The Importance of Your Oral-Nasal Complex
If someone were to ask you: “what is the most important nutrient that humans need to survive?” Most folks would say either food or water, which are undeniably very important. But then consider the following: roughly how long could a normal adult survive without food? (maybe 3 – 4 weeks); how about without water? (probably 3 – 4 days); now consider the absence of air or more specifically of oxygen (only a few minutes). Efficient and effective breathing trumps eating or drinking. But without all three, thriving is impossible.
What’s the common pathway for each of these precious commodities to enter the body and how have we adapted to increasingly contaminated or deficient sources of air, water, and food?
First a little anatomy lesson: the common portal of entry for all of these nutrients into the body is via the nasal and oral route. The nose is specialized for the handling of air from immediately after birth continuing throughout our entire lives. It warms, moistens, and filters incoming air; it serves as our detector for smells both good (to enhance our appetites), and ill (to protect us from harmful environmental contaminants); and it aids in the production of a powerful vasodilator, Nitric oxide, to help us reduce high blood pressure. The oral cavity or mouth is actually a specialized system of interrelated organs and structures including the lips, tongue, teeth, gums, cheeks, and salivary glands, as well as supporting bones and muscles, which collectively and interdependently process foods and liquids in the initial stages of digestion and protect the rest of the body from potential disease or injury-producing chemicals or microbes.
An obvious analogy presents itself when considering the function of the oral-nasal complex compared to the modern computer: GI, GO – Good stuff in, Good stuff out. The corollary rule is we must breathe through our noses, and eat through our mouths; simple concept, but often difficult in practice.
What constitutes GI to result in GO?
The World Health Organization defines health as, “the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” By this definition, and by noting the increasing incidence of chronic inflammatory diseases (including coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, auto immune diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease) and cancers since the end of World War II, it becomes apparent that something must be wrong with our modern societies’ GIGO formula. Since the early 1970’s, it has become increasingly evident that our food chains, water sources and air do not adequately give us the quality and quantity of nutrients we need to be healthy and thrive. We have increasingly depended on additives to our foods to make up for their decreased nutritional value due to depletion of soils and use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. Plus, the over-processing of foods has modified our ability to fully develop our facial-nasal-oral musculoskeletal system, which further compromises our ability to extract the vital nutrients from these otherwise life promoting items.
An example in point: many menopausal and post-menopausal women suffer from decreased bone density, which has many serious consequences. This phenomenon started rearing its head in the generation of the mothers of baby boomers. So, what did medical science do? If bone is deficient in Calcium, then supplement with Calcium. The problem is that Calcium needs Vitamin D3 to be absorbed from the intestines. So, let’s add Vitamin D3. New problem…increasing Calcium and Vitamin D3 not only do not improve bone density, but negatively influence deposition of Calcium into coronary arteries. By several large studies, it was shown that another factor must be present to allow proper deposition of Calcium into bone and not into coronary arteries. That factor has been identified as Vitamin K2. Where does Vitamin K2 come from in nature? Grass-fed beef. What happened to grass-fed beef after WW II? It has been increasingly replaced by grain feeding. No grass, no Vitamin K2; no Vitamin K2, no proper deposition of Calcium in bone or lack of deposition in coronary arteries. What if you don’t want to consume grass-fed beef? Fortunately, there are other sources of Vitamin K2 on your health food stores’ shelves to supplement this deficiency. Right now there are no clinical lab tests as to what constitutes an adequate blood level of Vitamin K2, so managing this is an empirical (i.e. trial and error) scenario.
Many more examples exist regarding our modern society GIGO paradigm. Fresh whole foods, pure water, and clean fresh air represent the best inputs we can deliver to our bodies to get the best (i.e. Healthiest) outputs. And they all enter via the oral-nasal complex.
Kevin H. Norige, DMD is a general dentist who has been serving the greater South Windsor area for more than 37 years. Influenced throughout his career by the attribution of his dental school dean referring to dentists as “physicians of the oral cavity”, Dr Norige has always treated and managed oral disease as the local manifestation of systemic disease. Complete health through dentistry is the operational paradigm of Dr Norige’s South Windsor Smiles dental practice with the oral cavity being the window to the health of the entire body. South Windsor Smiles (860) 644-0113.