We spend so much time talking about healthy food choices and constant movement that we forget about the other main factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Sleep. That’s right, the answer to everyone’s sleep deprived prayers is here. Everyone should be focused on getting enough sleep! Besides being happy and well rested, getting a sufficient amount of sleep can decrease your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, stroke and depression. That being said, making sure that you are checking all the boxes might be a bit more complicated than you realize.
Now, what is a sufficient amount of sleep? Measuring sleep comes down to quality and quantity. Research has shown that most adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep and that people who achieve this average live the longest. Oversleeping and undersleeping can have negative effects so it’s best to find the sweet spot for your quantity of sleep and stick with it. In reference to quality, restless sleep, even if you reached the required hour length, is not as beneficial. Recent research proposes that quality sleep removes toxins from your brain that can build up while you are awake. Just like everything, finding your own personal balance is key.
Getting an insufficient amount of sleep is associated with countless problems including Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive declines such as your ability to pay attention, your working memory, reaction time and something we are all too familiar with, your mood. Now if it feels like you can’t remember the last time you got a sufficient amount of sleep, don’t panic. Your health isn’t going to suddenly and dramatically decline. Yes, you will see some of the more common side effects but the extreme problems come after years and years of poor sleeping patterns.
However, there are steps you can take to improve your sleeping habits. You can avoid late afternoon caffeinated drinks and tempting early evening naps. These can hinder your ability to fall asleep. Also, putting electronics away and having as little late-night screen time as possible and being exposed to natural light patterns can help your quality and quantity of sleep increase.
Trying to choose the best thing to eat can be tricky and a little overwhelming at times. No matter what you decide to put in your cart at the grocery store there always seems to be a cautionary tale lurking nearby. Now rest easy, majority of the time if you stick with what you know to be raw and good and in moderation then you’ll be fine. We know that the level of your health can be found in the food you purchase. Just like there are certain things you should avoid to protect your health, there are foods you should avoid in order to protect your tooth enamel as well.
First thing to steer clear of is sticky foods. These include and are not limited to dried fruit, trail mix or sticky candies. These are bad for your tooth enamel because they stay on your teeth longer than other types of food. That doesn’t mean you need to completely erase them from your diet, but just be aware and try to rinse your mouth with water afterward or brush carefully.
The one answer we have all been dreading. Soda, as well as other sugary drinks, can very easily damage your tooth enamel and leave your teeth unprotected. If you are constantly throwing back a sugary drink with your friends; be careful. That sugar mixes with your oral bacteria to produce acids that attack your enamel specifically. If you do like to drink a lot of sodas then try to drink a glass of water alongside it. This will help balance the acid in your mouth and protect your tooth enamel.
Here’s a tricky one, ice. Our tooth enamel is incredibly strong and our teeth can bite through just about anything but chewing ice may be a form of tooth kryptonite. When you chew on a hard substance like ice it can damage your enamel and ultimately lead to your teeth becoming chipped, cracked or broken.
Take a stand for your health! No seriously, stand up. Americans spend on average 13 hours a day sitting. In fact, after spending on average eight hours sleeping, normal sedentary activity comes to a whopping total of 21 hours. If your math skills are up to par, then you know this leaves only three hours for physical activity. Well between you, me and your emotional, physical and mental wellbeing, three hours is not enough to sustain a healthy and well balanced life.
It comes down to one simple fact: we lose our mobility as we get older because we limit our movement. As adults we have three positions: laying down, sitting down and standing up. As we get older our bodies begin to recognize the most common positions and movements in our everyday lives. We sleep lying down at night, sit a chair while we work or study at school and stand while we wait in line for that coffee that keeps us going. The repetition of these same three movements begins to be reinforced by the body because they are recognized as important. However, by limiting our movement and training our bodies to only remember three positions, we lose the other forms of movement that we use to have.
Our culture of proper work and school etiquette has beaten movement out of us. As kids, we are scolded for exploring movement. No running inside, no jumping on furniture, the list goes on. We’ve heard it all before and most likely we’ve said it before as well. To the detriment of our health, it seems like the movement has become culturally unacceptable. When was the last time you stood while you were watching a movie? Or sitting on the floor during dinner? Have you climbed a tree recently? It’s probably been a while. Most likely not since you were younger than 12 years old. In reality, we should still have the same movement capabilities that we did as children.
Luckily, you can teach an old dog new tricks. By increasing our daily movement now and diversifying our positions we can teach our bodies to recognize new positions, making them become comfortable and familiar once more. Work standing up, sit on the floor cross-legged during dinner or lay on the ground while you read. It’s not too late to implement a lifestyle full of motion for ourselves and for our children. The best thing we can do is create an environment that encourages movement.
Get ready to catch some cooties. Well, bacteria to be specific. As unnatural as it may seem to talk about our symbiotic relationship with billions of different types of bacteria, it is a natural part of our everyday lives. And little did you know, we have been in the business of trading bacteria since the day we were born. Whether an individual is born through c section or vaginally, babies are born with a match of their mothers’ microbiome. Our bacteria is constantly changing and interacting with the bacteria around us. Each unique microbial community varies constantly based on your genetics, diet, age, environment and sexual behavior. In fact, in families or relationships that have high touch percentages (sharing food, hugging, etc.) there is a substantial shared collection of bacteria between them.
Although babies start with their mothers’ microbiome, as they grow the microbiome eventually evolves as it is influenced by what they eat, whether or not they have had antibiotics and who they come in contact with. One of the ways we come in contact with others and swap bacteria is when we kiss. Research shows that one ten-second french kiss can transfer on average eighty million bacteria. Some of that bacteria may only reside temporarily but other bacteria, depending on colonization, can be a permanent swap.
Now don’t stop tonguing just yet. The risk of exposure to other bacteria may seem negative at first. However, there are positives to swapping bacteria. First, that exposure might actually help build up resistance against other types of bacteria. And secondly, having high diversity of bacteria in your mouth has many proven health benefits. However, it is important to recognize that a healthy transfer of bacteria depends on your snogging partner’s oral microbial colonies and if they have good bacteria to transfer to you. Although overall, kissing for the sake of bacteria transfers is healthy. Just another reason to get some sugar (and not the processed and refined kind).
Understanding how to protect your tooth enamel can seem daunting and almost impossible with the food that we choose to eat today. Luckily there are two simple ways that you can protect your tooth enamel everyday. The best part is that you are probably already doing them! Firstly, choose the food you eat wisely. Secondly, actively participate in your personal dental care.
The first place influenced by the food you eat, is the first place you put it. Your mouth. Certain foods such as sodas, candies and breads can stick to your teeth and wear away at your tooth enamel. The best way to protect your teeth is to be informed. Protection through prevention. Be aware of the food you eat. You should find a balance between foods that strengthen your tooth enamel like those high in Calcium and the foods that damage your tooth enamel like those high in sugar. Life is all about balance, doesn’t it make sense that your mouth is too?
Next, take care of your teeth. It’s simple. Brush regularly. Floss regularly. Go to the dentist regularly. These are all steps you can take to protect your tooth enamel and to prevent your teeth from eroding even more. Again, be informed. Visit your dentist regularly and make your own dental care a priority. Your mouth is a gateway to other aspects of your health because if your mouth suffers then the rest of your body will suffer. Take care of your first line of defense.
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