Dentists, please forgive me…but does anyone look forward to having dental work done??? It hurts, it’s expensive, and lately – with increased knowledge of the importance of the oral microbiome and how dental certain materials can damage it – it can make a person wonder if having your teeth worked on will have a long-lasting negative effect on your overall health.
Recently, I did have to get some dental work done, so this is top of mind for me.
How to Stay Healthy Before, During and After Dental Work
First off, I want to commend the team at Dana Point Cosmetic Dental, especially Dr. Larijani, whom I saw. The office is professional, clean, and all my questions were answered to my satisfaction before any work was done.
Also, I do want to admit that there are many in the holistic arena whose in-depth knowledge of healthy dental practices outstrips mine, whose research I dove into while preparing for my own work. I will leave that discussion to them and focus on preparing for and healing from the actual work done.
My focus will be the impact to your vagus nerve and autonomic nervous system, as well as the best way to fortify yourself nutritionally and otherwise, before, during and after your dental appointments.
***Do make sure that your dentist understands and endorses any nutritional supplements you’re considering taking, especially fish oils, which can inhibit clotting, and which providers often recommend ceasing for a certain period of time before the procedure.
A great first step to take before having any dental work done is to assess the state of your oral microbiome.
The mouth is a very germy place! Before puncturing any membranes of the oral cavity, I do recommend finding out what your own germ balance there is. If certain pathogenic bacteria or viruses are present, it can be best to take steps to optimize your bacteria before doing the work. I recommend the Alert 2 by Oral DNA Labs, available through a Functional Medicine provider like myself. The oral microbiome is EXTREMELY impactful on your overall health beyond your mouth, from your brain to your heart to your gut.
In addition, do your research on dental materials used. If you have a preference for a certain material over another, speak up. Many dentists are willing to discuss options, and to special-order something you prefer.
What to Take
I recommend fortifying yourself weeks before the trauma that dental work (or any surgical procedure) can be. A strong regime of anti-inflammation supplements is what I like to see, such as krill and fish oils (essential fatty acids, or EFA), and SPMs, which are “specialized pro-resolving mediators,” derived from fish oils. In addition, I like to add collagen peptides and a specific anti-inflammatory formulation, like my own Proteo DeFlam. Beyond that, I typically also recommend adding some immune-optimizing supplements, like C and Zinc.
When antibiotics are used, it’s important to consider the gut microbiome, and employ a specialized probiotic so that your gut environment does not get disrupted. Not all probiotics can withstand antibiotics, so you really need to choose carefully. For my clients, I stock a very specific, well-balanced formulation that contains 10 species of bacteria, including saccharomyces boulardii.
And of course, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Most clients I see are woefully underhydrated. Drink the equivalent of half your body weight pounds in ounces of water daily (ex: if you weigh 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces of water), and more if you are facing surgery or dental work.
MAP it out
In addition to the physical realm, I advise my clients and patients to prepare mentally and emotionally for the work ahead. Get into a good routine of MAP (meditation, affirmation, prayer) to create a reservoir of peace and a calm internal environment that you can draw upon during the procedure and afterwards while healing.
The goal is to stay centered in a parasympathetic-dominant state of your nervous system, with your vagus nerve fully activated to keep you in “rest & digest/feed & breed” rather than “fight or flight.”
I’m a huge fan of breath work. There are so many different kinds to use, too! I particularly like the “4-4-7” breath rhythm for keeping calm during stress, and you can definitely use it while in the dental chair for easing any nervousness or discomfort: breathe in through the nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale through the nose for a count of 7. Try it right now – I think you’ll see how calming it can be!
As stated above, use the MAP regimen you have been practicing to get into a calm state while you are being worked on. If you find yourself tensing up, pay attention to your hands: are your white knuckles clenched around the arm of the chair you’re sitting in? Loosen them up, lower your shoulders away from your ears and take a few 4-4-7 breaths.
(Linda likes to think about the rest of her day coming after the appointment is over: it’s a reminder that this is only a moment in time, and the day will continue on beyond it.)
Of course, follow all your dentist’s instructions for care and healing.
Full Mineral Salt
Salt water rinses can be very comforting and healing, especially if the water is warm. Use the best salt you can, such as full-mineralized Himalayan vs ordinary table salt. I put in some colloidal silver and/or hydrogen peroxide.
I’m also a big fan of The Dental Herb Company (all the time, not just when specifically healing from dental work) and I’m proud to stock their products in my clinic. Their Toothpaste, Tonic and Under the Gum Irrigant are fantastic daily products for you and your family, free of toxic ingredients. Diluted, the Tonic is great for healing.
What to Take After
After the work, I continue the supplement regime of SPM, EFA, collagen and Proteo DeFlam. I often switch out of the specific antibiotic-tolerant probiotic into more of a broad spectrum, like my Solutions Biotics DF.1.
I add an internal binder, such as CheleX, to gather all the solvents, plastics and metals that may have been used (or freed from old dental work being removed) and transport it to the liver and kidneys for elimination.
I may also add an intestinal binder, with ingredients such as clay, charcoal, and humic or fulvic acid to make sure the intestine is also detoxing these chemicals properly, and moving them out.
What to Eat
Consume the most nutritionally dense foods you can while you’re healing. Make every calorie count. Soups are fantastic for this, because you can put so many vegetables into a hearty bone broth (high in collagen) and even if you cook until soft, you still capture all the phytochemicals. And, remember those fermented foods to get your gut right again – not the sweet ones (ex: kombucha) but rather the raw savory choices, like sauerkraut (I like the Wild Brine brand). Look for raw fermented foods as cooking destroys the good bacteria.
Avoid processed foods, sugar, and all proinflammatory fats, such as seed oils and transfats. Every day, really, but especially when you are healing.
If xrays were administered, it’s important to get the radiation (even digital) detoxed. Lots of water, plus an antioxidant, iodine and topical magnesium and/or Epsom salts used in conjunction with extra-warm baths or saunas are great tools. Saunas are amazing for healing on many levels, including detoxification and activating the vagus nerve. Get a sweat going but don’t exert yourself to exhaustion, especially if you are a new sauna-er.
For overall status or oral health, you certainly do not need to wait for dental work to investigate the state of your oral microbiome. The Alert 2 is a great test to use, with significances beyond mouth-limited problems like cavities or gum disease, since pathogenic oral microbacteria has been linked with such far-reaching issues as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases, as well as cardiovascular conditions such as arteriosclerosis .
How about you? Do you have any dental work scheduled? Let me know in the comments below how you will prepare, from a Functional Medicine perspective.
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Creating health alongside you,