes tart, then you are tasting the acid.  Even when you cannot taste it, after you consume something sugary or starchy, oral bacteria eats whatever food remains in your mouth after meals and produces acid as a waste product.  Also people who suffer from strong acid reflux or who vomit regularly also expose their teeth to their own strong stomach acid, which can increase tooth decay.

acidic soft drinks, alkaline soda pop

Notice that when one drinks soft drinks (pH 3) or white wine (pH 4) it feels like there are socks on the teeth, or they feel fuzzy.  That is because the pH in the mouth is not balanced. It is acidic, causing de-mineralization of the enamel.

Naturally acidic foods include citrus fruits of course, and strawberries, but you may be surprised to learn that, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, some vegetables can also be quite acidic, like green cabbage (pH 5.5) and also everyday foods like cheddar cheese (pH 5).  Cherries are particularly acidic as they register at pH 4 raw, and they’re even more acidic when frozen (pH 3.32). You can read more in a recent Archer Dental blog post about healthy snacks that are surprisingly bad for your teeth.

Alkaline mineral waters can decrease bone resorption and even lower parathyroid hormone levels which regulate the release of calcium from bone. An alkaline diet is one that incorporates foods that can increase the pH levels. Interestingly, an alkaline diet is associated with an increase in growth hormone which can burn fat, improve libido, and help people retain a general sense of well-being.  Alkaline foods are harder to identify – they are not sweet or sour or tart. The best examples of alkaline food you might choose to eat are nuts, cheese, oatmeal, mangos, melons, bananas, apples, eggs, vegetables, brown rice and whole grain cereals.  We’ve blogged about the Dental Diet last summer.

Tooth Enamel

CGI inside human mouthTeeth, and more specifically tooth enamel is the hardest substance produced by the human body.  Its harder than bone and claws (fingernails and toenails) and kidney stones. But unlike other body parts, it’s highly susceptible to acid erosion.  All it takes is a prolonged environment of pH 5.5 or lower for the enamel on your teeth to begin dissolving.  This happens all the time, in tiny electrochemical assaults every time we put food in our mouths and eat a meal.  Once tooth enamel is damaged, it cannot be easily repaired. However, weakened enamel can be restored to some degree by improving its mineral content, and this is done by improving your diet and taking mineral supplements.  Toothpastes and mouthwashes can never rebuild teeth, but they can contribute to the body’s own remineralization process.

Enamel and hard tooth structures demineralize at pH of 5 or 5.5. During the demineralization process, calcium ions from our teeth leave enamel and make them weak or porous. That is until saliva can assist saturating the enamel back to its original form.  This is another good reason why you should drink water with your meal and make sure you rinse your mouth thoroughly at the end of the meal with water and not wine or beer.  The pH level of wine ranges from 2.5 to 3.5, being quite acidic.

Saliva: The First Line Of Defense

The best natural defense our teeth have against acids is saliva, which has a pH slightly above 7. Saliva washes food particles away and helps keep oral bacteria populations in check. This is why dry mouth is such a dangerous problem for oral health. The less saliva we have, the more vulnerable our teeth are.

Sipping soda or snacking throughout the day is also a problem for our teeth, because saliva needs time to neutralize our mouths afterward, and constantly introducing more acid makes that much harder. Behavioral factors can explain why some folks have great teeth and others suffer.  Poor choices and bad eating and drinking habits lead to the excessive consumption of acids. The lifestyle and biological factors like composition of saliva, flow rate, buffering capacity, dental and soft tissue anatomy, pellicle formation, dental and soft tissue anatomy, tooth composition, can all modify the erosive process. If you are incorrigible soda pop consumer, then you really should tell your dentist. This is one of the criteria included in a recent blog post about things you should tell your dentist.

A More Alkaline Diet Will Help Your Teeth

A great way we can help out our saliva in the fight to protect our teeth, aside from the usual methods of daily brushing and flossing and regular dental appointments, is to eat fewer acidic foods and trade them for alkaline ones. That means adding in more fruits and veggies and leaving off some of the breads, dairy, and meats.

Some Things You Should Tell Your Dentist

intake form at dentist office Toronto

During your first visit to a dental clinic, when you meet your new dentist for the first time, he or she should transform into a mini health detective already at work on their next big case, your teeth.  Dentists can gather a lot of clues all by themselves, just by looking in your mouth.  But if they ask you questions when you’re sitting in the chair, well there are some things you really cannot lie about as they can easily check for themselves.

Generally speaking, your dentist won’t ask about your love-life like your hairdresser does, or about your driving habits like your mechanic does, nor will they pry into your private life like your personal doctor. But they do ask important questions about your medical history and possibly your diet, and they may ask about your lifestyle if they see you have mouth piercings.  That’s good. It proves they are professionals who care about your overall health.  If they’re asking odd questions, then you should probably give honest answers.  There are some things your dentist should know.

Dentists and Medical History Forms

Raymi filling out forms at the dentist

Filling out medical forms at the dentist

Nobody likes writing about themselves, or filling out medical forms filled with personal details. Why is all this information even necessary? You may wonder where all the data ends up, and what about identity theft?  Don’t worry.  At Archer Dental, all information you provide on your medical history questionnaire is kept strictly private, and is protected by doctor-patient confidentiality. It will not be shared with anyone outside our office without your permission. Every field on Archer Dental’s intake forms has been included for a reason as your information helps dentists better understand your over-all health.

Medical history forms at the dental office may request for info that doesn’t specifically relate to your mouth, but you have to trust the process, and understand that your dentist needs background data and especially medical details as they relate to your general health and any medications you’re using.  Just about every medicine can have dental health implications, and certain health conditions also require notification; diabetes, leukemia, oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, heart disease, and kidney disease are all ailments that need to be disclosed to your dentist.

Diabetes, for example, increases risk of gum disease.  Heart problems and digestive problems and medicines to remedy these conditions can also have dental related side-effects.  Are you taking birth control pills? If you are taking birth control and your dentist gives you antibiotics, that medication can render your birth control ineffective.  If you’re on a blood thinner and you need a tooth removed, a conversation about the medication you are taking is absolutely necessary, as you may experience excess bleeding following the dental surgery. Blood clotting can be affected by many conditions, such as liver disease. Medications, including aspirin and even some herbal preparations, can also interfere with normal blood clotting.

testosterone vials - drugs with steroids

Vials of testosterone medication, Frank Rumpenhorst / dpa / AP file

Some modern pharmaceuticals have steroids which can reduce the effectiveness of your immune system.  Patients who are using such remedies need to take preventive antibiotics before certain dental procedures are performed. For example, patients with an artificial heart valve may need to take an antibiotic prior to certain treatments to help prevent a serious infection from occurring.  Are you on any pain medications? Do they make your mouth feel dry? Some medications cause dry mouth, which can increase your chances of getting a cavity as the drug restricts the flow of cleansing saliva in your mouth.  If you tell you dentist this, you can have a conversation that could yield remedies for better long term care.  It’s your responsibility to make sure your dentist is aware of all medical concerns before any treatments begin. Information about the medicines you are using is vital to your oral health.

When Dentists Ask About Your Life

After your first initial visit, let your dentist know whenever there is a change in your current health status.  Examples of changes in your health status might include becoming pregnant, or starting any new medications, new allergies, or maybe increased smoking.  It’s important to keep your medical record up to date so that your dentist can provide you with the best care possible.  Make a point to bring it up before the session really begins as you can hardly talk them when they have their fingers in your mouth. But questions should get answers all the same.

There are even some foods that should be discussed.  Are you passionate about your afternoon teas and morning coffees?  Medical studies always say these beverages, in moderation, have positive effects on our body, but when it comes to our teeth they actually weaken and stain them at any level of consumption. Of course, if you’re eating too many sweets, or prefer synthetic foods or drink soda pop everyday, well this can have more of an effect on your oral health, and your mouth will likely require a deeper cleaning when you go to the dentist.  Tell them your habits so they can tackle the problem immediately.

Tell Your Dentist about Strange Pains and Discomforts

Rob in dentist's chair with natalie archer dentist Toronto

One on one with dentist Dr Natalie Archer

Have you ever experienced discomfort in your teeth or gums, but it disappears after a few days, and so you forget to mention it to your dentist. This could be a big mistake.  Its true you only visit the dentist a couple of times a year, and remembering things like that might require writing them down.  But any mouth pain and even unusual sensitivities is certainly something worth mentioning. Make sure to point out strange sensitivity, odor, pain or any change in your mouth.  Sometimes your oral health can be a caution-light blinking a warning about serious disease, or a related health issue, and other times it may be that your body’s battle with illness is affecting your oral health.

Are you Scared of the Dentist?

filling medical forms dentistIf you are feeling particularly anxious, or scared, well this is also something else you should discuss with your oral health care providers. If they know you’re an anxious dental patient, they can prepare a calmer environment, and select sleep dentistry and laughing gas to really put you at ease. Sometimes dental patients can receive pain medication before major surgeries as well as afterwards during recovery.

Sometimes your dentist may wish to speak with your family doctor or medical specialist to get more details about your medical situation. If your dentist needs to consult with your doctor or another health-care provider, this will be discussed with you first. It is very important for your dentist to understand as much as possible about your past and current health condition. It also means that it is important for your dentist to take an initial complete medical history, and to keep it up-to-date by checking with you on a regular basis. As you can see, your medical health and your dental health are closely linked. You and your dentist are partners, working together to provide you with the best possible dental care.

The Dental Diet by Dr. Steven Lin, a Dental Nutritionist

Raspberries are part of The Dental Diet


What if crooked teeth haven’t always been as commonplace as they are today? How about the theory that modern wisdom tooth extractions aren’t actually linked to evolution but rather to diet? And what if we thought about dental health as the foundation for our physical health as a whole? These are some of the ideas that Dr. Steven Lin puts forward in his ground-breaking book,  The Dental Diet: The Surprising Link Between Your Teeth, Real Food and Life-Changing Natural Health.

The Dental Diet by Dr Steven LinDr. Steven Lin is an experienced dentist and the world’s first dental nutritionist. In The Dental Diet, he analyzes our ancestral traditions, epigenetics, gut health, and the microbiome in order to develop food-based principles for a literal top-down holistic health approach. 
The Dental Diet posits that two of the biggest societal changes to influence and permanently alter our relationship with food are the Agricultural Revolution followed by the Industrial Revolution.
The (Second) Agricultural Revolution streamlined the farming process so that more people in the growing population could be fed.  While the first agricultural Revolution happened in 10,000 BC,  the second occurred with the increase of labour and land productivity and the introduction of fertilizers.  Food was more easily produced and certain crops became more abundant, but the soil was no longer able to pass on the same quality or quantity of nutrients.
The Industrial Revolution, which followed the Agricultural Revolution, shifted the bulk of the work to machines.  Work which had previously been done by hand or by using simple tools in rural, farming societies was now mass produced using powered tools, special-purpose machinery and factories. 
As a result of these two major societal shifts, we no longer eat the same foods that our species consumed in the past, and the foods that we do ingest are often processed and stripped of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are vital for our bodies to function.  Additionally, processed foods often travel longer distances and are chemically altered to prevent spoilage which can wreak havoc on our digestive systems and throw off the balance of our gastrointestinal microbiome (essentially, the ecosystem existing inside of our mouths, stomach, intestines, and colon.) 

What Changed after the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions?

Dr Steven Lin. author of the Dental Diet One of the major consequences of the shift from how our ancestors ate to how we currently eat is that many peoples’ jaws are no longer developing properly. Underdeveloped jaws can cause an array of health problems ranging from the obvious (crooked teeth/malocclusion and not enough room for wisdom teeth to erupt into the mouth properly) to the seemingly unrelated. Dr. Lin believes that most breathing and sleep disorders (like sleep apnea, for instance) are a direct result of an underdeveloped jaw. Those with an underdeveloped jaw don’t just lack room in their mouth for all of their teeth, they also don’t have enough space for their tongues to sit comfortably when at rest (which can result in the tongue blocking the airway when a person is sleeping.)
So how can we fix the problem? Dr. Lin believes that we need to change our habits (breathing through the nose and pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth to strengthen the palate) and change our diets in order to re-align and strengthen our digestive systems (which begins with the mouth and teeth.)
Dr Lin acknowledges that we can’t go back to eating the way that our hunting and gathering ancestors did (nor should we), but we can cut down on our consumption of processed foods and sugars while simultaneously working to incorporate more whole foods into our diets.

What are Whole Foods?

blueberries are part of the Dental Diet

 Whole foods are foods that can be eaten as-is or with very little preparation/alteration. Whole foods are not processed or refined and are free of the kinds of harmful additives typically found in processed foods.

Some examples of whole foods are fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and certain grains like brown rice and rolled oats.
brocolli is part of The Dental Diet

Whole foods are vital for our digestive system’s microbiome because they maintain balance and feed the good bacteria living in our bodies. Whole foods also provide maximum nutritional value and often contain phytochemicals like antioxidants which boost the immune system and help repair cells that have been damaged by a diet high in processed foods and low in nutritional value. Many whole foods – things like blueberries, ginger, and garlic – also contain anti-inflammatory properties which can help your body heal from a number of conditions ranging from joint pain to IBD.

chicken eggsIn addition to eating locally sourced and organically grown fruits and vegetables, one of the best things you can do is eat meat and consume animal by-products from animals (like cows and chickens) that are free-range and have been fed grass rather than grain.
An animal raised on a diet of grain rather than grass lacks the nutrients their body – and by extension your body – needs to function as optimally as possible. The same concept applies to fish; the next time you’re buying salmon (an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids), look for wild Atlantic rather than farmed. 
Want to learn more about how our diet impacts our health and what foods you should eat to protect your oral, digestive, and overall health? Read The Dental Diet (complete with recipes and a detailed scientific breakdown of all of the information discussed in this blog post.)

Holistic Dentistry and Disease Prevention for Oral Health

holistic dentist in Toronto examines bite and studies occlusion

At Archer Dental, we believe it’s just common sense to view the human body as a whole rather than the sum of its parts.  Instead of isolating each problem, we like to view the entirety of a patient’s health when coming up with a treatment plan.  With Alternative Healthcare now presenting so many viable options in so many different medical fields, it’s no surprise that Holistic dentistry, a popular dental buzz-word, has become a new ‘ideal’ in oral health care. But what is it exactly? And more importantly, is holistic dentistry the right medical choice for you?

What is Holistic Dentistry?

Holistic dentistry aims to promote a patient’s overall health and wellness as opposed to just focusing on the treatment of specific illnesses or diseases.  Holistic dentists factor every aspect of their patient’s health into their evaluation and eventual treatment plan. This means that a holistic dentist isn’t just evaluating mouths, teeth, tongues, jaws, and gums, but rather the patient’s entire medical history. Every aspect of a patient’s health will come into play when treatment options are discussed (both preventative and reactive).

Holistic dentist in Toronto listens to patient describing life conditions environment stress and toxins

Archer Dental hygienist listens as Patient describes their diet and life environment.

How is Holistic Dentistry different than Traditional Dentistry?

Holistic dentistry differs from traditional dentistry because it focuses on the whole body rather than just the mouth. Holistic dentistry relies on both a modern, scientific approach to healthcare and wellness as well as aspects of natural medicine and homeopathic healing techniques.

What does having a holistic approach mean?

A holistic approach to dentistry simply means that your dentist will want to know more about your overall health and medical background.  Here at Archer Dental, our experienced staff will use this information to try to figure out a treatment plan that works best for you as an individual.  Holistic dental practices will always suggest treatment options that limit a patient’s exposure to toxins, and will work with patients to ensure they’re getting enough nutrients in the foods they’re eating  – this is not to simply preserve their teeth, but rather to encourage a ‘whole body health’.

Why is holistic dentistry a better approach for patients?

While there’s nothing inherently lacking about traditional dentistry, the scope and scale of treatment options available to a patient are much narrower.  Where traditional dentistry focuses on the treatment of specific diseases and oral ailments, holistic dentistry aims to improve the health of the entire body by looking for links between your oral health and your overall health. Your oral health doesn’t exist inside a vacuum; any illnesses or diseases present in your mouth can often affect (or be affected by) other organs and tissues in your body.

Dental assistant uses i-teroscanner to to scan teeth alignment, occlusion (bite) before using computer processer to plot correct/alignment.

Dental assistant uses i-teroscanner  to to scan teeth to analyze current alignment, occlusion (bite) and using digital technology how to digitally correct/align and show patients at  Archer Dental in Toronto.

Which diseases or physical conditions have a direct link to poor oral hygiene?

Here’s a list of some common illnesses that have been linked to declining oral health:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis – well funded medical research now demonstrates a clear link between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Heart disease and stroke – bacteria from diseased gums can lead to the formation of artery-clogging plaque and, left untreated, could result in heart disease and stroke. Studies have even shown that patients with cavities and gum disease experienced strokes twice as often as those with good oral health.
  • Respiratory infections – micro-organisms inhaled from the mouth and throat into the lungs can result in respiratory infections and may even worsen existing lung conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
  • Diabetes – people with diabetes may suffer unexpected complications and difficulty controlling their condition due to bacterial infections in the mouth.
  • Pregnancy Complications – premature labour and delivery can be triggered by an inflammatory response resulting from gum disease bacteria in the mouth.
  • Alzheimer’s disease – Scientists also believe that there are links between periodontal bone loss and tooth loss as well as Alzheimer’s disease and worsening oral health

feeling for lumps on the neck and spine in smokerArcher Dental screens smokers and all patients routinely for Oral Cancer

Archer Dental is happy to provide patients who smoke cigarettes with oral cancer screenings by examining the neck and jaw bone for any abnormalities potentially caused by tobacco usage.

It’s important to remember that smoking increases your risk of developing oral cancer and other dental diseases as tobacco is extremely harmful to the gums and tissues of the mouth.

Are metal fillings still being used by dentists in Canada?

old mercury and silver filings in teeth hide cavitiesMetal fillings are still common in the Canadian dentistry and still deemed safe by conventional standards. That being said, Archer Dental does not use mercury (silver) fillings. We carefully remove old, failing mercury fillings that have begun to break down and corrode in our patients’ mouths. We believe that prevention is the best way forward and try to avoid any foreign metal objects that could eventually cause fractures, cracks and other types of harm to your teeth and mouth. At Archer Dental, we use filling material that is safer in the long term and is BPA free.

Low Confidence and Mental Anxiety

Poor oral health can be linked with low self-esteem, sleeping complications, and behavioural and developmental problems in children. Having an unsightly smile can put people of any age at a severe disadvantage in life which is why we firmly believe that the best solution is to treat the source of the problem. In this respect, we believe that things like cosmetic dentistry and teeth whitening are absolutely a part of holistic dentistry as they focus on strengthening the connection between a patient’s mind and body.  Whether that means removing extraneous teeth or fitting patients with braces or Invisalign, veneers, bridges, dentures or tooth implants, Archer Dental is proud to provide a wide array of resources to help you make over your smile. No matter what your budget, we can work with you to find a solution that fits your situation.

Basic Principles of Holistic Dentistry at Archer Dental

Holistic dentistry at Archer Dental acknowledges the mind, body, and spirit of the patient rather than just their mouth, gums, and teeth.  Our practice relies on the following basic holistic dentistry principles to treat patients as effectively as possible:

  • Proper nutrition is a vital part of preventing (and reversing) degenerative dental disease
  • Archer Dental avoids and eliminates toxins in dental materials and takes great care to remove toxins or would-be toxins in patient’s mouths
  • We believe that dental malocclusion (bite problems) often result in a physical imbalance and as a result, our dentists focus on their prevention and treatment.
  • Gum disease is the root of many greater health problems (studies exist today that suggest a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s, for example) .

Fundamentally, holistic dentistry involves giving more care and offering patients a greater commitment by regularly scheduling checkups. Additionally, we use advanced procedures designed for early detection and to help prevent a myriad of diseases and oral-health related illnesses before they start.