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A Q&A with The Debtist

April 26, 2019

A Q&A with Dr. Samantha Tillapaugh from The Debtist

Why did you become a dentist? How long have you been practicing?

Oh gosh, I feel like there are so many reasons why I decided on dentistry. Even though I have been saying I wanted to be a dentist since I was eight years old, the reasoning that solidified my decision wasn’t fully formed until I became a dental assistant. As a young one, I thought to myself, “Dentistry helps a lot of people,” and I think that was the main attraction for me.

The Debtist graduation

Graduation, 2016

As I grew older, I got drawn into the arts. So much so that I had to choose between art school and a science degree. I ended up following my heart and choosing science, to facilitate my path towards getting into the dental field. Luckily, when I started shadowing as a dental assistant, I realized just how artistic dentistry could be. Working with my hands on the daily has been a real joy and restoring smiles (sometimes out of nothing) is the best feeling in the world. Most people wouldn’t believe this, but I use the same exact strokes with a drill in my hand as I do when I hold a paintbrush or a charcoal pencil. I would never have imagined that I could be an artist disguised as a doctor.

Finally, I chose dentistry because of a particular lifestyle. When I had to decide between art school and dentistry, my mom told me something that I will never forget. You can always choose to do art on the side when you’ve become a dentist. But you can’t choose to be a dentist on the side after you’ve become an artist. Dentistry allows me to create a meaningful impact in people’s lives, but it also gives me the freedom to choose how many days I want to dedicate doing that. Unlike working at a hospital as a doctor, there is more flexibility working as a dentist in a private practice. That fact allows me to turn my life into what it is today. I have time to pursue writing on the blog, being a bread baker at Rye Goods and Aero Bakery, and a dog sitter via Rover. I have the space to do all the things that bring me joy. In this way, I create a balance between being good to others, but also, being good to myself. It’s been three years, and I have no regrets.

 

Why did you start your blog, The Debtist?

When I started my blog, there was no intention to write for others. I started to write because that’s always what I’ve done. My tendencies lean toward introspection, and I’ve had multiple blogs and diaries since I was a teen. I started my blog in the middle of 2017 when I was going through a decluttering process, in the physical sense, but also in the mental and emotional sense. I had just graduated dental school, accomplished my life’s dream and work of becoming a doctor at the age of twenty-six, married my best friend, and I just needed to take a step back and ask myself, “What now?” I felt like I accomplished a lot in my life, but also that I had spent too much time going through the steps, checking off the boxes, if you will. It was time to embrace mindfulness.

The Debtist 

 

I noticed you talk about simplifying your life on your blog. What are some changes you've made to simplify your life?

I’ve simplified my life so much that people can’t help but comment. In the physical sense, I own very little. Adding more things to our home is sometimes a painful process, because of my aversion to clutter. The things we do add hold a lot of meaning and are very dear to us. A lot of things we own are used daily, a statement not many can make. And we try to avoid things that would bring the planet harm, which means living a life as free as possible of synthetic materials.

Simplifying my life didn’t apply to only things. I simplified my relationships as well. As an introvert, it’s helped me save the energy I needed to focus on the things I hold most dear. I stopped saying yes to everyone, I stopped living my life to please others, and I de-cluttered unhealthy relationships, if you will. In our society, that’s seen as selfish, but the truth that I learned is that the people you choose to surround yourself with truly shape the world around you, so being selective is very important.

The most difficult part about the simplifying process, however, is quieting a monkey mind. Even today, I will sometimes find my neurons firing like crazy, trying to process twenty things at once. Yoga has helped me tremendously with finding the mental space that I need. I think that once we can zone inwards, we can almost pull ourselves away from this physical world and transcend what grounds us here. It gave me a more worldly perspective on life. Amidst chaos, I can shut everything out and listen to a pinpoint sound, like a distant bird song carried by the wind. I can appreciate the silence of an empty room. In the middle of preparing breakfast for us at home, I can find gratitude in the smell of cinnamon, the heat of an oven, the sound of drip coffee. I think a simplified life, in the end, requires a particular mental state. It’s almost like knowing your place on this Earth. Once you’ve tapped into it, everything about this life becomes simple.

The Debtist

Simple joys

 

Do you have a favorite post or one that got more attention than you expected?

In the beginning of 2018, I started to gain traction with the blog. I started to collaborate with others, write for an audience, and eventually, make a difference in people’s lives through my work. Even if it is to simply say, “You are not alone.”

In the early days of 2018, I changed my blog name to TheDebtist, because I realized that a lot of what defined my current life stems from the fact that I graduated at the age of 26 years old with a student debt of over half a million dollars. I started to write about its effect on my lifestyle, which caught people’s attention. You see, I had chosen a path many people did not choose to take. I decided to pay down my student loans aggressively instead of waiting 25 to 30 years for the government to absolve it. From this came a need to be frugal, which then led to a need for simple living, and consequently, a lifestyle of less waste. All of which I detail in the blog.

The Debtist

A collaboration with Miakoda NY

In the summer of 2018, my student loan story was recorded by ChooseFI, and when the story got released in October of 2018, things picked up speed, and fast! A month later, a second Itunes recording with Student Loan Planner was released. I am most known for my post Hashtag JOMO: The Joy of Missing Out, and for my list of Things I’ve Given Up in the Name of Frugality. I write a lot about ways to deal with a lot of debt, in the hopes that I can help others who are also suffering from the same thing. I want to change the mindset we have around money, and to have an open conversation about it. I think that sharing knowledge is the best way we can improve our future generations.

The blog became a way for me to reach people from all over the world, but surprisingly, what the blog has done for me is greater than anything I have done for anyone else. It gave me something to stand up against, and a community to fight for.

 

And now you've taken up baking! Has this always been a passion?

Nope, not at all! I dabble in artistic things frequently and am naturally drawn to activities that withdraw the mind into its own world… things such as drawing, reading, yoga, and writing. I have always cooked my own meals (another frugal life hack of mine!) and I started to bake bread, specifically, only one year ago… around the time when I started practicing mindful living. What had me doing it?

The Debtist bakes

I value baking bread more than words can explain.

Part of our intentional living transformation involved cutting plastic from our lives, which meant our grocery runs could not involve any items prepackaged in plastic. We started making everything from pasta to sauces from scratch. For Christmas 2017, I asked my family members for presents that would allow me to make my own bread. The minute I started doing it, I felt a strong, calm pull.

There’s something about bread baking that transports me to a place of rest. The best bread only requires three ingredients, water, flour, and salt, and one very rare commodity: TIME. It takes time for the yeast to ferment the flour before baking, in order to have bread rise. Unlike other things in the modern world, there’s no rushing it. The ability to make bread in this way is a privilege that not many people have, and I value it more than I can explain.

 

What is your favorite thing to bake?

I cook and bake other things for myself and for my family, but I specifically focus on bread for others. It’s kind of funny, but when I tell people I own a bakery, their first question is usually, “Do you make cakes?” I guess I do, and there’s a special one that I reserve for family members on their birthdays that they seem to really love, but that’s not where my heart lies.

Sourdough bread is easily my favorite thing to bake. I can do variations of it, some with Gruyere cheese in whole wheat, Cheddar and Jalapeno, Sesame Seed, Walnut, Raisin and Coriander…  but in the end, a plain country loaf of Sourdough bread is what attracts me most.

The Debtist bakes

Sourdough Country Loaf, in all its hole-y glory.

 

Are you baking just for fun? 

I’m always baking for fun! But I also do it as a side hustle now. I got my first job as an early morning bread baker with Rye Goods at the beginning of this year. We are a group of seven, and when I started, we were operating from a garage that was rebuilt to house an entire commercial kitchen. I rise at the same time that some go to sleep, and bake off loaves with another bread baker until sunrise. The ovens keep us warm, the love of bread keeps us moving. Our pastries and bread are on the delivery truck, on their way to local coffee shops before most people even open their eyes. I walk out into a view of the sun rising over the mountains, smelling like bread, feeling calm and ecstatic, all at the same time. My day already holds so much, even before it begins.

The Debtist bakes 

Rye Goods Pastries on Sunday mornings

Just recently, I opened my own bakery called Aero Bakery, to serve the local community. I wanted to share with them the luxury of having the time, show them how something simple can bring joy. I want to remind them that elegance can lie in a slab of butter and a slice of bread, and all the riches in the world cannot replace the feeling you get when you make something that’s your own. Hopefully, it helps them to slow down, even for a moment, to enjoy the little things.

The Debtist bakes

Aero Bakery: Slowing down bread-lovers in the heart of Downtown Santa Ana

 

Can you tell us a bit about your recently adopted cat?

Oh, you mean the love of my life?? We met our cat, Theodore, when we used to go on a nightly after-dinner-stroll at our previous place. I remember the day we first saw him. He must have recently found his way to our neighborhood, because before, he wasn’t there and afterwards, we saw him every day. He was the first to approach us, all mews and cuddles. He loves humans, and would roll over to get pets, or jump in a stranger’s lap to fall asleep. It was hard not to fall in love.

The Debtist has a cat!

Hi, I'm toothless Theodore!

A month later, we were moving into our new home, and we had to leave Theo behind. I remember saying bye to him when we left. But we couldn’t stay away. We would drive the 2 miles back to our old place a few nights a week just to find him waiting in the same exact spot, lurking for any human contact he can find. One day, we got to talking with an old neighbor who feeds the stray cats in the area. She was feeding the other cats their kibble, but Theo had a special bowl of soft, wet food. We asked her, “Why the special treatment?” It was then that I learned that he was a toothless cat. She couldn’t have sent a sharper dagger. That was the minute I knew it was over.

California was entering the Fall season late, and I recall that it was the first rainy day since Spring. It was a Sunday, and all I could think was that a poor, toothless cat was sitting out there, hiding underneath some trees or bushes, trying to withstand the gusty winds and wet rain. The following night, Theo had a new home. I had rushed to grab the bare necessities (off course!) that a cat would need on Monday morning before work, and my husband went to pick up the cat after work. I came home to our sweet, orange baby exploring our home. The rest is history.

The Debtist has a cat!

Home sweet home.

 

Finally – what’s next? 

Who really knows? Right now, I am trying to balance working as a dentist five days a week, writing on the blog, tackling the student debt, baking at Rye Goods, and growing Aero Bakery. I have so many dreams, it’s hard to say which one life will lead me to next. We’ve traveled the world for coffee, and it may be that a coffee shop endeavor will be in our future. I also dream of living a quiet life in New Zealand at some point, if only for a few years. Some days, I imagine waking up to the sound of birds, walking to a simple job of being a barista, earning only what I need, and spending the rest of our days outdoors, listening to the sound of the Earth around me doing what it’s always done all these years. Other days, I think it’d be nice to create forever, maybe write a book, become a potter, or draw and paint. Honestly, with me, you never really know what will happen next. All I know is this: the world is full of possibility.

 The Debtist travels

Tekapo, New Zealand 2019

We’ve partnered with Samantha Tillapaugh, a general dentist practicing in Southern California, to help spread the word about all cool things dental. When she isn’t sharing informative posts about teeth with us, she is writing at her own lifestyle blog as TheDebtist. Aside from writing, she travels the world, reads plenty of books sidled up next to her adopted, toothless cat, bakes sourdough bread and works as a tooth-fairy.

Our friends at MSN.com put together a list of ways to reduce your carbon footprint, including swapping to reusable bottles, getting rid of your junk mail, bringing your own bag, and - of course - swapping to a recyclable or biodegradable toothbrush. 

6. Brew your coffee at home!

Save money and a single use cup. Win win.

 coffee 

 

9. Be rid of junk mail for good.

The average American adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail per year. Limit this by signing up for a service to remove your info from direct mailing lists, and opt for online statements and email updates instead of paper ones.

 MSN.com © Jacob-Schroeter/Shutterstock

© Jacob-Schroeter/Shutterstock

 

20. Swap to a recyclable or biodegradable brush!

Did you know that the average person uses 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime? Make the swap to keep brushes out of the landfill!

 mint Bogobrush

 

 

Care to read the entire article? Find it here.

What is sustainability to you?

My simple, cut to the chase answer is that Sustainability is the balance of all things. To dive deeper into my brain, I think that, existentially, that balance is beyond human knowing and within the realm of faith. More practically, it's the balance of humanity and planet where the creation and consumption of energy is in a state of constant flow. I think it requires an understanding that people and the planet both create and both consume. And also, that energy includes goods, services, thoughts, and relationships. It's the thoughts and relationships piece where I think humans can make a huge impact, and it's relatively untapped. :)

Sustainability with Heather McDougall

What are 3 ways everyone could become a bit more sustainable today?

1. Avoid products that are only garbage - not biodegradable, recyclable, or reusable. But, when you do produce garbage, before you throw it in the trash bin, really look at it and say "thank you." Honor the energy that created it.

2. When making a decision (purchasing or relational) ask yourself, "Am I saying yes because this fuels my soul and helps my light stay lit, or am I saying yes because my ego (i.e. human conditioning) tells me I should." Trust that Higher Self choices are always in balance. And, this doesn't mean never consume...just know why you do it. :)

3. What is that thing you do everyday or every week where you hear yourself say you can do something better or different? Is it carrying your reusable water bottle or metal straw? Or, using your compost bin? Or, giving a buck to the homeless gal? Or reading that book about the cause you want to know more about?  We all have that thing that is on our "edge." Commit to it for one week. See how you feel.

Sustainability with Heather McDougall

What do you want students to take away from your workshop?  

I want students to walk away from the workshop with a broader mindset for making a sustainable impact. I will share how sustainability is so much more than the products we use and whether we recycle or not - those are important - but in an imperfect system of production and the world of marketing can leave us feeling defeated. Instead, I want students to feel empowered by the vibrations of their mindset, and feel a new sense of faith that their passions and truths are designed to fit in a sustainable world. Students will leave the workshop with a toolbox of questions and a personalized statement for making these positive changes in their daily lives.

written by Samantha Tillapaugh from The Debtist

I sat down on Valentine’s Day to write a post. I wasn’t sure what to write about at the time, but the feeling of love was all around. Suddenly it dawned on me. I thought of kisses, specifically those on children’s heads. Parents kissing their children on the lips, as if to say “I love you, and don’t you forget it.” I’ve seen it often, too, as a simple gesture signaling comfort. A mother kissing a child good luck in the waiting room, as the child is called into the back of the dental office for x-rays. A father kissing a child in tears, telling them to be brave and good, as he holds their hand during the first dental visit. I’ve seen a mother cooing a baby to sleep while her teenager gets a cleaning, and kissing her darling baby goodnight. I’ve seen it over and over again, the kiss, this symbol of love.

Then, I think to myself, “do people know?”

Babies Are Born Cavity Free

Do people know that babies are born cavity-free? This isn’t because they don’t have teeth, but rather, because all babies are born without the bacteria that causes cavities -- Streptococcus mutans, if you want to address it by name. Like other bacterial infections, acquiring this bacteria requires exposure. In fact, the only way to have cavity-causing bacteria is through someone else’s saliva. And guess whose first on the list to expose babies to cavity-causing bacteria?

The Debtist

That’s right! The child’s immediate family is usually the first to expose the little one to cavity-causing bacteria. My mind races with images of parents sharing their meals and feeding young children food from a mother or father’s plate, while the little ones swing their knees above floors they can’t yet reach. I think of the way we teach children how to drink from a glass, by demonstrating with our cups, and then asking them to mimic the motions. I think of ice cream cones shared on a summer day, peanut butter sandwiches with alternating bites. I have even seen parents chew their baby’s food for easier eating, then spitting it out and feeding it to them. That isn’t foreign to me at all. We’ve all seen pacifiers drop from a baby’s mouth or a baby’s hand. The next scene is familiar. Usually, the parent picks up the pacifier and rather than returning it to the baby dirty, they stick it in their mouth to clean it, before handing it back.

The truth of the matter is, parents share saliva with their babies all the time (as do brothers and sisters). But do parents know that this is how babies catch those cavity-causing bacteria early on?

It’s Nobody’s Fault

When I tell people that their one-year-old has sugar bugs on their teeny tiny baby teeth, parents often look at me with shock. How could their precious baby have sugar bugs so early? What did they do wrong? When I follow it up by saying that their child probably caught it from someone at home, they look at me like I’ve just offended them. “You mean to tell me this is my fault?” they would say. No, I am not saying it is your fault. It’s nobody’s fault. It just happens. Just like someone with a cold can transfer it to another person in their surroundings, bacteria in your saliva just, well, transfers. So, what can we do to prevent it from transferring?

Preventing Baby Cavities

I think it would be highly impractical to tell all parents to refrain from kissing their kids on the lips altogether. In fact, I think some parents would have a meltdown, even though I know some dentists do tell them anyway. If we are being completely honest, that would definitely help prevent early cavity formation. But the other truth is, parents will still want a way to show their love. So if it’s impractical to suggest it, let’s talk about the alternatives.

  • Limit the sharing of saliva among family members. The more you limit the sharing of saliva, the better you control the spread of cavity-causing bacteria. Refrain from sharing plates of food, cups, and drinks.
  • Make sure everyone in the family has a healthy mouth. Visit the dentist and keep cavity-causing bacteria under control. Make sure that both parents are cavity-free, so that they have less cavity-causing bacteria to spread. The best thing a parent can do is address their own dental issues to protect their children. As well as anyone else who gives that baby a kiss, or a bite of food to eat! (P.S.: This applies to adults as well. Making sure your significant other and all loved ones are on top of their dental game helps YOU, too.)
  • Watch their diet. Diet plays a huge factor in cavity formation. Once children have cavity-producing bacteria, those bacterial species will be in search of sugary treats. Babies should be weaned off of sippy cups and bottles as soon as possible. We recommend not using a sippy cup later than one years old. Falling asleep with a bottle in hand and milk on teeth is no good on the dental front. Juice drinks are the worst, followed by sticky candies and sweet treats.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene. A baby can catch the cavity-causing bacteria even before their teeth first make an appearance. It is during this stage that we must really be diligent about good oral hygiene. We don’t want cavities to form as the teeth are erupting. We want to make sure to brush any sticky and sugary foods and drink from the baby teeth. Maintaining good oral hygiene will help prevent cavities from forming, despite being in the presence of cavity-causing bacteria.
We’ve partnered with Samantha Tillapaugh, a general dentist practicing in Southern California, to help spread the word about all cool things dental. When she isn’t sharing informative posts about teeth with us, she is writing at her own lifestyle blog as TheDebtist. Aside from writing, she travels the world, reads plenty of books sidled up next to her adopted, toothless cat, bakes sourdough bread and works as a tooth-fairy.

In 2018, Bogobrush partnered with the Dental Humanitarian Outreach Program (DHOP) to help them provide care to families in Panama. We caught up with Conor Perrin from DHOP to learn more about what they do.

What is DHOP?

The Dental Humanitarian Outreach Program’s (DHOP) mission is for local and international humanitarian groups, USC dental-students, faculty and alumni to come together with the common interest of providing the highest quality of periodontal treatment, operative dentistry, and oral surgery to those that need it most abroad.

How did you get involved in this program?

Ever since I started dental school, I heard about the sense of community involved with everyone who went on the DHOP mission trip each December and how humbled everyone was to partake in such an experience. It was something I really wanted to be a part of, so I applied and ended up being accepted to join the mission as a first year student.

DHOP

What's next for DHOP?

Typically, about 50 students are chosen to attend the trip each year, all of whom have to submit an application and interview before being selected. As I’ve now completed two missions and wrapped up my final trimester as a second year dental student, I have served on the DHOP board previously as one of the fundraising chairs and will now serve as one of the 2019 upcoming mission’s co-directors. Though we have some ideas as to where we would like to take our upcoming mission, it often relies on contacts that we make in the international community. From here, the people we reach out to help guide us into making a final decision as to what area would be the best fit for our organization to serve.

2019

For our 2019 mission, the board wants to continue to elevate the standard of care we provide, which mirrors the standard that’s provided in USC’s home dental clinic, while also trying to provide treatment to a greater number of patients each year.

The Dental Humanitarian Outreach Program is lead by University of Southern California dental students, faculty and alumni on a mission to provide the highest quality care to all communities.

On Trend: Oil Pulling

January 29, 2019

 

written by Samantha Tillapaugh from The Debtist

I may be a little late on reporting the “latest craze” with this one, but here we are. Oil pulling. When I first heard the term, I couldn’t believe it has nothing to do with gas companies or oil rigs. Essentially, oil pulling involves taking a tablespoon of oil (I later learned that coconut oil was the more glamorous option), and swishing it around the mouth for twenty minutes to reap supposed oral health benefits. Most people opt to take up oil pulling in hopes to replace flossing. My thought? I didn’t even know people could hate flossing THAT much.

Oil pulling - The Debtist

Where did oil pulling come from?

Oil pulling has actually been around for centuries. Previously known as “kavala” or “gundusha”, this ancient dental technique has its roots from India. It is believed that the oil is capable of binding to toxins and pulling them out from the body. It was primarily used to improve oral health but has been applied to other aspects of health as well. However, the oil needs to be in contact for long periods of time in order for it to have an effect, hence the twenty minutes of swishing.

Supposed benefits

The internet is teeming with a number of supposed health benefits to oil pulling. It seems that there are many advocates for this holistic trend spanning social media websites. Below is a list of benefits that I found people were claiming this new trend has to offer.

  • whiter teeth
  • cavity/gingivitis prevention
  • better breath
  • stronger teeth and gums
  • less jaw pain, sleep problems, and sinus issues
  • alleviation of headaches, hangovers and skin issues

My Personal Perspective

No offense, but my first non-filtered reaction was “uhm, ew?!” Just the thought of swishing a tablespoon (why so much?!) of coconut oil around made me shudder. Coconut oil at room temperature is SOLID, and it takes a while for the oil to melt in your mouth due to body heat. Taste and texture definitely makes or breaks the practice, and while they say you can use other plant-based, cold-pressed, organic oils such as sunflower oil, sesame oil and olive oil, I do agree that coconut seems to be the most … manageable? Don’t get me wrong, I love those oils in my salads and I’ve been known to make a famous chocolate chip cookie recipe using coconut oil, but letting them sit in my mouth is just not the same thing. Of course, curiosity kills the cat, and I did try it out for myself. Verdict? As predicted, I was not able to cope. I could hardly keep the oil in my mouth for longer than a few seconds! Forget about twenty minutes. I couldn’t help but wonder, is flossing SO bad that one needs to spend twenty minutes of their day oil pulling instead of flossing for two?! I know, I know, I’m biased. But STILL. I say, more power to the people who are able to do oil pulling successfully once, let alone three to four times a week. Plus, if it were all true and the oils do bind to microbes, hypothetically after twenty minutes of swishing, pushing and pulling that oil into all the gingival crevices of your mouth, you’ve essentially got a wad of bacteria. And still swishing…which to me, seems a bit gross. And that’s coming from a DENTIST!

Oil pulling - The Debtist

My Professional Opinion

There is little formal trial data that supports any of the health benefits claimed by oil pulling. While it may be true that oil pulling pulls toxins out of the body, we must remember that causes of cavities and gingival disease involve acid produced by bacteria, not toxins. Therefore, the pulling of toxins does not necessarily have anything to do with cavity prevention. Some may argue that vitamin E resides in coconut oil which have antibacterial properties, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Vitamin E does not select for the bad bacteria and may actually be doing as much damage if it is also removing the good bacteria. Our oral biome consists of both the good and bad, and if we take away good bacteria, we will give the bad bacteria an opportunity to thrive. Because Vitamin E isn’t proven to be selective for removing only the bad bacteria, I don’t think this argument suffices for supporting that oil pulling reduces cavities and gingival disease. Lastly, some people claim that oil pulling is as effective as chlorhexidine in treating bad breath, but may I suggest that swishing WATER around for twenty minutes would result in better breath too…

I am not here to completely shut down the idea of oil pulling. But I am here to say that there is not enough scientific evidence to support this ancient dental technique. There are studies, but most have been found to have flaws in their methods. I would still consider oil pulling as a possible supplement to brushing and flossing, but not a complete replacement. As of now, the American Dental Association has deemed insufficient clinical research to support oil pulling as a stand alone preventative treatment that works. Sorry, but yes this means that you still need to floss. Yes, you can roll your eyes at me.

Giving Oil Pulling a Try? Things You Should Know:

If you are going to try oil pulling, may I recommend the following?

  • Still floss! Just as water flossers cannot fully replace flossing, any oil you swish in your mouth cannot get in between tooth contacts!
  • Swish gently. Twenty minutes is a very long time and vigorous swishing can result in jaw pain and tension. Headaches have been reported as a side effect of oil pulling, which can be due to the stresses placed on the temporal muscles. Headaches are also common in clenchers and grinders who undergo similar long periods of muscle tension. Take it easy, take it slow.
  • Do not swallow the oil. If the point is to bind to toxins, we do not want to ingest all those toxins you’ve collected by swishing the oil around.
  • Once you are finished, spit the oil into the trash, not the sink. Oils can clog up the sink’s drain pipes, and explaining to the plumber why you’ve got clogged pipes will surely be interesting.
  • Brush as you normally would after a session of oil pulling. I would feel much better knowing that you’ve removed all the oil after the swishing, just in case. Plus, I am sure brushing will help to remove that slimy, oily feel and taste that I just couldn’t take. I guarantee your cup of coffee would taste much better if it wasn’t chasing coconut oil from a morning’s session of oil pulling, wouldn’t you agree?

We’ve partnered with Samantha Tillapaugh, a general dentist practicing in Southern California, to help spread the word about all cool things dental. When she isn’t sharing informative posts about teeth with us, she is writing at her own lifestyle blog as TheDebtist. Aside from writing, she travels the world, reads plenty of books sidled up next to her adopted, toothless cat, bakes sourdough bread and works as a tooth-fairy.

Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah) roughly translates to “coziness” in English, and those in Denmark have cultivated an entire season around it.

This year, why not try to do as the Danes do and focus on doing things that bring you joy?

Here are some guidelines to embrace hygge in its fullest:

1. Take a break from your phone. You're not missing anything, trust me! Unplug and enjoy an IRL conversation with family or friends and live in the moment.

2. Go outside, even if it's cold. I get it, it's chilly! But getting out in nature and getting a little vitamin D will definitely make you feel better (and also make you appreciate those cozy blankets back at home!). Build a snowman, shovel a neighbor's walk, or take a walk with a hot drink.

3. Build a fire in your fireplace or light some candles. Create some ambiance! Lowering the lights and enjoying the natural glow of a fire will make you feel miles away from any troubles.

4. Indulge a bit! Enjoy some baked goods, a hot drink, and relax. No further explanation needed.

5. Spend time with those you love. Here in the US, the holidays can feel overwhelming, but remember to take a breather from shopping and checking things off your to do list and cozy up by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and a good conversation.

 

written by Samantha Tillapaugh from The Debtist

Myth 01: “Brushing Hard Helps”

Growing up, I was always told to brush my teeth every night. But how to do so? As an avid rule follower and extremely prudent child, I sought out any tips in preventing the dreaded sugar bugs. Unfortunately, the only advice that most adults had to give was to brush twice a day, and hard, in order to remove all of the plaque on my teeth. If I had any left-over gunk at the end of brushing, it must have been because I didn’t brush hard enough. Today, we know that brushing hard does more damage than good, but do you know why?

Good for Teeth, Not for Gums

I do admit that harder pressures are better at mechanically removing plaque and debris than softer pressures. And a tooth is a very sturdy thing, able to withstand stiff bristles and manually applied forces. However, we must remember that the teeth are surrounded by pink soft stuffs, known as gums, which aren’t as resistant to pressures. Brushing really hard, especially in left-to-right motions as we were previously taught, can lead to gum loss, in a process called gingival recession.

What is Recession?

Gingival recession occurs when gums move away from your tooth. Your gums experience wear and soft tissue is prone to the damaging effects of heavy brushing. Consider gum recession as your body’s way of protecting itself by retreating. Over time, gum tissue disappears, and less and less gums surround your teeth. Unfortunately, once gum recedes, it does not grow back without surgical dental procedures.

How Does this Affect Teeth?

What does gum health have to do with teeth health? Well, they are all inter-related. The gums are part of the structure that holds your teeth in place and keep the teeth stable. As you experience gum loss, multiple things can happen. First, you are losing the protective barrier around your teeth. Severe gum loss leads to exposure of your tooth’s roots. Unlike the rest of your tooth, the roots are not covered by a enamel layer. Therefore, the outside of your roots are closer to the nerves, and experience more sensitivity to things such as sweets, hot and cold temperatures, and movement. You may find eating ice cream a suddenly unpleasurable experience!

What’s more, as gums recede, there is an increased chance of food getting stuck in between your teeth. The space that gums once occupied is now empty, allowing for more food to be trapped every time you eat. Difficulty in keeping the areas around your teeth clean can lead to constant inflammation, your body’s way of fighting off anything it deems foreign. This can lead to gum disease, thereby causing further bone loss and gum loss! And the cycle continues.

The Right Way to Brush

Knowing all of this, we need to switch up our brushing techniques. Here are a few tips on how to brush successfully, without doing any harm.

  • Use a soft or very soft bristled toothbrush. I would avoid medium and hard bristled toothbrushes entirely.
  • Hold the brush like a flute. You’ll soon realize that there is very little force that can be applied when you hold it in this manner.
  • Point the toothbrush at the gums at a 45-degree angle.
  • Brush in circles or in small, vibrational motions. You never want to brush left-to-right.
  • Spend 3-5 seconds per tooth, vibrating the toothbrush around the gum line. Do the same with each tooth, and don’t forget to swing around to the back of each tooth. A person who has all their teeth should take about 2 minutes to brush.
  • If you own an electric toothbrush that already does the vibrations for you, don’t push down. You can still hold it like a flute and you should still angle it at a 45-degree angle. You simply need to hold it in this way over each tooth for 5 seconds, and your brush will do all the work for you. The worst thing you can do with an electric toothbrush is to use it the same way you would a manual toothbrush. There is such a thing as too much.

With these helpful tips, hopefully you can enjoy eating ice cream and drinking hot tea for a very long time.

Samantha Tillapaugh AKA The Debtist

We’ve partnered with Samantha Tillapaugh, a general dentist practicing in Southern California, to help spread the word about all cool things dental. When she isn’t sharing informative posts about teeth with us, she is writing at her own lifestyle blog as TheDebtist. Aside from writing, she travels the world, reads plenty of books sidled up next to her adopted, toothless cat, bakes sourdough bread and works as a tooth-fairy.

Your minimal holiday guide

November 26, 2018

Do you love the holidays but also want to maintain a minimal lifestyle? We’ve got you covered!

Get inspired by nature.

Minimal holiday decor

Pine cones can be strung into a decorative wall hanging, or you can use branches from your Christmas tree to make your own wreath or garland. Plus, it will smell amazing! 

Simplify.

Minimal holiday decor

Use what you already have at home to display those holiday cards that start rolling in this time of year. Don't have any boards like they do in this photo? Use some string along a blank wall to display them.

Use what you have.

Minimal holiday decor

This time of year usually means excess. It doesn't have to be, though! Use things you already have to add some flair to your home. Use sticks and string to make a 2D tree along your wall or make a wall hanging like this one. 

DIY.

Minimal holiday decor

Feeling crafty? Paint your own tiny wooden trees! A little gold paint goes a long way in adding festive cheer. What if you don't have tiny wooden trees just lying around? Try filling a vase with Christmas ornaments you already have, or stringing holiday lights around your living room. It will feel magical. :)

Make sure it brings you joy. 

Minimal holiday decor

It's easy to get overwhelmed during the holidays. Take a breath, remind yourself what the season is really about (Togetherness! Kindness!), and choose the things that will bring you happiness.

Need more minimal holiday decor inspiration? Read the full article on Elle Decor.

Bruxism (aka teeth grinding)

November 01, 2018

written by Samantha Tillapaugh from The Debtist

We all have habits and tendencies. I’d be the first to admit that some of them are not good - such as always needing to eat a sliver of dessert after dinner, or never drying our good knives after washing them. I have a history of even worse habits during my teen years, such as chewing my nails, or chewing on the caps of pens, neither of which are good for my teeth. But like most habits, these I have direct control over, and I can change them whenever I so please, like when chewing on your nails turned from cool to gross. Unfortunately, there are some habits that are subconscious, and therefore much more difficult to break. An example of such a habit is teeth grinding, otherwise known as bruxism.

I am a heavy bruxor, meaning that I have the tendency to grind my teeth at night. Like so many others, it was undiagnosed until I landed myself in a dental chair due to a painful ache on my lower left tooth. I was prepared for a root canal and a crown, convinced that something this painful must be caused by a severe infection involving hateful bacterial species. So I was surprised when my co-worker showed me the x-ray and there was an absence of any signs of decay. Wait, then was going on?

Bruxism!

Bruxism is the subconscious habit of grinding your teeth. It is also considered a sleep-movement disorder. It is not uncommon for people who have other sleep disorders (such as snoring or sleep apnea) to grind their teeth as well. While some people grind their teeth from side to side, others chomp and chew, and yet others, like myself, clench really, really hard. It has even been reported by loved ones that their partner’s grinding habits are so loud it keeps them up at night! However, most people who grind their teeth are undiagnosed until they start to experience pain. The pain can be anything from mild to severe, and can be persistent or transient. Sometimes, bruxism is so severe that it causes to the teeth to fracture! This can then cause you to lose your tooth, depending on how it breaks. In order to prevent this from happening to you, it’s important to be aware of the most common signs and symptoms, as well as to try and protect your teeth from the effects of heavy grinding.

Bruxism

Signs and Symptoms

There are many signs and symptoms for bruxism, and they are different for every person. The severity depends on the frequency, duration, and weight of your bruxing habits.

Common sign and symptoms include:

  • Abfraction Lesions – These look like little chipping of your teeth around the gum line. Teeth are anchored in the jaw, and when we clench and grind, we are causing these teeth to flex in all sorts of directions. As they flex, the part of the tooth closest to the gumline (where it is most tightly anchored) experiences the most stress, causing these areas to be prone to chipping.
  • Flat Occlusion – As we grind our teeth, we are slowly grinding away at the top portion of the enamel. Eventually, heavy bruxism may lead to completely flat teeth.
  • Fractured Teeth – Under the stresses of grinding and clenching, part of the tooth itself can give way and fracture. Teeth with large existing fillings are more prone to fracturing than a complete tooth or a tooth with a crown. When we start to see the first signs of cracking or microfracture, we want to take precaution and monitor the tooth closely. Sometimes, it may be beneficial to remove the cracked portion and place a crown, to help prevent any unpredictable and unfavorable fractures in the future.
  • White Lines Inside the Cheeks – Look inside your cheek to see if there is a white striation. These are formed from the repetitive sucking motion related to teeth clenching and grinding.
  • Tight or Tired Jaw Muscles – It may be that you are spending the entire night working your jaw left and right. Your jaw joints may then get tired, or feel very tight. If you ever wake up in the morning with a soreness in your jaws, you may have just experienced a night of heavy grinding!
  • Tooth Pain or Sensitivity – Teeth can experience sensitivity to hot, cold, or pressure if they are continually experiencing trauma from bruxism. There are nerves running to each tooth, and repetitive trauma to the tooth can cause these nerves to become hypersensitive. If treated right away, the hypersensitivity can be reversible.
  • Migraines and earaches – The nerves that innervate your teeth run up along the sides of your head. If they are hypersensitive, they can also cause migraines and earaches.
  • Sleep Disruption – Some people wake up in the middle of the night due to the sounds of bruxism. Others awaken due to aches and pains. Untreated bruxism can definitely take away a good night’s rest!

Causes of Teeth Grinding

The exact cause of bruxism is difficult to pinpoint. It could be a myriad of factors, so it’s important to evaluate whether any of the following apply to you.

  • Stress or Anxiety – The most common cause of teeth grinding is stress. I will always ask my patients if they are experiencing any stressful events in their lives lately when they report bruxism. Most people identify a difficult time at home, or a job change, or a recent move. Identifying the cause of stress and trying to manage or decrease it is really helpful in treating bruxism!
  • Abnormal Bite – Children often time experience grinding when their teeth first erupt and again when their adult teeth start to erupt. Sometimes they outgrow it, and sometimes they don’t. I have also noticed that bruxism is more common when people are missing teeth. A theory would be that an abnormal bite or a bad occlusion can lead to grinding.
  • Side Effects of Medications – Some medications are known to cause grinding. If you have recently started taking a new medication, ask your doctor whether grinding could be a possible side effect. Antidepressants, for example, have been shown to cause grinding.
  • Weight Gain and Sleep Disorders – Recent weight gain can make breathing more difficult when one is sleeping. Soft tissues around the neck and throat tends to push downward when we are lying down, thus obstructing the airway. This can lead to a number of sleep disorders, including snoring, sleep apnea, and grinding!

How to Protect Your Teeth from Grinding

There are many ways to protect our teeth! Unfortunately, since grinding is subconscious, eliminating the habit can be very near impossible to do. Therefore, we must find other ways to help prevent further wear and tear on our pearly whites!

  • Wear a Night Guard

Getting a night-guard is the best way to protect your teeth from the effects of bruxism. Since bruxism is a subconscious habit, it can be difficult to catch yourself doing it, let alone to stop yourself from grinding or clenching. A night guard is a protective plastic piece that sits on either your upper teeth or on your lower teeth. The plastic piece acts as a barrier between upper and lower teeth while you are grinding, so that you are not placing as much forces on your teeth and you aren’t wearing them down. The upper night guard works really well, but can feel very bulky for some. The lower night guard is a much more comfortable fit for first time users. You have the option of either buying universal night guards over-the-counter or making a custom-fit night guard with your dentist. Off course, the custom-fit night guard will protect your teeth better, but I can understand if you don’t want to spend that much money until you’ve tried an over-the-counter one to see if you can tolerate sleeping with a night guard. It will take awhile for you to get used to! It took me about two weeks. One thing is for sure: Once I started wearing my night guard, the pain went away. And if I ever forget, the pain will come back, which shows me that the night guard is doing its job!

  • Reduce Stress

There are many ways to reduce stress. I was first diagnosed with bruxism during dental school, which no doubt was a very stressful time. I find that I clench my teeth while I work or concentrate on something. When I involve myself in stress-reducing practices, I find that I clench less. Below are some ways to alleviate stress or anxiety.

    • Avoid stressful activities an hour before bed.
    • Drink caffeine-free tea in the evening after dinner.
    • Avoid screens in the last hour before bed. Try reading a book instead, or listening to calming music.
    • Choose exercises such as yoga in the late evenings, rather than hitting the gym and working out.
    • Write positive events or affirmations down. Gratitude has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety levels greatly. Try a 5-minute journal.
    • Spend time with your family, friends, or pet.
    • Practice deep breathing, and letting thoughts go.
  • Lose Weight

If you’ve recently gained weight and have noticed that you started grinding your teeth, try to get back to your previous weight. As mentioned above, weight gain is a common cause of grinding. Many patients have found success in decreasing bruxism by simply losing weight.

  • Regular Dental Visits

Regular dental visits are important when you grind your teeth. Make sure your dentist knows of your bruxism. They will be able to detect early signs of tooth fracture. When you start to see a hairline fracture, it shows that your tooth is giving way underneath all those chewing forces. You want to treat a small fracture with caution. It may be that a crown will be needed in the near future to cover the tooth and help protect it. A small crack can grow into a big one, and there is never any telling when and how a tooth will break. Sometimes, a tooth breaks and we can save it with a filling, a crown, and/or a root canal. However, other times, it breaks in a completely unfavorable way, and you may end up losing your teeth. Speak with your dentist about the best preventative practices you can engage in to save your teeth!

The Debtist

Samantha Tillapaugh is a practicing general dentist in Orange County, CA and is a lifestyle blogger at thedebtist.com.

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