To continue on our current journey of sharing with you the really common oral hygiene questions we get from our customers, today let’s discuss a counter-culture idea that really deserves some careful thought: If we eat well, do we need to brush our teeth at all???
Q: I eat a paleo/primal diet and our ancestors didn’t brush. Animals don’t brush or floss.
Do we really even have to brush our teeth at all?
Despite the obvious ‘yuck’ factor that comes with the idea of not brushing our teeth, we think this question really has merit.
The reason why brushing is still a wise habit is because brushing is a simple exercise we can do to help mitigate oral decay. In other words, brushing provides a lot of ‘bang for our buck’ when you consider the time it takes vs. how it contributes to improving our health.
However, to really grasp the benefits of brushing, it’s helpful to understand why brushing is important. Also, if you are new to the idea of conscious oral hygiene, knowing where to start can be very helpful.
Does that mean that we all should brush after every meal or what? Not necessarily. There is no ‘one size fits all’ with anything.
So, how often should we be brushing our teeth?
As we live our lives, we are all on a spectrum, a continuum, with ‘really unhealthy’ at one end and ‘stellar health’ on the other end.
Everything we do, whatever we choose to eat or not eat, the quality of rest we provide ourselves, how much stress we allow in our lives (and how we choose to react to it), our exercise habits, the amount of love we cultivate in our relations, even the words we think and speak all contribute to where we find ourselves on this spectrum of optimal health.
We all aspire to continually make wiser choices and move into healthier and healthier territory on this spectrum. However, sometimes life happens, right?
So, the health and lifestyle interventions that we need to apply (like how often we should brush our teeth) depend on where we each find ourselves on this spectrum.
Caution for the extremist in each of us…
One word of caution, however: if you’re reading this and you’re in your 20s, don’t be fooled into thinking you’re healthier than you really are.
Work with someone to evaluate and determine how healthy you really are (most people think that their lifestyle is relatively healthy, but often that’s not really the case). Make positive changes to increase your health now, because it is easier to take action now to prevent health problems than it will be to fix health problems after they develop in the future.
Also, always do your research so you’re not letting others lure you into making poor lifestyle decisions now that will progressively and negatively impact your health over the years.
We have met way too many twenty-somethings (actually, people of all ages really) claiming to be healthy because they are eating a raw fruit diet (for example). While there absolutely are merits to eating raw foods and many fruits are very good for us, these young adults are fooling themselves into thinking that their extreme dietary choices (all raw fruits) are healthy, and their good intentions but misinformed choices are slowly robbing them of their future health.
We can liken this to early flight attempts: when you take a flight contraption to the top of a cliff and jump off, just because you are heading toward the ground doesn’t mean you’re flying. Figure out how to ‘fly’ now with nourishing dietary habits so you don’t wind up weakening yourself and ‘crashing’ later from a diet-related health crisis. Here’s an article we wrote on how to find the healthiest diet for you that may help you along this path.
Back to this spectrum of health we are all on and how to determine whether brushing is necessary…
How brushing provides such a bang for the buck
If you find that your health isn’t what it could be, brushing is a very wise habit to help maintain a healthy balance of your oral flora, the oral microbiome. The fact is, if you allow plaque colonies in your mouth to mature, this alone can tilt you on a path heading toward the ‘unhealthy’ end of the health spectrum.
As a somewhat extreme example, let’s look at our life.
At the risk of it seeming like we’re bragging, we’ve been intentionally cultivating our lives for many years now. We live in Hawaii so can get plenty of healthy sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. We have a small farm and buy local foods from farmer friends. We have an amazingly fulfilling work life that, rather than dominating our waking lives, we can structure around other more important aspects of health, like getting the right amount of quality sleep, preparing the best meals for us, and optimizing our exercise habits.
From the outside, most people would say we are very high on this health spectrum we’re discussing. Yet, even with ‘all this going for us’, most days I brush twice, and do a thorough (yet gentle) job one of those times.
Is it possible to not need to brush?
Maybe. It really depends on many factors. Here are a few questions to ponder to help you determine where you are on your ‘health spectrum’.
- Do you have a genetic tendency to resist decay (or are you like most of us who have gotten cavities throughout life?)
- Does your partner (or did your past partners) have oral health issues, and might some of their less-than-ideal microbes have been transferred from their mouth to yours?
- Are you able to structure your life to get ideal rest, dietary nourishment and optimal exercise every day?
- How inundated are you with environmental toxins, and do you regularly take steps to help your body gently detox?
- How do you respond to stress? Are you able to flow through life like a Zen monk, or do you find yourself reactive at times?
- Do you get an ideal balance of rest, play, active, social and work times in a week?
- Do you get your minimum 4 hugs a day to nourish your soul?
- Do you intentionally cultivate loving relations with those around you?
- Do you choose to speak words of beauty or succumb to the cultural expectation to gossip and talk trash?
All of these factors weigh in on where each of us finds ourselves on the health continuum.
Unless you can easily answer all these questions on the ‘stellar health’ side, brushing is probably still a wise habit. There’s our more-than-two-cents on the subject.
We hope this article helps you along your path and that you pass it on to others who may benefit.
What do you do to bring you up on the health spectrum? What have you found causes you to slip down a few points? Please share in the comments below so we can all continue to learn from one another.
May you find peace and contentment in today. Like our friend and mentor, musical artist India Arie, says so eloquently, “Speak words of beauty and you will be there”.
Helpful, Related Resources:
5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth [free video series]
“How Do I Remove Plaque from the Inside of My Lower Front Teeth?” [Q&A]
4 Reasons Why Brushing Is So Important [article]
Start Here to Optimize Your Oral Hygiene [article]
How to Find the Healthiest Diet for YOU [article]
Can Some Plaque Actually Help Our Teeth to Stay Healthy? [article]
How to Balance Your Oral Flora [article]