I recently had the privilege of attending a lecture given by Dr. Ellie Phillips, a dentist transplanted from England, who now practices in upstate New York. As I took my seat and waited for the talk to begin, I looked at the image projected on the screen at the front of the room and literally shuddered. It was an image of a man in a dentist’s chair, mouth open wide, surrounded by gloved hands and all the requisite dental equipment looming in the background. Let’s just say I’ve had less than great checkups at the dentist for most of my life, despite doing everything I thought was right to keep up with my oral health. My frustration at this fact and my curiosity about Dr. Ellie’s solution caused me to be at this lecture and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had a visceral reaction looking at that image.“Dr. E,” as she refers to herself on her website, is a bit of a renegade in the dental community and her mission is clear: to help individuals enjoy healthy teeth and avoid cavities, fillings and unnecessary extractions, through proper oral hygiene and good preventative measures. So when was the last time you heard your dentist talk about total oral health and prevention of cavities before they start? Well, if you’re like me, the answer is “NEVER!” Of course they will wag a finger and tell you things like “Don’t eat sugar,” and “Remember to floss regularly,” but Dr. Phillips has developed an inexpensive system for total mouth health that can prevent cavities, remineralize teeth and even reverse mild cases of tooth decay.
So what’s her secret? She focuses quite a bit on two very important factors, the first of which involves the pH in your mouth. A lot of you will remember from grade school biology that pH has to do with whether a substance is acidic or alkaline. Ideally the pH in the mouth should be alkaline, however, the breakdown of foods and drinks we consume by bacteria in the mouth cause it to be acidic. Our saliva is naturally alkaline which helps maintain the balance to a certain degree. Certain factors, however, like stress, dry mouth and hormonal fluctuations, can cause the saliva to be less alkaline. When the oral environment is less alkaline it pulls minerals such as calcium from the teeth to help compensate. Over time this can cause the enamel to break down and leave your teeth susceptible to infection.
I’ll never forget going to the dentist for a check-up once several years ago. I had rigorously been flossing and brushing twice a day, only to discover that I had a new cavity. I couldn’t believe it. How could this have happened with all the work I’d been doing? I asked the hygienist about it and she sort of shrugged her shoulders and said “Oh, it’s probably the pH of your saliva.” That was it. Neither she nor the dentist offered any kind of solution to the bad mouth pH with which I had apparently been cursed. I felt defeated, like it didn’t matter what I did. I could look forward to a lifetime of bad check-ups, fillings and messed up teeth. Then I found out about Dr. Phillips and her protocol, the second part of which involves judicious use of xylitol.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetener derived from the fiber xylose, found in plant sources, most notably birch trees. It is diabetic and tooth friendly and is a good alternative to sucrose (common table sugar). Xylitol is unique in its ability to inhibit the proliferation of harmful bacteria in the mouth. The reason for this is because the bacteria that cause plaque (streptococcus mutans) absorb the xylitol, thinking that it’s sugar. Once it has been absorbed, however, they cannot use the xylitol as metabolic fuel. In an attempt to expel the xylitol they enter what is known as a “futile cycle,” which ultimately causes their demise. Less acid forming bacteria in the mouth equals a more alkaline oral environment overall and again, this is what we’re trying to achieve.
The title of Dr. Ellie’s lecture was “Heal Your Teeth, Heal Your Body,” and she discussed at length the connection between oral health and overall body health – the “mouth-body” connection she called it. The harmful bacteria that live in your mouth can travel anywhere in the body and contribute to problems such as heart disease, general inflammation and even brain damage. If plaque bacteria are left untreated they can mutate into organisms called spirochetes. These organisms can cross into the brain and even cause Alzheimer-like symptoms. This information is not here to scare you – only to help you realize the importance of total mouth health.
So if you’re like me and you thought you were doing everything right to have good dental health, but didn’t or haven’t succeeded, please know that there are options available. If you have a sensitive tooth, you have options. If your dentist is recommending a filling, you have options. And lastly, if you hate going to the dentist because you dread what you’re going to hear, please call me. I have been using Dr. Ellie’s system for about a year now and have finally started having consistently good checkups. I carry the kits in my office and I can tell you exactly how to use them. As I mentioned before, they are inexpensive and will save you a ton of hassle and money spent going to the dentist.
As always, thanks for reading and take care!
-Tama Henderson, L.Ac., ACN