Swishing with salt water reduces gum disease

I have a new dental hygienist, Melissa, and one of the things I love about my dentist is that she hires people who are really experienced and good at what they do. Turnover is really low in her office.

The excellent hygienist she replaced went on to a job teaching dental hygiene. Her students are lucky to have her.

I’ve written about my dental issues before: the one back molar that had a pocket that kept getting deeper…4, 5, 7, 8…

Short version of how it happened: When I had my wisdom teeth extracted ages ago, the dentist did not remove the extra gum tissue. Years after, I got a piece of popcorn kernel stuck between the now-back molar (tooth #2) and that extra gum tissue. I could not get it out, went to sleep, and the next day I couldn’t feel it any more. It softened from saliva.

I forgot about it, but that gum tissue slowly became infected from bacteria drawn to the stuck food, and it eventually affected the bone.

I finally had the tooth extracted and bone treated a couple of years ago. Problem solved. Whew.

The thing is, having one deep pocket affects the entire microbiome of the mouth. Those inflammatory bacteria spread and deepen other pockets.

I still had some recovery to do.

My new hygienist gave me a very valuable tip. She said that if I swished salt water in my mouth for one minute after brushing and flossing, and did that every night for six months, my pockets would go down two points (millimeters).

She says a pocket 4 mm deep is consider borderline. Better to get 1, 2, or 3. A depth of 5mm or greater is serious, requiring more frequent cleanings and treatments.

I starting doing the saltwater swish, using about 1/8 teaspoon of Real salt (my favorite for cooking as well) and a tablespoon or two of warm water.

My setup for salt water swishing

Although I was not as consistent as she prescribed, I did it frequently enough that my pockets did indeed go down. Last week, a year after I started salt water swishing, Melissa took a look in my mouth and didn’t even bother to measure the pockets…they were all 1s and 2s.

My mouth feels deeply clean after the salt water swish. The reduction in bacteria helps your breath stay fresh longer, too.

Another bonus: the dental office is now scheduling my cleanings every 6 months instead of every 4 months.

Swishing with salt water after brushing and flossing is simple, inexpensive, and easily obtainable.

How does it work?

Salt pulls fluids out of tissues, reducing inflammation and swelling.

Salt alkalizes the pH of the mouth, reducing harmful bacteria that prefer an acidic environment to thrive. Thus, it is anti-bacterial, killing bacteria causing gingivitis and bad breath and reducing plaque on teeth. You can skip the mouthwash.

The swishing action also loosens any food particles not removed by brushing and flossing (and if you don’t have time to floss, swishing will at least keep your mouth cleaner).

It reportedly helps with canker sores and soothes toothaches.

Salt water swishing also promotes healing after dental procedures, preventing painful “dry socket” after an extraction.

If you gargle the salt water before spitting it out, it soothes sore throats and prevents colds, upper respiratory infections, and virus transmission.

Precautions? Don’t swallow it, spit it out! Don’t overdo it, either. Once or twice a day is enough. Overuse could irritate inflamed gums. Also, use warm water if your teeth are sensitive to cold.

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Self-care for massage therapists, part 1

I’ve been doing 16-20 hours of massage per week lately, mostly Swedish but also a little deep tissue work. (I’m still getting up to speed on ashiatsu.)

The up side? I burn a lot of calories so I can really dig in at the table (one of life’s sweet pleasures), and I sleep well, being physically fatigued, another sweet by-product. And of course I’m the richer for it, in money, skill, connections, and making a difference.

The down side is that such physical work can take a toll on my body. I understand why a lot of massage therapists get burned out and leave the profession. From my fingers to my spine, I have felt achiness, inflammation, swelling, tenderness, stiffness.

Luckily, I belong to a group on LinkedIn, the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP). I joined to keep up with discussions about the profession. One person not long ago asked the following question:

What do you do for your hands when they ache after giving a series of massages? I am using proper body mechanics. My hands ache. I appreciate your feedback.

There were 55 responses that I’m going to summarize, because I feel so grateful to have this resource. Thanks to all the MTs who responded.

Please note that many of these are new to me; I am just summarizing what people posted. Later I will post what’s worked for me (that I’ve tried so far) along with a few of my own discoveries.

Recovery time

  • scheduling days off to recover
  • taking a 30 minute break after 3 hours (or however long works for you)
  • taking adequate time between clients to recover
  • not scheduling deep tissue sessions back to back

Body mechanics, stretching, strengthening, and recovery

  • paying attention to how you use your hands on your days off
  • doing hand stretching and strengthening exercises
  • resting in semi-supine position to open the brachial plexus (on your back, knees up, feet flat, book under head for 15-20 minutes)
  • paying even more attention to body mechanics as you work
  • getting a colleague to observe you work and give feedback
  • stretching after each client
  • lifting weights to strengthen arms and hands
  • punching a punching bag (with training)

Therapeutic devices

Heat and cold

  • dipping hands into hot wax/paraffin bath
  • applying hot and cold hydrotherapy
  • dipping hands into ice water

Self-massage

  • getting regular massage yourself
  • stripping your own forearm muscles
  • getting Reflexology on your hands or doing it yourself
  • learning Trager self-care movements for the hands
  • getting myofascial release work done on your arms
  • this page describes how to release wrist trigger points
  • this page describes how to release tennis elbow
  • cupping with suction cups

Delivering massage

  • working within your limitations (i.e., telling clients you don’t do full body deep tissue work)
  • reading the book Save Your Hands!
  • switching to Trager
  • learning Reiki so the energy goes only one way
  • learning Bamboossage, Ashiatsu Oriental bar therapy, or floor Ashiatsu to deliver deep tissue work
  • use alternating areas of the hand/forearm/elbow in moderation
  • having a box of tools available (balls, bamboo sticks, knobbers) to use on clients’  tough spots
  • using Art Riggs’ techniques for deep tissue work
  • using your forearms instead of hands whenever possible
  • using cupping
  • applying hot towels to client
  • holding thumbs tight against hand and using body to push for static pressure point work
  • using the edge of your hand or base of palm area instead of thumbs for sweeping or kneading motions

Oils, herbs, creams, gels, minerals

  • applying essential oil of rosemary for warming or peppermint for cooling (add to jojoba oil)
  • applying oils that are anti-inflammatory: helichrysum, frankincense, German chamomile, Cape chamomile, katrafay, and ginger
  • applying oils that are analgesic: lemongrass, clove, litsea cubeba, peppermint, wintergreen, and eucalyptus citriodora
  • combining anti-inflammatory and analgesic oils; applying them to neck, shoulders, forearms, hands, and feet to relieve hands
  • applying St. John’s wort oil, white willow tincture, fresh turmeric tincture, comfrey fomentation, raw apple cider vinegar fomentation
  • using arnica cream
  • applying Biofreeze
  • applying magnesium oil or gel
  • soaking in an Epsom salt bath
  • soaking your hand in lukewarm or cold water with a minimum amount of salt

Diet, teas, supplements

  • staying hydrated
  • changing your diet to lower inflammation (no details given)
  • drinking coconut water
  • drinking a blueberry smoothie
  • eating cucumbers with sea salt
  • avoiding eating sugars, nightshades, baked products with flour and corn
  • avoiding caffeine
  • taking turmeric internally
  • drinking comfrey tea
  • taking supplements for joint health (no details provided)
  • taking MSM with glucosamine