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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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Help for the hopeless (mouth) 


For most of my life, my mouth has been a train wreck. When I go to a dentist for the first time, they say things like, “I see we have quite a history!” and “Look at all this!”  For years, I would brush and floss diligently, only to somehow end up with more cavities than I have teeth. Especially after I had Henry. Pregnancy hormones, man. Also: caramels.

Even before The Child, however, every cleaning was a gore-fest; every x-ray ended in the dentist tallying all the cavities to his assistant while I wept into my blood-soaked bib. Not surprisingly, these ordeals resulted in me not wanting to go to the dentist anymore. Did you know that if you don’t go to the dentist, your teeth will not magically remain okay? And then when you go back they can’t even believe how messed up your mouth is, or that you’re still alive or able to eat anything chewier than pudding?  

About three years ago I started the ol’ Paleo diet. I really liked it. I still like it. I would call myself, right now, Paleo-ish: mostly Paleo, with the occasional off-roading because life's too short not to eat cheese. The only thing I really, really avoid is wheat. I won’t claim real intolerance, but if I have wheat I feel bad. (It's easy to avoid something when you get bloated and depressed afterward.) Since the Paleo-ish eating, my checkups have become startlingly less terrible. The cleanings were still pretty dramatic, but I had zero cavities.  I think it’s safe to assume that wheat (or, more precisely, the wheaty treats—brownies/cookies/cakes/crackers) is problematic for me. 

The real change, however, started about eight months ago,with this new regimen.  It was created by Dr. Ellie Phillips, DDS, and it goes a little something like this: 

1. Rinse with CloSYS. (I had never heard of this before, but it’s available online; I've also found it at CVS.) 

2. Brush. 

3. Rinse with Listerine. 

4. Rinse with Act Fluoride Rinse. 

And that's it. 

(If you’re looking for reasoning and/or details, I strongly recommend looking at her site. There’s good information in there. Go on. There are details, like only using regular Crest paste and replacing your toothbrush frequently. Dr. Phillips is also an enthusiastic advocate of supplementing with xylitol, which is a thing I keep forgetting to do. I am not a perfect disciple.)  

You’ll notice there’s no flossing in there. I still sort of floss, but that’s because most of my mouth is made up of crowns and play-dough, and I feel weird if I don’t. If I’m in a rush, however, I do the rinsing and skip the flossing. 

ANYWAY I went for a checkup about a month into this new routine, climbed into the dentist chair, braced myself for an hour of gore and mayhem, and experienced…not much. A little bleeding, a sensitive area here and there, but I never even once prayed to God and all the saints in heaven. This was a strange and new world. 

Then the hygienist said something. Her mouth opened, and she said, “You’re doing a good job.” 

You’re. Doing. A. Good. Job. 

I have never heard anyone in a dentist’s office say this to me. Never. And I was. I was ever so good. I was flossing like a pro and brushing for two straight minutes twice a day with my soft-bristled brush. I followed the rules. And still the hygienist would lecture me after each torture session about the importance of flossing. She would make me hold a mirror in front of my face while she demonstrated proper flossing technique on me and I’d try to say, “I know! I floss like that!” But my mouth was full of her hands! 

Not only was I told that I was “doing a good job,” (I might have asked her to repeat it, a few times) there were (again!) no cavities. I was so excited leaving the dentist’s office that I almost ran home to write this blog post ordering everyone to do what I’m doing. But I thought I should wait. I had only been using the rinses for a month or so. Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe I was drunk. You just never know with me. 

Fast forward to today, the day of my next checkup.  I am here to tell you that this cleaning was … I don't even...there are no words. It was painless. I’ve had haircuts that felt worse. It felt like someone was just...brushing and flossing for me. How nice of them! While I have my hands free, for knitting! There was no bleeding, no sensitivity. I didn’t pray. I didn’t sweat. I didn't cry/laugh. The hygienist said everything was “perfect.”  I might have teared up. My dentist told me that I've halted my gum recession. Once again there were no cavities, and then he and the nurse held me in their arms and declared me their favorite patient ever. Then they made all the other patients come in to admire me. It took a while.  

I'm not being compensated for this post. I just can’t keep this to myself. Again, I think the reduction in sugar intake was a huge help. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to hear that part. (Did you just slam your laptop down and run to your bundt cake for comfort? I get it. Bundt cakes are delicious.) But the rinses were definitely instrumental in making my cleanings less...instrumental. Will they help you? I have no idea, but I don't see why not, and I don’t think it can hurt. 

Reader Comments (26)

This is so great! (I'm definitely going to try the regimen; I know for a fact my dentist thinks I eat gravel and wash it down with acid.) Yay on you!

June 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErin Kelly

OH THANK YOU!! Ever since having my daughter my mouth has been HORRIBLE. I'm now pregnant with #2 and it's bloody all the time. :( I have a dentist appointment in a few days, but I'm going to check out the rinse routine & see if it helps with the bleeding & sensitivity during cleanings.

June 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I needed to hear this today. I've had a terrible toothache all afternoon and have been fearing how much it's going to cost me. Of course have been seeing it as the beginning of a long slide down, ending only when all my teeth have rotted and I am bankrupt. I'll try this. Hope. Thank you.

June 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentershin ae

Shin, I had a terrible toothache a few weeks ago and it was my sinuses. It's allergy season! There may be hope for you!

June 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteralice

"Did you know that if you don’t go to the dentist, your teeth will not magically remain okay?" Yes. YES I DID. Ask me how I knew that, she mumbled around multiple crowns and a dental implant. I am SO trying this new whatchamaroutine thingie. (I'm already doing the paleo whatchamathingie. Except I eat potatoes. And rice. I know.)

June 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKathy S.

(I eat potatoes. Even rice, occasionally. DON'T TELL THE OTHERS.)

June 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteralice

I have what dentists refer to as "sticky teeth." I have been planed and scraped, I've had hours-long cleanings. What worked for me finally was buying my own scraper (which you're totally not supposed to do) and getting rid of the tartar once a month myself. Now they always tell me I'm being good, which is so silly, because like we can help our mouth pH. I'm glad you got a better experience! It's life-changing, right?

June 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRita Arens

I ordered all that stuff immediately. I hope it works for me too :D

June 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn

Potatoes and rice are fine! It's resistant starch--it resists human digestion so that it makes it all the way to your large intestine, where it is instead digested by your microbiome, the true powerhouse of one's health. Look up the "gut-brain connection", look up "resistant starch", etc.

However, if you've been on antibiotics, then you must go on probiotics to build your gut flora back up, and then feed it with cooked-then-cooled potatoes/rice (more resistant starch builds up that way), and you'll have a thriving ecosystem again!

Also, pregnancy leeches minerals out of you and into the baby if you're not eating enough of what the baby needs, which is why teeth deteriorate. The pregnancy basically cannibalizes them. But if you're not deficient in the appropriate nutrients, your teeth will be fine.

June 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLilana

Aaaand, here's a good link I just found, of course *after* I hit 'post':

June 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLilana

Thanks, Lilana! I'm fascinated by gut health and the relationship to mental health. I've been taking probiotics for the past few months and I just heard about resistant starch. THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN.

June 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteralice

Chiming in that I immediately ordered CloSYS and ACT fluoride rinse. Please keep using your powers for good (or ... when I follow you off the cliff at least my breath will be minty and my teeth squeaky clean).

I'm also pleased with the results of the *oil pulling* that all the neo-hippies are doing. (I use organic coconut oil) I've found that investing in a really good electric toothbrush is a godsend. I also bought some expensive hand-held water pik sort of thing, but then my dentist said I was "flossing like hell" which I demurely accepted as praise until she explained I was FLOSSING TOO MUCH.

Also, my gums + previous work + anxiety = needed nitrous for cleanings. Not that bad anymore, but just found out I need braces. Braces! Because apparently teeth can just suddenly shift like tic tacs on a bus because of menopause. HaHaHaHaHaHa.....

June 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdianne

Straightaway, after work, purchased "regimen" items at CVS. Mouth had that dental cleaning clean feeling. Thanks Alice! This is great.

June 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDottie

Thank you thank you thank you!! I have been just dreading the dentist as an adult since my teeth have decided to go to pot. And my boys have ortho appliances and seem to refuse to brush or floss properly. We will try this and see how it goes. Thank you!!

June 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLissa

the xylitol seems a little sketchy but it actually is fantastic and makes a huge difference. my mouth has literally never felt as clean as combining this routine and the xylitol (i do the gum). just recently a friend asked why my teeth were so white and i told her about this!

June 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLori

I heard about this ACT fluoride rinse on Skeptics Guide to the Universe, and apparently the FDA restricts how much fluoride, by total volume, can be in a product, so the extra large bottles of ACT have less fluoride in each mouthful. Check the percentages, and only buy the smaller bottles.

June 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Whoa. Having terrible teeth, I completely identify with the shaming at the dentist's office. Now, true, I haven't been to the dentist yet since reading your post and getting the regimen in gear - but WOW do my teeth feel clean and happy, like, ALL. THE. TIME. And gums bleeding less, and all that stuff. You're wonderful for sharing this with us!!

June 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMairsydoats

I read all the things that are suggested in this post. If you add up all these steps, you would save a lot of time if you simply brushed twice a day and flossed once.
All these things are costly (xylitol, Act rinses, Listerine, etc.) and add up to much more time than simple flossing would take.

June 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRick Bankhead

Alice, I'm so pleased you found Ellie Philips. I wrote an article about her life-changing research in The Times of London (subscription needed, but you can get the gist). Helen

August 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

Love your article! I have been a user of Dr Ellie's system for 2 years now. It is so good I am bringing it to Australia!

August 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDr John

I have used Dr Ellie's dental cleansing regimen since 2007, and had a regular annual checkup. On each occasion my dentist has found absolutely nothing but clean shiny teeth and healthy gums. Prior to this, some treatment for cavities was invariably required. Bacteria thrives in an acid mouth, & I can recommend Zellies (Google it) xylitol mouth fresheners which restore an alkaline environment and therefore avoid bacteria breeding in an acid mouth. Thank you, thank you Dr Ellie.

August 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHelen (UK)

That's awesome! I'm glad you found something that worked for you- and I'm super surprised it doesn't include flossing!!

September 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

That's awesome! I'm glad you found something that worked for you- and I'm super surprised it doesn't include flossing!!

September 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

I am just starting the regimen and received my professional kit today. I was wondering if anyone knows if it's ok to chew the zellie's cool fruit mints. The ingredients list three acids: citric, malic, and stearic. Have they been neutralized by the xylitol? The mint flavor chews only contain stearic acid as the last ingredient.
Thanks for your help.

September 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTom

This regime looks interesting. My teeth are fine at the moment because I have managed to get into good habits of brushing twice and flossing once a day. My husband however is another story. I might push this blog post under his nose :-).

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJosephine H.
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