Total Health Dentistry for the Senior Years
Ep. 15 : Total Health Dentistry with Dr. Ali
- Featured in publications such as Alive Magazine, The Globe and Mail, and The Toronto Star
- Sought by hundreds of Naturopathic Doctors across Ontario
- Planning guest lectures on his approach to Total Health Dentistry along with world-renowned Dr. Thomas Rau MD.
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The Senior Years
Total Health Dentistry during the senior years aims at supporting mental health by supporting gut health. This episode discusses where digestion starts, how your mental health relates to the health of your mouth, and how to enhance your saliva.
In the first of its kind dentists-to-patient podcast, you’ll gain incredibly valuable insight into the mouth-body connection. You won’t hear any fluffy filler here. You’ll actually be able to connect the dots. Join us for a worthy jolt of insight on the Total Health Dentistry podcast with Dr. Ali.
Hey, everyone. It’s Dr. Ali. In this episode, you’ll gain a worthy jolt of insight about total health dentistry for the senior years. In the last episode, we focused on total health dentistry for the midlife years, part three. If you’ve missed the opening five-part series, which laid out the framework for what constitutes total health dentistry, make sure you go back and check out the first five episodes as it will give this episode and future ones greater context.
In the last episode, we wrapped up our three-part series about many pertinent issues for the midlife age group. We finished up Solutions to the Wars of Dentistry, missing teeth, missing bone, gum recession, bad bites, facial changes. We talked about tooth replacement options. We talked about how to rebuild the bone, how to rebuild the gum, how to correct bad bites, and how all of this can positively improve facial changes. If you missed it, make sure you go back and check out those episodes.
In this episode, we’ll wrap up our 10-part series on A Walk Through the Ages, and we will discuss the following things: mental health, gut health, and how digestion starts in the mouth. Saliva, the great protector, how to enhance its quality and quantity. In this episode, part 10 of 10 on what I call The Walk Through the Ages viewpoint of dental health, we will discuss one of the most important issues for the senior years, namely mental health and its connections to total health dentistry. The other bonus topic is that of saliva, because in these years, saliva typically dries up a lot and can be a cause of great irritation and discomfort in the mouth.
In episode four, we discussed some key nutritional strategies for each age group including the senior years. If you missed that, make sure you go back and listen to it.
Now more and more mental health is coming into coffee table discussions for this age group, right? You’ve witnessed that.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. All age groups.
All age groups.
Little by little, the vital role of gut health in mental health is being appreciated in these general circles. Gut health. So if gut health is so important, it stands to reason that good gut health isn’t possible without good digestion. Digestion, you would think would be key to gut health. So let’s look at digestion specifically, where does digestion start?
I’m going to say in the stomach, right?
If you said stomach, you missed it. Go back up. Go back up nine inches.
It’s going to start in the mouth.
It’s in the mouth. That’s naturally, everybody thinks, yeah, digestion yeah, my stomach, boom, boom, boom. Away we go. Yep. But no, it’s nine inches higher. It’s up in the mouth.
Let me ask you, Matt, you said digestion starts in the stomach. Does your stomach have teeth or?
I would hope my stomach does not have teeth, no.
All right. That’s obviously a joke, but it makes the point, right? Teeth are in our mouth and that’s where digestion starts. If we’re missing some teeth or have dentures and they don’t really work as well as teeth, well then we’re skipping the first vital step of digestion.
I use the analogy, also sometimes with my male patients about a role, a factory, where you’ve got rubble destroying the rocks on some kind of a trolley system or some kind of a rail. On one end you’ve got a big rock starting out and they need to get crushed and crushed and crushed and they get further and further smaller as they move down the line. Similarly, that’s kind of what your mouth is. Your mouth is that first chamber along the assembly line, where these big rocks need to be broken up because by the time they get in the stomach, they better not be big rocks, they need to be gravel.
Let’s hope! You chew your food before you eat it.
Let me back up. In this age group, in the senior age group, you may have partial or full dentures or what are called plates. You may think, and I’ve heard this so many times, “Doc, I can eat anything with these dentures”. So here I am, I take a look at my patient’s dentures and the teeth are flat, they’re worn, they’re broken, the denture rocks, there’s food lodged under the denture perhaps. I remove the denture and I see lots of bone loss. So I know the denture is essentially being held by the mouth muscles and the patient doing mouth gymnastics. And I look at my lovely patient with a quizzical look and I say, “Are you sure you’re able to eat anything you want?” And they reaffirm, “Yep, I can go to any restaurant, eat anything I want”. And this used to make me think, “Hmm, is this patient right? Or is dental chewing…?” I used to question what do we actually know about chewing if this person is being honest, which I believe they were. Maybe we don’t know what we need to know as dentists about chewing.
But in time, here’s what I’ve come to understand. I’ve come to understand that when the patient says I can eat anything I want, what they really meant was one of two things. Either they are just soaking the food and saliva and then swallowing it almost wholly un-chewed. Or they have taken the menu of possible food choices like nuts, fresh raw vegetables, meats, rice, pasta, and they’ve edited the menu to only the most soft foods. And then from that edited list they can eat anything they want. So, in reality, that may be like 20% of the actual menu they ate when they had good teeth, when they had their own teeth. This was a very powerful discovery. It made actually a big impact on me as a clinician.
Here’s the total health industry view. If you’re wearing dentures, they need to be providing you with the ability to eat at least 50% of your nutrition that you need to keep your mental health and gut health as strong as possible, not 20%. You’ve got to be able to eat at least 50% of those key vital foods. If your dentures have limited your nutrition to soft and softish foods. Well there are some options so let’s discuss that. There are conventional or what I call non-anchored dentures. Like the ones in a glass that we’re familiar with. As the name implies, they are non-anchored. They aren’t attached to anything and only saliva and muscle gymnastics holds them in or maybe the patients using denture glue, which has its own sort of health issues. If these dentures are forcing you into limited nutrition, then your digestion, your gut health and consequently your mental health is suffering. See the connection?
Yeah, for sure.
The other type of denture is what I call an anchored denture. As the name implies, the denture is anchored to the jaw with dental implants. The dental implants are placed in the jaw where the teeth used to be and they anchor to the denture. So they act like the middleman connecting the jaw to the denture.
The minimum number of implants required on the upper jaw is three and the minimum on the lower jaw is two. Now, that’s the minimum. That still causes some rocking and you can’t eat all the foods you would probably want, but it can be a lot better than a non-anchored denture. The rule is that the more implants that are placed, the more stability you get in the denture and the more robust your nutrition can be. So with five or six upper implants and four lower implants, one can eat a much harder diet, crunchy foods with virtually no rocking and an open upper palate to allow better tastes. This is pretty important.
And finally, if somebody had the means and the bone to have six to eight upper implants and six lower implants, then you can have bridges on the teeth, which really are the closest thing to having a full set of one’s own healthy teeth. And at this point you can actually eat anything you want and chew it properly without any compromise. There are variations to these options, but this is really the gist of it.
And I want to finish with the topic of saliva, which is very relevant to this age group, the great protector saliva. Salivary flow is as important as the tide in the ocean. It has a vital role to play in maintaining and cleaning the debris and buffering acids. It is the great protector. It is not unusual to have dramatically lower salivary flow during these years. And this is another big strike against non-anchored dentures, since these dentures rely on saliva to form a seal and hold the dentures in. It’s very difficult to have a good seal when you have very low saliva in your mouth and on the dentures. Anchored dentures on the other hand are much less dependent on saliva for denture stability, which naturally is an advantage as saliva decreases over the years.
Let’s say you do have low saliva, what can you do to either enhance the quality or enhance the quantity without medications or without over the counter agents? Those are options and you can use them. But I want to give our total health industry listeners some options that they wouldn’t normally hear about in other places. What I’m about to share with you is actually rarely discussed anywhere. As a loyal total health industry listener, you’re going to get the straight goods, no fluffy stuff, no fluff.
We can alter the quality and quantity of saliva by doing two things. Number one, drinking more water, but you probably knew that, but adding electrolytes to your water. Well, what are electrolytes? Electrolytes are minerals that are dissolved in water and they make the water we drink more absorbable. So it can be things like a pinch of sea salt, pinch of Himalayan salt, Apple cider vinegar, a little squeeze of lemon. All of these will turn regular water into electrolyte water. Very inexpensive, very easy to do.
Just simply adding like lemon, like you said, to your water and…
Little squeeze of lemon, a little bit of Himalayan salt and mix a little bit of sea salt. Invest heavily in good salt. Spend the money and get really good salt. While there is some controversy surrounding this, the basic premise is true, electrolyte water passes more easily into our blood via the kidney than plain water. In other words, we will keep more water in our body and less of it will be lost to urine if we use electrolytes. That’s the simple equation. More water absorption will cause more quantity of saliva. There’s simply more fluid in your system. More water absorption will change the quality of saliva as well as it will make it more watery and less ropey.
Thanks again for joining this and this episode all about total health dentistry for the senior years. In this episode we focused heavily on mental health, gut health, and how digestion starts in the mouth. We also looked at another important factor in this age category, which is saliva, the great protector. How to enhance its quality and its quantity. I hope you got great value out of this episode and in fact we have made it through all 15 foundational episodes, which have laid out the roadmap and the foundational structure, the architecture of this whole notion of total health dentistry. I hope you’ve gotten great value out of it, but we’re not done yet. I assure you we have tremendous more value, more content, and I hope you’re joining our community by subscribing and I hope to see you there.
Please note that Dr. Ali Farahani is a general dentist and that Total Health Dentistry is not a specialty of dentistry. While we make every effort to broadcast correct information, dentistry is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor may have a different way of doing things from another. Dr. Ali Farahani is simply presenting his views and opinions that will be as evidenced based as possible. We welcome any comments, suggestions, or corrections of error.
Dr. Ali Farahani takes no money from drug or device companies. By listening to this podcast or reading this blog you agree not to use this podcast or blog as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or others, including, but not limited to patients that you are treating. Consult your own physician for any medical issues that you may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast or blog. Under no circumstances shall Sante Family Dental, Dr. A. Farahani Dentistry Professional Corporation or Dr. Ali Farahani, or any of their employees, associates, or affiliates, any of the guests or contributors to the podcast or blog, be responsible for damages arising from use of this podcast or blog.
Midlife – part 3
Intro – rerelease