9 Oral Health Tips from Your Dentist in Rapid City

Dentist in rapid city

Dentist in rapid city

Rushmore Dental | Dentist in Rapid City, SD


Daily brushing and flossing are necessary to maintain healthy teeth and gums. However, you can do other things that benefit your overall well-being. Please read below for your dentist in Rapid City‘s nine dental health tips.


Brushing your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush for two minutes twice a day, known as the 2×2 rule, helps remove plaque and bacteria and keeps the teeth and gums healthy. To avoid damaging the soft tissue, brush with fluoride toothpaste and proper techniques using small circular motions. Remember to brush your tongue well to fight bad breath. 


Floss nightly before brushing to remove anything your toothbrush is unable to dislodge. Skipping this vital step will leave small food particles that can eventually decay and cause oral health problems. Flossing may cause gums to be extra sensitive, which is natural and will stop once you’ve been flossing for a couple of days. 


It would be best if you change your toothbrush every 3 to 6 months. Old, frayed toothbrushes don’t clean the tooth’s surface correctly and can damage your gums. Always rinse your toothbrush and store it upright to dry completely.


Avoiding foods and drinks that are highly processed and laden with sugars plays a massive role in long-term dental health. Including foods high in calcium that can help support strong and healthy teeth, like leafy greens and cruciferous veggies, almonds, yogurt, and cheese. 


Regular dental visits every six months will allow your dentist in Rapid City to catch tooth decay and other issues before they take hold. During this visit, your teeth get a thorough cleaning from a hygienist to remove the buildup of plaque and tartar and shine up your tooth enamel with a buff and polish.


As you know, brushing and flossing are fundamental to preventive dental health. Still, you can help keep your teeth in top condition by incorporating supplemental aids into your routine. Consider using mouthwash, oral irrigators, interdental, and tongue cleaners. These dental hygiene products can help support good oral health and should be used in addition to regular brushing and flossing.


Avoiding a dry mouth by staying hydrated helps maintain healthy saliva flow by moving food particles through your mouth. Hydration keeps food from sticking between your teeth, where oral bacteria can grow. 


Dental sealants fill in the grooves of the top of your molars and premolars to protect your teeth from cavities. Everyone benefits from sealants, but children and teens are good candidates as they often don’t brush as thoroughly as adults.


While regular checkups with your dentist in Rapid City are an excellent preventive measure, issues can develop between visits. Quickly scan the inside of your mouth as part of your oral care routine. If anything seems unusual, share this information with your dentist at your next appointment.

Visit Your Dentist in Rapid City, South Dakota

Rushmore Dental in Rapid City has many years of experience providing dental care to patients of all ages. Our passion is to help you maintain optimal oral health and a beautiful, healthy smile. Ask us about other dental services, such as cosmetic dentistry procedures and CEREC crowns. Call our office to schedule an appointment today.


It’s Time for a Dentist FAQ Session

Faq | it’s time for a dentist faq session

DO YOU HAVE questions for the dentist? There’s a good chance one of yours made our frequently asked questions list!

Question 1: How often do I need to visit the dentist?

For most people, we recommend a dental exam and cleaning twice a year. Even for patients with perfect oral hygiene, it’s inevitable that some plaque and tartar will still build up. We can give your teeth a professional cleaning to control plaque and tartar and we can catch any dental problems early, which will save you time, pain, and money in the long run.

Some people can benefit from more frequent visits, often for reasons like pregnancy, a history of gum disease, or a smoking habit. The ideal frequency of your visits is based on how healthy your gums are and how committed you are to maintaining good oral hygiene.

Question 2: Why do I need a filling if my tooth doesn’t hurt?

Not all cavities are painful. Cavities form when the acid produced by bacteria eats away at tooth enamel until it creates a hole in the tooth. Cavities usually don’t hurt in the early stages when they only affect the enamel. You don’t want to leave a cavity untreated until it hurts, because that means letting it progress until it reaches the dental pulp where the nerves are. At that point, a simple filling might not be enough.

Question 3: Is it really important to keep baby teeth healthy?

It’s true that baby teeth are temporary, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Baby teeth are essential to a child’s ability to chew their food effectively, speak clearly, and master lifelong dental habits like brushing and flossing. They’re also important placeholders for the incoming adult teeth.

Question 4: What is making my teeth more yellow?

Teeth inevitably darken or yellow over time as a function of age, but trauma and environmental factors can make the effect much more pronounced. The biggest culprits of surface stains are cigarettes, wine, coffee, tea, cola, sports drinks, berries, hard candy, and even tomato sauce. If your smile is losing its sparkle, talk to us about whitening treatments.

Question 5: How bad are pacifiers and thumbsucking for my child’s teeth?

At first, they aren’t bad at all! These self-soothing habits only become an oral health concern when they continue beyond toddlerhood. Most children will grow out of them on their own, but after age three, it is time to start considering strategies for discouraging the habit, like clipping a pacifier. We can help!

Faq | it’s time for a dentist faq session

These aren’t the only habits that can damage teeth!

We Love Answering Our Patients’ Questions!

The more educated our patients are about their teeth and gums, the more confident they feel about how they’re taking care of their dental health. If you have any questions we didn’t cover here, give us a call or schedule your next appointment today!

We live for seeing our patients’ smiles!


Women’s Dental Health

Womensdentalhealth | women’s dental health

WOMEN FACE A different set of challenges than men do in caring for their teeth and gums, and they also have different advantages.

Womensdentalhealth | women’s dental health

Oral Health Issues that Affect Women More

Women make up 90% of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) diagnoses. TMD can be caused by bruxism, joint structure, stress, arthritis, vitamin deficiency, or hormones. Another condition that disproportionately affects women is Sjörgen’s syndrome, which causes dry mouth. Beyond making chewing and swallowing uncomfortable and muting the sense of taste, dry mouth is dangerous for teeth and gum health.

Hormone Changes Versus Oral Health

The hormonal changes of puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can cause oral health problems. Gingivitis and gum inflammation become more likely, which means brushing and flossing are even more essential. Dry mouth and bone loss in the jaw are associated with menopause, so it’s important to keep the dentist in the loop.

Eating Disorders

Teenage girls are twice as likely to develop eating disorders as teenage boys. Eating disorders attack oral health in two ways: weakening the oral tissues through malnutrition and (in the case of bulimia) destroying tooth enamel directly through acid erosion.

The Silver Lining

So what’s the good news? Women are better than men at taking care of their teeth! Women are more likely to keep up with their daily oral hygiene habits and regular dental visits. They’re also more willing to go to the dentist when they experience tooth pain, while men might try to tough it out. Even though women are more vulnerable to certain issues, they can significantly reduce the impact by taking care of their teeth.

Soothing a Sensitive Tooth

Sensitive | soothing a sensitive tooth

IF EVERY BITE of ice cream or every sip of coffee gives your teeth a nasty jolt, then you know what it’s like to live with tooth sensitivity. At least one in every eight Americans (including kids) has sensitive teeth. Why does this happen to so many of us and what can we do about it?

Sensitive | soothing a sensitive tooth

The Basics of Dental Anatomy

It’s important to understand a little about dental anatomy when thinking about how tooth sensitivity works. The visible portion of the tooth (the crown) is made up of three layers: the outer tooth enamel layer (the hardest substance in the human body), the dentin layer (more like normal bone) and the dental pulp layer at the center (nerves and blood vessels).

Sensitive Exposed Nerves

The nerves at the center of each tooth sense what’s going on at the surface through thousands of microscopic tubules running through the dentin layer. If the enamel wears too thin, the tubules become exposed and the nerves in the teeth start feeling way more input than they’re supposed to, making temperature changes or even a sudden sweet or sour taste too much to handle.

What Causes Sensitivity?

Aside from enamel erosion, there are other things that cause sensitivity. Root exposure is one. Unlike the crown of the tooth, the root lacks the protective enamel layer. It relies mainly on gum tissue. Gum recession (often caused by teeth grinding or overbrushing) leaves the roots unprotected. Cavities or damage to a tooth like chips or fractures can also cause sensitivity, especially to hot or sweet things.

Protecting Teeth From Sensitivity

There are a few things we can do about sensitive teeth. Step one is to get rid of a hard-bristled toothbrush and buy a soft-bristled one instead. Soft bristles are enough to effectively clean away plaque, while hard bristles can damage the enamel and gum tissue even more. It’s also a good idea to switch to a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. Cutting down on sugar intake and avoiding very acidic foods and drinks (especially sugar) will help as well.


The Dentist Can Help

If you’ve been dealing with tooth sensitivity, schedule an appointment so the dentist can discover the cause. Beyond what you can do to reduce the symptoms and strengthen your teeth and gums at home, the dentist can apply a fluoride varnish, prescribe a stronger desensitizing toothpaste if needed, or recommend a gum graft or dental restoration to repair any significant damage.

Your strong, healthy smile is our highest priority!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.


Kissing and Contagious Cavities

Kissingdentalhealth | kissing and contagious cavities

THE REASON DAILY brushing and flossing are so important for keeping harmful oral bacteria populations under control is that they reproduce very quickly. In a healthy, clean mouth, there might be anywhere from a thousand to a hundred thousand bacteria on each tooth surface, but that can quickly become as many as a hundred million to a billion bacteria per tooth without brushing or flossing.

Kissingdentalhealth | kissing and contagious cavities

Our Oral Bacteria

On average, an individual will have between 34 and 72 different types of oral bacteria. Once we get a strain of bacteria in our mouths, it probably isn’t going away. The trouble is that each person has different bacteria, so kissing or even sharing drinks with someone could introduce new strains.

Kids Don’t Have Adult Oral Bacteria Yet

This is more dangerous for children than adults. Young children don’t have as many types of oral bacteria as adults yet, and their immune systems aren’t used to dealing with them. Too many kisses from Mom and Dad can actually leave them more vulnerable to developing cavities.

Protect Your Child’s Oral Health

The best way to avoid sharing your oral bacteria with your child is to keep those kisses to the cheek, don’t share your spoon or fork with them, make sure they always have their own drink instead of giving them sips from yours, and don’t clean a dropped pacifier with your mouth.

As long as you’re taking good care of your oral health and hygiene, you don’t need to worry as much about spreading dangerous, cavity-causing germs with your kisses, but even then, avoid doing things that could spread oral bacteria to small children.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Being Lip-Tied or Tongue-Tied

Frenum | being lip-tied or tongue-tied

IT’S COMMON ENOUGH to be tongue-tied in the sense of not being able to get your words out, but a tongue tie is also a real medical condition, as is a lip tie. These conditions are both caused by pieces of tissue in the mouth called frena. One frenum connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth, and another connects the upper lip to the upper gums. These aren’t the only two frena we have, but they’re the important ones for this subject.

Frenum | being lip-tied or tongue-tied

Normal Versus Abnormal Frena

A normal frenum is thin and very stretchy, allowing for the free mobility of the lips and the tongue, which is important for normal chewing, talking, and swallowing. If the upper lip or tongue frenum is unusually thick or tight, it can restrict movement and make each of those functions harder. This is a tongue tie or a lip tie.

A person with a tongue tie may not be able to lift their tongue to touch the roof of their mouth, causing significant difficulties for word pronunciation, chewing, and swallowing. A person with a lip tie may have a large gap between their upper front teeth and a higher risk of gum recession. In infancy, they may not be able to effectively latch while breastfeeding.

How We Treat Lip and Tongue Ties

Fortunately, with modern dentistry, there’s an easy fix for lip and tongue ties. A simple surgery called a frenectomy can be done to remove or reduce the abnormal frenum. In cases where the lip or tongue’s movement is restricted and particularly if there is pain or discomfort, the procedure is definitely worth considering.

A frenectomy is a very quick procedure with a short recovery time. In most cases, the procedure is performed by oral surgeons or periodontists (gum health specialists). They will first numb the area, then make a small incision in the frenum to release, reduce, or remove it.

Some doctors use laser surgery to cut through the tissue and shorten recovery time. A laser also lowers the (already small) risk of complications. Make sure to follow all post-operation instructions to achieve the best results with the shortest recovery.

Your Dentist Can Diagnose a Lip or Tongue Tie

For most of us, frenum aren’t something we ever have to think about because they aren’t causing us problems, but if you believe yours or your child’s might be interfering with the normal function of the lips or tongue, schedule an appointment with the dentist to find out. We can take a look and determine whether you would benefit from a frenectomy.

Taking care of our patients’ smiles is what makes us smile!

Dental Health Eating Disorders

Dentalhealtheatingdisorders | dental health eating disorders

EATING DISORDERS ARE incredibly dangerous, sometimes life-threatening mental conditions. The first health impacts that probably come to mind are the psychological toll they take and the malnutrition they cause if left unchecked. However, they also take a toll on oral health. Our teeth and gums require a variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy, in addition to daily oral hygiene habits and regular dentist visits.

Dentalhealtheatingdisorders | dental health eating disorders

Malnutrition Versus Oral Tissues

The eating disorder anorexia nervosa harms oral health through malnutrition. The disorder is characterized by severely limited food intake, sometimes paired with compulsive exercise, purging, or both. Without sufficient nutrients, the jaw bones can develop osteoporosis, increasing the risk of tooth loss.


Without drinking enough fluids, the salivary glands will struggle to produce saliva, leading to dry mouth. Dry mouth increases the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Saliva is the mouth’s first line of defense. It neutralizes acids and washes away leftover food particles. In addition, without nutrients to help keep the immune system strong, our gums become more vulnerable to bleeding.


Bulimia: A Two-Pronged Attack on Oral Health

Bulimia is characterized by the combination of overeating and forcibly purging food by vomiting or taking laxatives. Frequent vomiting puts the tooth enamel in contact with strong stomach acid. As hard as tooth enamel is, it is extremely vulnerable to acid erosion. A person struggling with bulimia is at risk of tooth discoloration, decay, and even tooth loss due to this disorder.


Take Care of Your Oral Health

Oral hygiene is important for everyone who wants healthy teeth and gums, minty fresh breath, and sparkling smiles, but it’s especially crucial for someone battling or recovering from the effects of an eating disorder. Acid erosion can be minimized by rinsing with water and waiting half an hour before brushing. It’s critical to give your saliva plenty of time to neutralize any leftover acid before brushing so that you don’t cause additional erosion.

Our patients’ overall health is important to us!

Post-COVID Dentistry: Why Dental Caries are On the Rise

Dental health is a personal investment

In September 2020 ,reiterated in 2021and 2022, the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute released findings from an impact poll highlighting an increase in certain oral health conditions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors who participated in the ADA poll reported increases in bruxism (54.9%), chipped and cracked teeth (53.4%), temporomandibular disorder symptoms (53.4%) and caries (26.4%) among patients.

As we continue into our third year of the COVID-19, now an endemic, the ongoing health challenges that came with it continue to impact my practices, my patients, and our collective mental health. This is especially clear when you consider ADA data highlighting how doctors are seeing an increase in bruxism, chipped and cracked teeth, TMD, and increases in caries and periodontal disease.

As dental professional, what does a respiratory virus like this one have to do with an increase rate of caries in our patients? There are lot of factors that may contribute to my patients’ overall oral health—and specifically, an increase in caries and decay.

Factors that contribute to tooth decay and oral health decline:

As a dental professional, I must understand why many of my patients were suffering with a variety of dental issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, including (but not limited to) increased decay rates. Importantly, there are many factors at play that can impact my patient’s overall oral health—some directly and others indirectly.

Stress and Xerostomia

Stress has a significant impact on the immune system and the body’s ability to fight off infection. Stress also impacts our body’s overall chemistry, causing us to produce stress-related hormones like cortisol, which has widespread effects throughout the body.

Stress also impacts our overall saliva production and flow, leading to an increase in xerostomia (dry mouth), which in turn can lead to thicker and stickier plaque than what is normally rinsed away with saliva. Of course, saliva has buffering capacity to neutralize acid that’s produced from decay-causing bacteria.

When people deal with stress long enough, it can lead to anxiety and depression—which may lead my patients to be prescribed medications designed to help manage these issues. Many of these medications are helpful for managing these conditions—but a common side-effect of many of these medications is xerostomia (dry mouth).

Masks and Mouth Breathing

Some of my patients were wearing masks more than ever—which was leading many to become obligate mouth breathers. Since patients may struggle to breathe through their nose while wearing a mask, they will default to breathing through their mouths.

Mouth breathing has long been known to cause a host of negative effects on the oral environment from the constant wetting and drying of the tissues. Mouth breathing and xerostomia affect the overall oral environment, including the overall pH and the flora and microbiome of the oral cavity.

Not only does xerostomia contribute to changes, but stress also impacts our bodies’ overall chemistry. This alters the overall flora and microbiome in the oral cavity—and with these changes, then the overall balance of the bacteria changes. In many cases, this leads to an imbalance that can lead to more bacteria, which can cause conditions including caries and periodontal disease.

Changes in Diet

Another factor that may have lead to an increase in caries during the COVID-19 pandemic was secondary to stress—and that is stress eating. Classic comfort foods are often high in sugar content, which alters the overall bacteria flora in a way that is more ideal for decay-causing bacteria.

Similarly, the pandemic is likely causing changes to patients’ overall diet, including the foods they eat and the overall frequency. As patients were working more at home and less at a workplace, many patients may have found themselves eating different foods or eating or snacking more frequently at home. There again, this changes the overall oral environment. If patients have not changed their overall oral hygiene habits to compensate for this, then decay rates may increase.

Financial Changes and Oral Health

Another factor to consider is that many patients also suffered (or continue to experience) significant financial and economic changes amid the pandemic. There were massive changes in the workforce during this time and thus, many patients experience significant changes in finances.

Job changes and furloughs during the pandemic led to changes in dental benefit plans for many of our patients. Meanwhile, many dental offices were closed or saw minimum patients during the earliest days of the pandemic. This led to a significant lapse in care for many patients during this time.

For patients that have poor oral hygiene or who already have significant dental conditions, this created a perfect storm for a significant surge in the rate of caries and other dental conditions.

Final thoughts—and what to do:

The COVID-19 pandemic created a significant increase in health challenges for everyone—directly and indirectly. The overall long-term effects and issues will take years for dental profession to even begin to understand. My team and I at Rushmore Dental are more than happy to always look at factors causing this for you and to give you our best recommendations.



Chen, Lili and Zhao, Jiajia and Peng, Jinfeng and Li, Xiaoshuang and Deng, Xuliang and Geng, Zhi and Shen, Zhenyu and Guo, Fengyuan and Zhang, Qianwen and Jin, Yang and Wang, Lin and Wang, Songlin, Detection of 2019-nCoV in Saliva and Characterization of Oral Symptoms in COVID-19 Patients (3/14/2020).

Gholami N, Hosseini Sabzvari B, Razzaghi A, Salah S. Effect of stress, anxiety and depression on unstimulated salivary flow rate and xerostomia. J Dent Res Dent Clin Dent Prospects. 2017 Fall;11(4):247-252. doi: 10.15171/joddd.2017.043. Epub 2017 Dec 13. PMID: 29354252; PMCID: PMC5768958.

When Do I Need to Get a New Toothbrush?

How long have you been using the same toothbrush? Everyday we throw away expired food from our fridges, replace supplements and vitamins, and ensure that we don’t run out of beauty products. Our dental hygiene, however, does not get the same amount of attention as the rest of our daily routines. We often forget about this essential part of our body until it’s too late. So when do you need to get a new toothbrush?

Many dentists and the American Dental Association (ADA) recommend changing your toothbrush every 3 months. With each use of your toothbrush, the bristles wear down and become less useful in removing germs and plaque from your gums and teeth. Studies have shown that it is around 3 months of use that renders a toothbrush ineffective.

Another thing to consider, that we probably don’t want to, is that germs and bacteria can hide and live in the bristles of the brush. This is the reason why you should also replace your toothbrush immediately after being sick, otherwise you risk perpetuating the illness by possible reinfection.

In case you can’t recall how long you have had your toothbrush, pay particular attention to the condition your toothbrush in in. Are the bristles worn out, fanned out, or frayed? These are signs that you need to replace it. Especially watch out for dark color changes, as this is a sign of mold or fungus forming.

Effects of Not Changing Your Toothbrush Often Enough

Knowing that germs and mold can accumulate on your toothbrush should be enough to convince most people that they need to throw out their old one, but these aren’t the only issues involved with not replacing your toothbrush. When bristles wear down they become less effective in removing plaque buildup. This buildup can cause gingivitis which, left untreated, can cause some serious issues including infection and tooth loss.

If that isn’t enough, you should also know that you can get sick from using old toothbrushes. Finally, and probably the most unappealing of everything already stated, if your toothbrush is stored near a toilet for prolonged periods of time you can end up ingesting undesirable particles. I’m going to go change out my toothbrush just thinking about it, and probably go schedule a cleaning appointment with my dentist.

What to Think About When Buying a New Toothbrush

During your next checkup, ask your dentist what kind of toothbrush is right for you based on your personal needs and state of your dental health.

If you want to go get one today (like I do after writing this), you should consider these common suggestions. Look for a toothbrush with soft bristles, because hard or stiff bristles can cause damage to your teeth and especially to your gums. Look for a toothbrush with a head that contacts only one or two teeth at a time. Always use toothpaste that contains fluoride and is ADA approved, think about getting mouthwash to further fight plaque buildup, and of course don’t forget to floss!








Prebiotics: Not Just for a Healthy Gut

Prebiotics | prebiotics: not just for a healthy gut

The human body has a variety of microbiomes, the largest and second largest of which are in the gut and the oral cavity, respectively. These microbiomes do not function independently but are related in a complex manner. For example, oral bacteria responsible for tooth decay and periodontal disease might make their way into the digestive tract, where they can impact the gut microbiome.

Our bodies are a collection of interrelated systems. Our overall health is affected by our gut health, which in turn is related to our oral health. This means that having one microbiome out of balance can have a cascading effect across the body. One method of encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria in our gut and oral microbiomes lies with prebiotics. So, what exactly are prebiotics?

Prebiotics: What are They and What Do They Do?

Prebiotics exist naturally in the foods we consume, and they promote the growth of healthy bacteria in our bodies. To be more specific, a prebiotic is a substrate (a molecule upon which an enzyme acts) used by the host microorganism in a manner that promotes health. They are resistant to digestion, passing through the stomach and small intestines to the colon. Once there, they will ferment, increasing the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Although many prebiotics are considered a type of dietary fiber, not all fibers can be called prebiotics. Specifically, insoluble fiber, which helps keep you regular and moves food quickly through the stomach and intestines, is typically poorly fermented and thus not a true prebiotic.

Among prebiotics, the most studied are types of soluble fiber such as inulin, fructooligosaccharides, and galactooligosaccharides. Unlike insoluble fiber, soluble fiber will break down in water to form a gel-like substance which acts to slow digestion. Other fibers that are digestible by our gut bacteria include beta-glucans and resistant starches. Given that the number of prebiotics makes it difficult to list them all, a general rule of thumb to follow is that if it is soluble fiber, it is a prebiotic.

Finally, prebiotics that are not types of fiber have been identified recently, including the polyphenols found in fruits and tea, as well as long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA present in fish). Some foods that contain prebiotics include:

Fructans. Inulin and fructoologosaccharies can be found in foods such as asparagus, banana, garlic, and onions.

Galactooligosaccharides can be found in beans, lentils, broccoli, and chickpeas.

Resistant Starches are present in plantains and green bananas, beans, peas, seeds, and cold oatmeal.

Beta-glucan exists in barley, oats, mushrooms, and seaweed.

Polyphenols can be found in a multitude of fruits, especially berries. They are also present in dark chocolate, red wine, broccoli, and spinach.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids come from fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, tuna, and herring.

The Effect of Prebiotics on the Oral Microbiome

Originally, the definition of prebiotic was not expansive enough to include those that modulated microbiomes other than the gut. Today, the definition is more inclusive, as they can modify any microbiome in the body.

Specific compounds have been found to meet the definition of a prebiotic, as they increase the proportion of beneficial bacteria and reduce pathogenic species. These compounds are not found in foods in any significant amount. Xylitol and arabinose may be capable of stimulating the growth of certain lactobacilli that can help to inhibit pathogens related to dental caries, candidiasis, and periodontal disease.

At some point in the future, these prebiotic compounds may find their way into products such as gum, toothpaste, mouth rinses, and more, though it is necessary to find a means of keeping the prebiotic in the oral cavity long enough for fermentation to occur. Xylitol gum and mints have been on the market for some time, and they can achieve this goal. However, it is believed that for xylitol to be effective in the prevention of caries, an intake of 5 to 7g per day in multiple doses throughout the day is required. To reach this threshold would require that 2 pieces of gum be chewed after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Consuming too much can be an issue, however, potentially causing gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

How Else do Prebiotics Relate to Oral Health?

To be clear, there is still research to be done regarding oral prebiotics, but we are able to examine the effect prebiotics have on our oral health in less direct ways, such as through the alteration of the gut microbiome.

For example, P.gingivalis is a pathogen indicated in gum disease. It has also been shown to create an imbalance in the gut microbiome, which is often associated with disease. It has been found in those suffering from conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disorders. When prebiotics were administered, they were shown to counteract alterations in the gut microbiome, correlating with greater energy intake, insulin resistance, and improvement in cholesterol and triglycerides, all resulting in an improvement in metabolic health.

Evidence exists to show that gum disease is related to changes in the gut microbiome. One study revealed that those with periodontal disease had a less diverse gut microbiome than those with healthy gums. Since gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that correlates with gut bacteria imbalances, this leads to the question of how improving our gut microbiome might improve our oral health.

It is well known that obesity and type 2 diabetes are risk factors for gum disease, and these diseases are also associated with chronic inflammation. Prebiotics can assist in the treatment of these diseases as they can improve insulin resistance, assisting with weight loss. Accordingly, prebiotics can be said to indirectly assist in the prevention of periodontal disease by reducing the associated risk factors of obesity, chronic inflammation, and type 2 diabetes.

While it is not yet clear how changing our gut microbiome might directly affect our oral health, conditions like obesity and diabetes negatively impact oral health, and oral health is related to systemic disease. Prebiotics that improve our gut microbiome support our systemic health, in turn influencing our oral health.

Prebiotics and their Impact on Oral Health

There are a host of prebiotics and they can have different effects, but listed below are some of the general ways that they can benefit oral health:

They Help Prevent “Leaky Gut” and Associated Inflammation

The term “leaky gut” is used to describe a condition in which harmful substances are able to more easily pass through the intestinal wall and reach other parts of the body. P. gingivalis is known to alter the gut microbiome, resulting in leaky gut. This results in a greater amount of toxins in the blood which in turn make the body more prone to inflammation. During fermentation of prebiotics, bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids that can strengthen the intestinal barrier, keeping harmful bacteria from reaching the bloodstream.

They Assist With Weight Loss

Prebiotic intake may affect the release of hormones that trigger satiety—the feeling of being full. Fructooligosaccharides are known to increase the concentration of hormones that regulate appetite control, and when participants in a study were asked to consume 16 g oligofructose per day for 13 days, it was noted that calorie intake decreased significantly. By helping to maintain a healthy weight, prebiotics can help reduce the risk of periodontal disease, given that excessive fat tissue can increase systemic inflammation by secreting adipokines.

They Regulate Blood Glucose

Patients with uncontrolled blood glucose levels have a greater risk of periodontal disease, but this relationship goes both ways, as periodontal disease may also impact blood glucose levels in a negative manner. Prebiotics can modify the gut microbiome in a way that helps with insulin control, in turn helping to manage or reduce the risk of diabetes and periodontal complications.

Increasing Your Prebiotic Intake

As mentioned above, there are many prebiotics which are also types of dietary fibre. This means that increasing your intake of these types of fibre therefore also increases your prebiotic intake. The recommended daily intake of fibre in USA is 25 g for women and 38 g for men between 19 and 50 years of age. For many, their actual intake is below this level, at about 16 g for women and 19 g for men.

Some foods to help with fibre—and thus prebiotic—intake include:

1 tbsp of chia seeds (5 g of fibre)

1/2 cup of raspberries (4 g of fibre)

1 cup quinoa (6 g of fibre)

1/2 cup of lentils (8 g of fibre)

1 cup of cooked broccoli (4 g of fibre)

1 serving of oatmeal (4 g of fibre)

1/4 cup of almonds (4 g of fibre)

The new USA food guide promotes the consumption of more plant-based proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in an effort to increase fiber intake. It is recommended that half of each meal be comprised of fruits and vegetables, with whole grains making up another 1/4. The final 1/4 can be plant-based proteins, such as lentils and legumes, both of which provide significant amounts of protein and fiber.

USA does not currently offer guidelines on the intake of prebiotics.

Although prebiotics occur naturally in certain foods, they can also be used as fat or sugar replacements. They are added to several processed foods including cereal and cereal bars, ice cream, and baked goods. This does not indicate that these foods are necessarily healthy, however. The consumption of whole foods in place of processed foods is preferable, as whole foods also contain vitamins, minerals, and other healthy components, without the sugar, fat, and salt typically added to processed foods. Additionally, consuming 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetable per day may help prevent tooth loss and the development of gum disease.

Noting the benefits of prebiotics, some will seek to add them to their diet in the form of supplements, though consuming large amounts of these supplements can lead to side effects such as gas, bloating, and cramps, as bacteria produce gas when metabolizing these food components. These side effects will diminish over time as your body adjusts, however. Starting with small doses of supplements and increasing gradually over the course of a few weeks can help manage these side effects. It is also important to ensure that you are consuming enough liquids, as fiber will trap water with it as it passes through the digestive system.

Key points to take away:

Consume a diet rich in prebiotics by following USA’s Food Guide, which encourages the consumption of plant-based proteins (1/4 of your meal), whole-grains (1/4 of your meal), and fruits and vegetables (1/2 of your meal).

Increase the consumption of prebiotics from whole foods. This includes fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, which are full of amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Polyphenols (readily available in berries and tea) and omega-3 fatty acids (from fish oil) are not fiber but do have prebiotic properties. They may also have anti-inflammatory properties.

If it is proving difficult to reach the recommended daily intake of fiber, consider prebiotic supplements, available over the counter.

If taking prebiotic supplements, start with a low dose and gradually increase each day to avoid side effects such as bloating and gas. You may also split the dosage up into smaller doses throughout the day.

Increase your fluid intake with your fiber intake.

Whether you increase your prebiotic fiber intake by following the USA Food Guide or by taking a supplement, you are supporting your overall health, and may also be helping to stave off periodontal disease and oral cavities.