Pearls Of Wisdom from Airway Health Pioneers

Barbara Tritz
· February 11, 2019 ·

11 minutes

Hello wonderful readers!  I recently attended the AAPMD/AAOSH/ACAM conference at the lovely Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas.  It was a meeting of true pioneers in thinking about airway, brain and total body health. This gathering brought together a wide variety of health professionals- DDS’s, MD’s, OD’s, OT’s, PT’s, RDH’s, SLP’s  and, of course, OMT’s (Orofacial Myofunctional Therapists) (so many letters!) all learning so much from each other. We grow so much when we hear what other disciplines are doing, and then we can better work together to improve all our treatment and knowledge.  To end improper airway development and all the many illnesses it spawns, we must work together!

A lack of airway

Today’s blog post will be part 1 of 2 of a compilation of my notes from the best of the best thinkers and leading-edge health industry airway pioneers – new facts to help inspire you for a healthier, happier 2019!  I know I have improvements to make to help me on my way to be a healthier person.  Join me,and we’ll commit to making health the priority it needs to be!  The best dentistry and medicine are preventive. Health is a journey, and here are some excellent ideas to consider while you undertake your own.

Starting at the TOP!

Your brain needs attention too. We never really think about brain hygiene but maybe it should be (pun intended) at the head of your list. Dental Hygienists always talk about brushing and flossing to help prevent dental diseases. Medicine may well need a “Brain Hygienist” to work with folks to establish good brain health habits. Here’s what I learned listening to Dr. Steven Masley‘s talk about how to improve your odds of avoiding dementia. He was so inspiring, I plan on ordering his book!

Here’s the thing: our brain starts slowing down decades before the obvious signs of dementia reveal themselves. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and other dementia is estimated to increase 200% by the year 2030, double the current rate.  AD is currently the third leading cause of death in the U.S.  


BUT! here’s the good, no, great news.  You can enlarge your brain by making healthy choices now!

First, factors associated with cognitive decline:

  • #1. Insulin resistance and diabetes
  • #2. Low fitness level and inactivity
  • #3. Cardiovascular disease
  • #4. Nutritional deficiencies
  • #5. Mercury and heavy metal toxicity
  • #6.Periodontal Disease and gingivitis!! ( Surprised!?! Not if you’ve been reading my blog!)
  • #7. Low thyroid function
  • #8. Depression
  • #9. Head injuries
  • #10. Inflammation   
  • #11. Unique genes
  • #12. Brain toxins

Now that we know many of the causes and contributing factors for cognitive decline, we can address this from a preventive angle.   Many of these are within our control!

Brain Hygiene

#1. Many of us have a love affair with carbohydrates, but unfortunately that love is not reciprocated.  Sugar added to our foods may well be the “smoking gun” for dementia. Our brains need sugar to function. That sugar is glucose, which we gets from fruits and grains. The added sugar is sucrose which is in everything we eat. Simple carbs such as bread, sugary drinks, and processed carbs (think white flour) push sugar into the brain cells which then turns off these cells.  This results in insulin resistance.  The even worse news – this causes the cells to become dysfunctional and die.  Our brain shrinks. This speeds aging. Sugar consumption causes a sugar craving and dulls the mechanism within the brain that tells you to stop eating. Instead, we go for seconds,thirds and snacks.

Dementia is a form of diabetes in the brain.  They now term it: Type 3 Diabetes. In a healthy brain, the enzyme insulin removes the excess sugar, and is the same one that removes the beta amyloids.  (Beta amyloids are sticky compounds that build up in the brain, disrupt communication between brain cells and cause cell death.) So, without this enzyme working properly, beta amyloids build up.  Carbohydrates and too many foods with what is termed a “high glycemic load” push sugar into the brain cells. These cells then become dysfunctional and die, shrinking the brain.

The bottom line: Control your blood sugars, starting young! Sugar is truly a poison to our health and well being.

We walked the entire 10K in under 2 hrs

#2. Physical fitness is vital for your brain health. Time to get off the couch. Your brain needs a workout as much as the rest of you does. When you work out, it stimulates the electrical functions in your brain. The goal is to really push yourself with a combo of activities – aerobics and muscles mass/strength training – both are important. Dr. Masley recommends 5-6 x/week of aerobics and 2-3 x/week of weight lifting.

This is an area I really need to up my game! I’m good at walking miles every week but will need to include weight training. There are not enough hours in my day!

Bottom Line: Work out!

And Laugh too!

Bet he didn’t make all 5Ks but he made me laugh!

#3. Cardiovascular Diseases – Find the root cause of the inflammation in the arteries by doing anti-inflammatory therapy. Read this post and then this blog post  on how to fight inflammation in your arteries, and go see your doctor! Keep your arteries cold which keeps your body warm. 😉

Could heart disease really start in your mouth with airway problems and gum disease? You better believe it!

“Airway issues” are a nice, collective way of saying sleep disordered breathing, mouth breathing, obstructive sleep apnea,* upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS)** and insomnia***. Deep restful rejuvenating sleep is the bedrock, the FOUNDATION of health. Without that deep healing sleep, nothing else matters.

I just read Why Sleep Matters by Dr. Matthew Walker. Sleep disordered breathing and its resulting sleep apnea could literally kill you. Every major system, tissue and organ of your body all the way down to your DNA suffers when you don’t sleep well. (No wonder I hate that time change thing every Spring and Fall.) According to Dr. Walker’s research the bottom line is the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. It affects your heart (see #3 above), healing, growth, diabetes, obesity, gut microbiome, reproductive system, immune system and cancer development. Read my post on sleep and learn more, and of course, I highly recommend Dr. Walker’s book.

If you don’t dream, if you get up to use the bathroom more than once a night, snore, and/or don’t feel rested in the morning, you may have a sleep “airway issue” and I recommend you please address it immediately. Please consider taking the Epworth Sleepiness questionnaire. For children look over the BEARS sleep questionnaire.

Dental disease will be covered in more depth under #6.


*Obstructive sleep apnea– it is a complex interaction of neurological, muscular, and physical variables that results in the collapse of the oropharynx (upper airway).

**Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is caused by a slowing or blockage of air in the nasal passages during sleep, disrupting it and causing fatigue. Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome commonly masquerades as: Chronic fatigue syndrome – severe, continued tiredness that is not relieved by rest and is not directly caused by other medical conditions. … Studies show that a vast majority of fibromyalgia sufferers have undiagnosed UARS.

***Insomnia and sleepdisordered breathing. Approximately half of patients with sleepdisordered breathing (SDB) also experience insomnia.

To wrap up this- take care of your heart by adding sleep hygiene to your “to do” list.

#4. Nutritional deficiencies. Brain cells communicate with each other through a connection called a synapse. Malnutrition plays a role in the gradual loss of these synapses. Sorta like a dropped call on your cell phone, and that dead zone in your kitchen, no matter how you move around.

We need to eat healthier food. Many foods here in the US have been stripped of their nutrients and devoid of flavor, so they’re refilled with processed sugars, fake fats, and other “taste good” fillers. Dr. Masley’s suggestions: look for locally sourced foods, and eat seasonally. You’ll have better quality, more nutritious food. Farmer’s markets are the best place to buy quality produce, healthier meats, and eggs that taste good. Diets full of processed foods and sugar are lacking in nutrition and are “proinflammatory”. This results in painful joints and body inflammation. See #10.

Dr. Masley recommends doing a blood test and see what vitamins and minerals you are deficient in and take supplements accordingly. Be sure to ask to test the following items:

  • Fasting Glucose
  • Fasting Cholesterol profile
  • Blood count (CBC)
  • Thyroid Function- not just TSH
  • Chemistry profile: Sodium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, hsCRP, Hg, Lead, Long Chain Omega levels, ferritin, B12, RBC,
  • At least once have a Bone density test (DEXA)
  • Carotid Intima Media Thickness testing
  • Computerized cognitive testing to assess your brain processing speed, whole blood mercury level
  • Treadmill ECG and VO2max testing
  • Clarify your hormone levels
  • Have a head MRI

He also recommends:

  • Take a good multivitamin
  • Add Fiber
  • Eat healthy fats – you need Omega 3. He suggests salmon, sole and sardine.
  • Add Curcumin for joint health and cancer risks.
  • Be sure your diet includes Zinc, magnesium and Vitamin D3
  • Add Vitamin K1 and K2 to your line up. Read his suggestions on which foods contain them and how much. Those on Warfrin NEED to work with their doctor before starting any vitamin K supplements.

As always, work with your medical providers.

A big issue is stress- it produces cortisol which increases blood sugar levels and see #1 above- shrinks the brain! Cortisol can cause insomnia as well as effect the thyroid gland and insulin production. It’s all connected! So, exercising, eating, meditation to reduce stress, and then sleeping soundly are stress busters! His book goes into much more detail.

#5. Toxins – oh boy are we surrounded by them. I’m not talking about the “toxins” that Instagrammers swear we can eliminate with their fancy teas, but daily interactions with copper in our plumbing, mercury dental fillings, composite fillings with BPA’s, and then there are nitrosamines in our sandwich meats and ** in our baby pacifiers, bottles, and sippy cups. **

Ninety percent of nitrosamines cause cancer. Do you really want that in your baby’s mouth all night? (Never mind what the bottles, pacifiers and sippy cups do to stunt jaw growth and development!) Pacifier maker MAM’s website states they do, but “strictly controlled to ensure they have the lowest possible nitrosamines and nitrosatable substances value.” I’m picking on MAM only because their name first came to my mind. It’s been 20 years since I bought a pacifier. Little did I know they were not safe.

Triclosan in toothpastes, lead in our drinking water, and even laundry detergent leaves toxin residue on our skin, which affects our health. Then there are the known toxins we ingest like alcohol, tobacco and pesticides on our foods. Even synthetic fragrances can be toxic.

And you thought they were safe!

I have recently discovered (thanks to a patient) this website that rates products for health factors. Until working in a biologically minded dental office, I had never given thought to all the many hazardous chemicals in our daily lives. It’s time to be more aware of all that’s in our world. Just like the ancient Romans were not aware of the lead poisoning in their water, so too are we slowly doing the same? History will look back and tell us.

For this, it’s really about minimization. Our bodies are wonderful, and most people can handle some interaction with these elements, but try to give yourself a break when and where you can.

#6. Gum disease and tooth decay! No surprise here. The pathogens, fungi and parasites involved in diseases in the mouth infect the entire body. (It’s not like Las Vegas, where what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. What happens in the mouth does not “stay in the mouth!”) Drs. Brad Bales and Amy Doneen, pioneers in cardiovascular health discussed the direct connection between the pathogens in the mouth and heart and brain health.

Spirochetes are present in gum disease and have been connected to dementia. Spirochetes destroy nerve tissues. New research also connects the bacteria porphyromonas gingivalis (P.gingivalis)  to the increased production of beta amyloids – remember them from above? The study confirmed the bacteria can travel from the mouth to the brain. This bacteria makes a toxic enzyme called gingipains that can destroy brain neurons.

The important reason to bring up both spirochetes and p. gingivalis- you need a culture to see if you have P.G. but spirochetes show up on my phase contrast microscope screen, right there chairside. AND, spirochetes and P. gingivalis are always together, like bacon and eggs, Batman and Robin. I’ve been screening each and every patient that sits in my chair for spirochetes at every dental hygiene appointment since 1985. If your dental office is not looking at your pathogen profile for gum disease bacteria, find out why. (Or come see me for a thorough dental hygiene examination)

Have some unresolved dental issues? Or does your partner? The bacteria at the root tip of an abscessed can also infect the brain. Same bugs. These pathogens infect the body, cause chronic low grade long term inflammation. This lights the arteries on fire and inflames the body. And it’s contagious. Every time you chew, brush, or get your teeth cleaned, you give yourself a bacteremia. In a healthy mouth you have good bacteria, but over half the population has some level of gum disease, so you are giving yourself a bacteria shower on a daily basis.

So, bottom line – please, if your gums bleed, even a little, or you have an abscess, address these dental issues right away. Dental hygiene is vital to your brain health!

#7. Low Thyroid function- every cell in your body requires thyroid hormones so be sure to check it. Read this post for more information.

#8. Depression is a risk factor for dementia. Depression can be inflammation. See a doctor for help with this.

#9. Head injuries increases the risk of dementia 300% to 400%. See #10 below.

#10. Inflammation also increases the risk of dementia 300% to 400%. Acute inflammation raises the temperature of your body, and it helps kill bacteria- think your finger being hot and tender when you have a sliver. When we allow inflammation to linger it becomes a chronic inflammation. Examples: if you don’t get that sliver out, or have untreated gum disease, digestive issues, are constantly breathing polluted air, or have prolonged emotional stress. The body can’t rid itself of these insults, but it keeps trying.

Inflammation can also be caused by local nervous system insults which causes a sudden trauma to the brain, as well as non-traumatic brain injuries caused by tumors, infections, strokes, heart attacks, near drowning , strangulation, poisoning, or diabetic coma. Peripheral infections are now being recognized as also playing a role in dementia with infections such as Herpes simplex 1, Candida infection (a fungal infection) and Periodontal disease.

We can test for these pathogens with a simple salivary diagnostic tool called OralDNA.

#11. Unique Genes- APO E4 increases 300%  and Methylation defects – I just finished reading the book Dirty Genes by Dr. Ben Lynch. I need to re-read it so I can better understand it. It was, honestly, over my head but filled with so much interesting information. Those of you familiar with your gene profile will understand this, but if you don’t, there are many other things on this list to address. Dirty Genes does tell you how to clean your genes and explains that your genes are not your destiny. While we can’t exchange our genes, the bottom line is we can clean them up, they are not our only fate. The fact that these particular genes are present in combination with the other 11 risk factors can then set the stage for inflammation and the resulting cognitive decline.

#12. Brain Toxins – chemicals we ingest every day can be connected to brain shriveling. Fluoride (which needs its own blog post- I’ve been hesitant to dive into that one, but will this 2019 year. That’s a can of worms all on its own), glyphosate herbicide (Round up), Trans Fats, monosodium glutamate, diacetyl (used in popcorn butter, as well as other products), aspartame and it’s ingredient methanol, aluminum, and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Then, there are toxins in air pollution: magnetite nanoparticles that can enter the brain and have shown a connection to neurodegenerative diseases.

Baby Your Brain

This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, I am sure. Often, I wonder what else are we doing, ingesting, or inhaling that are harming us and of which we are not aware.

By addressing the above twelve factors connected to cognitive decline we can reduce dementia by 90%. That is an incredibly exciting statistic!

Pioneering Points to Ponder

Brain health is essential to quality of life. Memory loss is not inevitable! Ninety percent of cognitive decline is preventable. Deep restful proper sleep and breathing are the corner stones of health. Breathing issues start at birth and follow the child through a life time of potential health issues. Being aware of health, sleep and food are vital. We need to be our own health care advocates. We can control our genes and our destiny. Illness is not an option! It is truly up to us. It takes work but we are so worth it. Live a fabulous life!

Now, it’s off to exercise for me!

Keep smiling,

Barbara Tritz

Dental Hygiene Oral Health Coach and Pioneering Blogger





Hello, I'm Barbara Tritz

Unveiling the Stories Behind Dental Hygiene

Loving science, especially biology, from an early age, Barbara is a registered dental hygienist, certified biological hygienist, and orofacial myofunctional therapist. In 2019, she received the Hu-Friedy/ADHA Master Clinician Award from the American Dental Hygienist Association.

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