The same bacteria, P. Gingivalis, which causes gum disease, can be found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s.

My dear friend Gary Glazner, founder of the well established Alzheimer’s Poetry Project gave me a beautiful opportunity to be in the presence of those suffering from memory loss. It was extremely rewarding for me to volunteer using poetry to engage these institutionalized individuals. I experienced highs, many of which were when my young daughter accompanied me where she sparked joy in the patients, and lows from witnessing deterioration or when someone I grew fond of had passed.

One of my favorite stories was when I brought my daughter to an Alzheimer’s home on a summer afternoon. I came prepared with the theme “Fourth of July,” for our poetry call and response, where we call out lines of pertaining poems and the group repeats back to us. Eventually, we work the room to write a group poem, and our goal that day was to write about Independence Day. For some reason, this particular session wasn’t going well with low engagement and low energy; we hardly wrote a poem. My daughter Willa and I looked at each other in defeat and ended early. As we were exiting the main doors to leave I heard a faint singing, and asked Willa “Do you hear that?” We both let out the biggest smiles as the lyrics to America The Beautiful amplified into a group chorus.

Little did I know the reward I received in working with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project would be a portent to my responsibility as a hygienist to emphasize the prevention of gingivitis as a possible deterrent to Alzheimer’s disease.

Science Advances has recently published a study finding the same periodontal disease microbe P. Gingivalis found in the oral cavity of humans can be found in the brain of those with alzheimer’s disease (AD). Furthermore, the P. gingivalis antigen gingipains were found in AD brains which are toxic and effect neuro function. They began with a study over a 6 month period observing AD patients with chronic periodontal disease as well as those without perio disease and discovered a notable decline in cognition for those with AD accompanied by periodontal disease.

The study introduced P. gingivalis into the oral cavities of mice for 6 weeks to create infection. Their brains were then studied and P. gingivalis along with gingipains were found. When an experimental gingipain inhibitor drug was given it resulted in the reduction of brain infection and inflammation by reducing the P. gingivalis and also encouraged new neurons in the hippocampus, the first place to be damaged in the brain with AD. This drug is currently being tested in human clinical studies with those diagnosed with AD.

Some scientists claim P. gingivalis is a contributing factor to AD but are not convinced this microbe is the sole cause of the disease. The study also found a strain of P. gingivalis in spinal fluid and stated further research was needed to understand the different strains of this bacteria and the virulency they have in the brain.

Interesting to note; the other gingipain producing bacteria, P. gulae, naturally lives in dog’s mouths and have been found in the mouths of their owners. Research is currently underway to discover if P. gulae has a role in AD.

There is no doubt we have a lot to learn about bacteria and a long way to go in discovering all the different microbes that exist in the human body. Until recently,  it was believed we were made up of more bacterial cells than human cells, but now bacterial cells are thought to be equal to human cells, yet we still don’t understand the many roles they have, both healthy and destructive.

P. gingivalis is found in 25% of all healthy mouths and this is why I always emphasize how crucial it is to maintain healthy bacteria in the mouth which aids in the resistance to potentially destructive bacteria. When I discuss dental products it’s always with suggestions to use the least disruptive to your healthy flora and to recognize what assists in a neutral or non-acidic PH which discourages the overgrowth of periodontal disease bacteria.

The migration of P. gingivalis into a variety of tissue is already well known:

Coronary Arteries – studies have shown 100% of patients with cardiovascular disease had P. gingivalis in their arteries.

The Placenta – causing low birth weight in babies.

The Liver – affects glycogen synthesis.

My role as a hygienist is to encourage you to have a healthy, non-infected mouth to prevent the many diseases we know of and the ones yet to be discovered. Alzheimer’s disease is well on its way to being linked to gingivitis bacteria, to what extent is yet to be known. A healthy mouth is a mirror to a healthy body. I like to think of it this way: Good dental habits are one of the easiest things most people can be in control of when so many other disease-causing factors are at play which are beyond our control. Do everything you possibly can to empower your overall health by seeking knowledge and treating your body as well as you can.

Children And Too Much Toothpaste

Fluoride is toxic and too much fluoride in paste can be problematic for children’s teeth.

The New York Times recently published, “Many Children are Overdoing It On The Toothpaste,” based on a CDC study. This study focuses on fluoride and it’s potential harm on developing enamel. The problem is when a child is young they may swallow toothpaste instead of spitting it all out, even with parental supervision. I believe, with mainstream toothpaste, you should be alarmed with not only the fluoride toxin but all the other toxic chemicals in the pastes. Even if your child spits, chemicals can be absorbed through the oral mucosa. It’s crucial you decide what gets put into your child’s mouth!

Purchase Children’s Toothpaste Without Fluoride

When my daughter was young, I only purchased children’s toothpaste for her from the health food store, without fluoride and a yummy mango flavor she loved. When we ingest fluoride it’s considered cumulative because we can only get rid of about 50% through our urine, which declines as we age. I would also think about all the other hidden chemicals being ingested which don’t require labeling on the tubes.

Unfortunately, mainstream toothpastes are more like detergent, with many of the same ingredients found in handwashing soap, which over time, isn’t even healthy for your skin, let alone eating it. See my blog, The Truthpaste of Toothpaste. I recommend all natural children’s toothpaste without fluoride. A great natural toothpaste brand is Jason. You may also want to try Jack N’ Jill toothpaste because it has xylitol in it which can prevent decay.

Click on image to purchase paste

Consistent brushing and flossing habits along with a healthy diet are paramount to decay prevention, not fluoride toothpaste. Do not allow your kids to drink or eat anything sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, period.

When eating carbs and sugars, limit the frequency. It’s best to drink sugary beverages with a meal and to not sip on them slowly. The longer the exposure of liquid sugar in the mouth, the longer the acidity lasts which increases decay. I told this to my teenage nephew once, and when he purchased a sweetened iced tea, he gulped it down in one chug so quickly my sister took notice. He told her auntie told him to drink it as fast as he could to limit the acid attack!! You get the idea. It’s classic for service industry workers to sip on sodas slowly during their shifts, giving them some of the highest decay rates.

My grandfather was a dentist, Dr. Salvatore Griffo, and he gave me advice I always pass on to kids and their parents. When your kids are not at home, perhaps at school, have them swish their mouths well with water after they eat and drink. If you can’t brush, swish with water, which helps break up the food and neutralize the acidity after ingesting carbs and sugars. Most schools have water fountains, and believe me, as a kid, I knew where every fountain was, I was a good swisher.

Good oral habits will allow you to air on the side of caution by avoiding fluoride toothpaste for your kids, and perhaps, forever.

P.S. My daughter is almost 18 years old and she does not have one single dental filling from decay, and neither does my nephew!!

*This blog contains affiliate links for products Ask My Hygienist carefully recommends based on professional experience or personal use. These suggestions are to assist you in your quest for better oral health, and in turn, you're assisting our blog with the small commission we receive from your purchase.

Toxic Dental Floss

Shocking to discover your favorite floss is coated in Teflon. Everyone knows how toxic Teflon is.

2019 has put flossing back in the news, but not about the controversy of, “To floss or not to floss?” The type of floss is what matters, “To use chemicals or not to use chemicals?” Who would guess you might be using toxic dental floss? My golden rule both professionally and personally is to always question products made with chemicals, especially those which can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed, and to be aware of the environmental consequences.

Just as I kept my young daughter from the mainstream cereal aisles, I believe it’s just as important to caution patients from the mainstream dental product aisles. Like cereal, dental merchandise is boldly marketed, and like the empty calories in colorful cereal, the dental products could be void of therapeutic ingredients. Chemicals are cheap, they can make kid’s cereal really bright and exciting, and can make toothpaste give an aggressive sting in the mouth or can make floss glide in between teeth real easy, yet it is crucial to know their effect on the body. The internet is flooded with articles about floss coated with  polytetrafluoroethylene (PFC’S), better known as Teflon; here’s a good one, 

Teflon is Coated on Toxic Dental Floss

I have been recommending a natural wax coated floss for years, but honestly, mostly from intuition, and from my own philosophy, “If you can’t recognize the names of the first few ingredients of what you put in your mouth, let alone on your body, you should be leery.” However, this wasn’t always the case, as when I was younger I compartmentalized my thinking to my personal life, only to be a robot at work and follow the status quo of a dental professional.

I remember the day the sales rep introduced Glide floss to us, which was then owned by Gore, before Proctor and Gamble purchased it. He let us know the floss was coated with the waterproof Gore-Tex that was used in clothing and tents. Not one single thought was given to Gore-Tex as an edible, the entire staff thought Glide was the coolest floss on the planet, including me. This was way before we knew anything about Teflon and the dangers of our coated cookware, and we were completely unaware that Gore-Tex and Teflon were the same things. For years, from many different dental offices, I opened the dental supply drawer in my operatory, dropped a toothbrush, a Glide floss (as it predominated the professional market), and a sample size toothpaste, with a sticker if you were a good little boy or girl, into a plastic baggy. Now I say QUESTION WHAT GETS PUT INTO YOUR BAGGIE.

QUESTION THE CHEMICALS IN WELL MARKETED PRODUCTS for anything in your life. The mainstream aisles are getting better, with healthier alternatives, but it is still up to you, the consumer to scrutinize what you purchase. I am happy the news is out on floss coated with PFC’S and the harmful health issues that can arise from this chemical exposure. It is true, there are many sources of this chemical well beyond floss, but one thing you have control of is what you bring into your home. So, get rid of your Teflon pots and pans, and most certainly, get rid of your Gore-Tex coated floss. Unfortunately, there is no ingredient labeling requirement on dental floss, so it may not be obvious of the kind you are using. It is safest to use floss which clearly labels; “Natural wax from beeswax or vegetable sources.”

Click image to purchase this healthy floss

To learn more about cleaning your teeth in between, see my blog Flossing and Everything In Betweeen.

*This blog contains affiliate links for products Ask My Hygienist carefully recommends based on professional experience or personal use. These suggestions are to assist you in your quest for better oral health, and in turn, you're assisting our blog with the small commission we receive from your purchase.