The Weekly Thread: how to avoid states of demineralization for your teeth, why you shouldn’t be a mouth breather, and life rewards those who start.

One of the major goals when trying to maintain proper oral health is to keep the amount of time your mouth is in a state of remineralization greater than the amount of time spent in a state of demineralization, and ideally, you want to work to consciously widen that gap as much as possible. 

Now that we have that understanding, let’s dive into some of the things you want to avoid doing entirely, or as little as possible, to help encourage a state of remineralization in your mouth. 

❌ Alcohol-based or Antiseptic Mouthwash ❌

You can classify this as an “avoid entirely, and altogether”.

I’m probably going to burst some bubbles here, so I’ll give you a moment to brace yourself if so, but if you are someone who loves the minty fresh feeling after rinsing your mouth with basically any major name brand or generic brand mouthwash, you are doing more harm than you are good. 

This is an area where it’s important to distinguish between “oral care” and “oral health”. 

Alcohol-based and antiseptic mouthwashes can kill off some potential pathogens in your oral cavity, however, just like anything antiseptic, or antibacterial, you also kill off the good microbes, and ideally, you want a far greater number of healthy, beneficial microbes, versus harmful, potentially pathogenic bacteria. 

Many of us know and understand that we shouldn’t be taking oral antiseptics, or even worse, antibiotics daily to kill bad bacteria in our gut, as that would cause far more harm than it would good, as it would kill off your beneficial probiotics, and lead to bad bacterial overgrowth, along with creating a more ideal environment for a host of other pathogens. 

The same goes for your mouth, every time you rinse with an antiseptic, alcohol-based mouthwash, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You are essentially “carpet bombing” the bacteria in your mouth every day, maybe multiple times per day, and the beneficial bacteria that you want to thrive, and that lead to true oral health cannot recover from that. 

The more healthy, beneficial bacteria, the more they naturally keep the harmful, pathogenic bacteria in check and at bay. 

If you are rinsing daily, maybe even multiple times daily with an alcohol-based or antiseptic mouthwash, you are continually disrupting the ideal balance, or homeostasis of your oral microbiome, which can lead to dysbiosis, an unhealthy balance of microbes, with far more harmful, pathogenic bacteria than is ideal. 

This provides a momentary sense of fresh breath, however, over time, leads to greater dysbiosis, meaning more bad bacteria, and ironically, it’s the prevalence of bad bacteria that causes more severe bad breath as a condition. 

Furthermore, the prevalence of bad bacteria leads to plaque buildup which not only causes tooth and gum decay, but as we mentioned last week, also has been linked to an increased risk and rate of incidence of Alzheimer’s and all cause heart disease. 

In fact, the regular use of an antiseptic mouthwash has been researched in a clinical setting and has been shown to be so disruptive to the health of your microbiome that it has even been shown to reduce the benefits of and impair recovery from exercise.

If you truly want to rinse your mouth, use a natural mouthwash or rinse that does not contain alcohol, and is not meant to be an antiseptic, or antibacterial. 

Eating Too Frequently During The Day 

Saliva plays a critically important role in maintaining a proper pH balance in your mouth, thus naturally reducing the acidity of your oral cavity, helping to keep your teeth in a state of remineralization. 

You naturally produce the most healthy, pH balancing saliva during the day, however, to maximize this production, you also want to go for more extended periods of time without eating. 

For those who practice some kind of time restricted eating (TRE), or intermittent fasting during the day, this is an added, and often well overlooked upside to this healthy lifestyle practice. 

Ideally, when you do eat, you want to avoid eating again too quickly, and also take measures to ensure your mouth is in a state of remineralization after eating (more on that in the final segment on oral health). 

Conversely, it’s worth noting that at night, while you are sleeping, is the slowest period of a 24 hour day for saliva production. This means your mouth is even more prone to states of demineralization while sleeping, making proper brushing and flossing before bed even more important than in the morning when you wake up, as the waking hours naturally produce more saliva. (Although it’s best practice to brush twice per day, and floss daily)

❌ Mouth Breathe 

The term “mouth breather” is often used as a jab, or a means of poking fun at someone, however, the reality is, being a true “mouth breather” is not good for your health. 

There are actually numerous ways “mouth breathing” negatively impacts your health. 

In fact, in a previous Weekly Thread, I recommended a great, very digestible book simply titled “Breath” by James Nestor, which goes into depth about the importance of nasal breathing. 

For the sake of this segment, we’re going to focus on why you should avoid mouth breathing for the benefit of your oral health. 

Mouth breathing dries out your mouth, and a dry mouth means you’re not producing…saliva!

Furthermore, a dry mouth, and a lack of saliva can allow for an environment where those nasty, harmful, pathogenic bacteria can thrive and colonize. 

As discussed above, you naturally produce less saliva at night, making your mouth more prone to states of demineralization while you sleep, and if you don’t nasal breathe while you sleep, as so many of us do not, and rather, sleep with a very dry, mouth agape, you are further leading to states of demineralization, and thus, potential decay while sleeping. 

If you want to get a bit more meta on the importance of nasal breathing for oral health, you can dive into the actual structure of the mouth, jaw, and face. This is discussed in more depth in the book “Breath” mentioned above, but in short, the bones in your face have high plasticity, meaning, they can be reshaped. 

Nasal breathing opens up the bones of your face, and helps to reshape your jaw line in a way that allows for more room for your teeth, better overall breathing, and a more aesthetically pleasing jaw line.

In fact, there are orthodontists now who treat poor teeth and jaw alignment with what seems more like physical therapy exercises for your jaw and roof of your mouth, rather than, say, braces and retainers. There are lots of examples of this on YouTube.

During your waking hours, try to be as conscious as possible, again, for many reasons beyond just oral health, about nasal breathing. If you’re sitting and working, or doing anything for that matter, and notice your mouth is open, and you’re mouth breathing, consciously stop yourself and begin nasal breathing. 

The most ideal way to nasal breathe is about 5-6 breaths per minute. 

To do this, simply breathe in slowly through your nose for 5-6 seconds, and out through your nose for 5-6 seconds. Even if you do this with concerted effort at times for practice, that’s great. As they say, “practice makes perfect”. 

I like to practice this breathing while driving, as it’s always an opportunity to focus on nasal breathing. 

If you can right now, go ahead and give nasal breathing in this manner a try for 2-3 minutes and take note of the difference you feel.

Conscious nasal breathing while sleeping is a lot more difficult. It seems to be a lot easier for side sleepers to sleep with their mouth shut, and thus more likely to nasal breathe. Ever wake up and your mouth is bone dry at night? That’s not ideal.

Mouth breathing while sleeping will make it far more likely that your teeth are in a state of demineralization, and it also engages your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), which negatively affects your sleep. Mouth breathing while sleeping even dehydrates you, and you will notice this if you’re a mouth breather, cause it makes you have to go to the bathroom more often in the middle of the night. 

Nasal breathing is so important that there is an actual practice of “mouth taping” where you tape your mouth shut to force nasal breathing. You’d be pretty surprised how quickly you can adapt and convert to nasal breathing when you force it. If mouth taping is something you’d like to explore and maybe give a try, check out hostage tape

❌ Spending Too Much Time Consuming Sugar Containing and/or Acidic Foods & Drinks 

Remember from our introduction to oral health that sugar does not directly cause tooth decay. Rather, it’s this nasty bacteria we contract called Streptococcus mutans (Strep. mutans) that consumes sugar (as so many pathogens love to do), and then releases a gas in your oral cavity that is acidic, thus putting your mouth into a state of demineralization. 

It is an acidic environment, a loss in pH balance in the oral cavity that actually causes tooth decay by putting your teeth into a state of demineralization. 

Eating and drinking carbohydrate containing foods, which, unless you eat a ketogenic or carnivore diet, we all consume, will therefore feed Strep. mutans.

Furthermore, acidic foods and especially drinks like coffee, tea, and wine can create an acidic environment in your oral cavity, thus putting your teeth into a state of demineralization. 

Remember though, it’s not that we need to try to all out avoid states of demineralization, rather, it’s that we want to achieve more net time in a state of remineralization in a 24 hour day, to offset the states of demineralization. 

The more time you spend in a state of remineralization, the more likely you are to avoid the development of tooth decay, gum disease, and the plaque buildup that can go systemic and also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s and all cause heart disease. 

When you do eat or drink carbohydrate containing, or acidic foods and drinks, as it is inevitable, here are some tips to avoid the prolonged states of demineralization that can ensue after their consumption:

✔️ If drinking a beverage containing sugar, or is high in acid like coffee, tea, or wine, try to be conscious of drinking it over a shorter period of time. 

✔️ If you do sip on sugar-containing beverages, or acidic beverages throughout the day, make sure to keep some water on hand as well and periodically ‘rinse” your mouth with that water to rebalance the pH of your mouth. 

✔️ Focus on nasal breathing in between eating and drinking during the day to encourage pH balancing saliva production which helps to put your teeth into a state of demineralization. 

So far we've done a deep dive on “what to do” and “what to avoid” to help avoid longer states of demineralization. In a following segment, we will focus on what you CAN do to encourage states of remineralization. This 1-2 punch of doing what you can to avoid states of demineralization, and also doing what you can to encourage remineralization, is the most ideal way to improve your true oral health. 

Life rewards those who start. 

In life, there are multiple kinds of luck. 

There is the “dumb luck” we so often associate with luck, where there really is no explanation for, other than you just got lucky. 

The other kinds of “luck” are typically a byproduct of action. 

There can be the luck of you starting something, and doing it well, and someone else stumbling upon some luck and then needs your help. 

An example could be of an expert diver. Let’s say someone else stumbles upon a shipwreck, possibly loaded with treasures, but needs you, the expert to dive it, and help retrieve it. 

As a result of their good fortune, and your expertise, you just got “lucky”. 

The other type of action oriented luck is through the act of simply putting yourself out there, or in some cases, just starting something. 

Luck can’t find you if you’re not taking action, if you’re not putting things out into the world. 

If you’ve got something you’ve been putting off starting, a project, a potential new career path, whatever it is, you’re never going to get that lucky break unless you start. 

You’ve probably heard the saying from someone, “the harder I work, the luckier I seem to get”. 

The universe rewards action, and life rewards those who start. 

For me, the next thing I need to get started is bringing you The Weekly Thread in a podcast format. 

There is always lots to do, and the timing will never truly be right, so there’s no choice other than to just get started. 

The first thing I am working on is all the coordination behind the scenes to be able to bring a weekly podcast to you, but it never gets anywhere, and any luck that may find me as a result of doing a weekly podcast, will never find me, if I don’t first get started. 

So let’s get started!