Healthy Living

Canadian Blood Services restricts, on a temporary basis, donors from donating blood if they have had dental work. For a cleaning or a filling, donors must wait until the day after treatment before donating blood. For an extraction, root canal or dental surgery, donors must wait 72 hours before donating blood — provided there is full recovery.

The reason for this policy is that having dental work can result in “nicks” in the gums. Micro-organisms from the mouth can enter the bloodstream through these nicks, creating a risk of bacteria in the bloodstream.

If these bacteria were collected through a donation, they could grow significantly during the storage of blood components, and therefore be potentially transferred in very large amounts to the recipient. This could result in a very severe transfusion reaction.

We all know that sugar is bad for our teeth and that certain beverages such as coffee and wine can stain our pearly whites (sure, take away everything we love!), but not all foods should be frowned upon. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) has compiled several studies in a new free e-book, “Recipes for a Healthier Smile,” that show certain foods are actually chock-full of beautifying benefits for our teeth and gums.

For example, did you know that basil can reduce bacteria (think: bad breath) in your mouth? Or that cheese can prevent tooth decay?

“A lot of people separate the mouth from the rest of the body,” explains Shawn Frawley, general dentist in Beverly Hills and co-author of AACD’s e-book, “but the mouth is really connected to the body.”

That means the same types of foods that can help stave off cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease can also help prevent common oral health problems, like tooth decay, gum disease and cavities.

“What’s basically good for the body as a whole is good for your mouth, too,” says Dr. Frawley. “That means, plant-based foods, like vegetables, whole grains, legumes and beans, which are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.”

Most foods in a plant-based diet are beneficial. Take celery and kale. “Celery is very helpful because its fibers have that stringiness to them,” he says. “Chewing it helps to clean the teeth—almost like the bristles of a toothbrush.” As for kale, it’s loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, which promote gum health.

Calcium-rich foods are also good for your teeth, but don’t be fooled by the myth that milk is best, according to Frawley. Although it’s true that foods high in calcium prevent decay, milk can have a lot of natural or added sugar in it. Other good sources of calcium include tofu, calcium-fortified soy milk and collard greens, according to the USDA.

Adds Frawley: “We look at food to get us by, but it can really help benefit us and heal the body from a lot of chronic diseases and infections. A lot of medical providers look to drugs to do that, but we have those healing powers right in front of us with the foods we eat.”