Tag Archives: teeth

Maintenance: body and mind

Notice something that needs doing, then do it before it starts to create other problems.”

The sentence above is a paraphrase from a recent post of mine, where it applied to our homes and our possessions, and it absolutely applies as well to our own selves, our bodies and minds. Prevention is another word for it!

Without it, we’re stuffed, frankly. Without your health, whether physical, mental or emotional, nothing else can make much of a difference to your life or the lives of those around you: look at any child carer of a disabled adult, or someone who carries around an oxygen tank to enable them to breathe, or a traumatised survivor of a terrorist attack, or a soldier who lives with flashbacks.

Self-care is something we’re continually exhorted to do by the NHS and by every other cash-strapped and resources-strapped organistion tasked with helping us. And as those organisations falter and become more and more overwhelmed, it becomes more and more important to actually take the steps they recommend to us. If we need help, it might be a very long time coming, and might not be in the format we’d choose for ourselves. Much better to carry out a bit of self maintenance, whether it’s prevention or healing, and that will also mean that whatever “dip” you go through probably won’t be as deep or as incapacitating.

So, what kind of things am I talking about? The kind of thing that’s all over the web, TV and radio over the New Year, and each of us needs different levels.


Sleep must be first and foremost – it’s crucial. Without it, you’ll die, eventually. And even if you don’t die, your lifespan, your health, and your quality of life, will all be less than they could have been.

Extra needs: pregnant women, convalescents, teenagers.


Humans can subsist on very little, but there are two cliches to remember, if you want to prosper: you are what you eat. And to live your best life you need to eat and drink well.

Extra needs: intensely active people, convalescents, pregnant women.


Yes, the 2 litres a day is not well researched, and I wouldn’t recommend that. But we certainly need to stay hydrated – to use our bodies, to flush toxins, to keep our brain functioning (ever had a dehydration headache? I have, especially before I was due to have a general anaesthetic. Not a good feeling).

Extra needs: intensely active people. People on toxic treatments.


Everybody knows we need exercise. A lot of the things a prepper does will help you to exercise: nobody needs to be a gym bunny, but we all need to stretch ourselves physically. Remember that flexibility, strength and stamina are different things and it really isn’t one size fits all.

Extra needs: newbies building up their strength and fitness; convalescents; older people; anyone who has a problem area: does anyone reading this have a bad back, for instance?

Weak Spots

You absolutely have to look after your own weak spots, building that into your own routine. Maybe it’s that bad back. Maybe it’s your eyes, or you sunbathed a lot as a kid and now your doctor has told you to look out for cancerous changes in your moles. You know your own weak spots, I’m sure you do: but what do you do about them? I was thinking how essential our vision is, in everyday situations and when we need our preps. How do you look after your vision, if at all? Here are some ideas:

  • wear sunglasses!

  • have a couple of eye-baths ready, and know what kind of liquid you can use in them: tap water, distilled, what?

  • eye exercises: both the muscles around the eye, and the focussing mechanisms within the eye.

  • learning to rest those same muscles. Experiment with closing your eyes when you don’t actually need to see what’s around you: like when you’re sitting on the toilet, for example!

  • there are good self-help websites out there for all sorts of maintenance issues: Seeing  and WebMD are two that are to do with eyesight, that can be really helpful.

After these basic four needs, I think that the other categories, although just as important, are based even more upon our needs as individuals, there’s such a wide variety in the amount each of us needs in terms of human contact, adventure, recovery time and so on.

Human Contact.

We all need people in our lives too, some more than others. I’m a pretty solitary person, currently living alone as well, but even I need to see people regularly. Without connection, we slowly sink down and lose ourselves.

Safety and Adventure.

We need both of these! Long term, we need safety – to relax, to have fun, to raise children, whatever. But we also need the buzz that adventure gives us, and if we can’t get it in real terms through battling sabre toothed tigers or climbing mountains, then we’ll get it from horror films and online gaming. Get your adventure in as positive a way as you can find, something that feeds you long term as well as giving you an adrenalin buzz. Though going on rollercoasters also has something to recommend it…

Purpose and Contentment.

These two are also connected, I feel. A deep long term purpose in your life is bound to help you feel contented, even if you don’t fully accomplish your goal. Contentment is very different from happiness, by the way. You can work at doing things that help you feel contented, but you can’t work at being happy. Even the American Constitution acknowledges this: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Not just happiness, but its pursuit. Without some sort of purpose, sooner or later a human will drift into a negative spiral of some description.

Recovery time, and Healing

Yep, these get their own category! They can be just as crucial as sleep, in some ways, as far as prepping is concerned.

Physical: you rest your muscles somewhat, after strenuous labour. You also need to clean your teeth regularly. And protect your eyes from injury and eyestrain. You’ll have your own focus for this – respect your own body and your own needs.

Emotional: when you survive an armed robbery, a mugging, a flood, a house fire, and a thousand other stressful situations, you need to deal with the after-effects and the consequences, to bring you back up to speed. One particularly important thing about emotional maintenance is that some types are helpful to some or even most people, but are actively destructive to others. It’s especially important to respect individual wishes here, though that may have to be overridden in extreme situations when it conflicts with the safety of the rest of the group. For instance, when someone traumatised by seeing something terrible refuses to accept help, and instead acts out with drunkenness and violence.


I hope this helps: and if anyone has any self-care, or maintenance steps that they take, I’d love to hear about it.

Dental Care, Part Two

I didn’t expect to need to write a second post about dental care in relation to prepping, but there’s a lot more information available than I managed to fit into the first post.

Right now we have the NHS picking up the basics of dental care, as well as millions of people who pay for private dental care. But what if something really bad happened?  It could be your own unemployment when you can no longer afford even NHS payments, financial crisis worse than 2008, the La Palma earthquake? Even if the current financial situation gets worse for the NHS, many of us could be in trouble. I’ve edited this for flippancy, because it’s very real – in these situations, we might be well and truly stuck if we couldn’t take care of ourselves.

1. Acids in our food

One of the most important things to take on board is about acids in our food. Acids in food and drink can attack teeth in the same way as dental plaque attacks them. Teeth can repair themselves if given time (45 minutes or so after eating), so the advice is not to have sugary substances too often during your day, and not to snack. If you snack, you’ll be spending longer each day in that “recovery” time, when the acids and sugars are in plentiful supply in your mouth, and potentially damaging your teeth.

In addition, we shouldn’t brush our teeth immediately after eating, as that can cause extra damage in itself: the normal acids and sugars from eating are all strongly present in our mouths, and if you brush your teeth at this time, you’re actually helping them to attack your tooth enamel.

If you don’t have a toothbrush, or are in a situation where you can’t brush your teeth, chewing sugar free gum is recommended – this is because it increases the flow of that healthy saliva to fight the plaque-forming acids.

2. Clove Oil

Clove oil is often applied directly to gums, and to aching teeth, for pain relief. and I have some myself, for exactly this reason. However, there are three things to bear in mind, according to the USA site of WebMD, even though medical research bears out the pain relief properties:

– it contains a substance called eugenol, which seems to slow blood clotting.

– it may not be as effective as originally thought at relieving pain (although I’d have thought that something is better than nothing).

– it is almost certainly unsafe for children, with problems including seizures and liver damage.

– heavy adult use may give rise to damage to the gums, tooth pulp, skin and mucous membranes.

In other words, it’s not a miracle application – use sensibly.

3. Losing a tooth

A programme on BBC1 recently about teeth (The Truth About Teeth, broadcast in July of this year) mentioned something very interesting about what to do if you accidentally knock out a tooth (an adult tooth, that is).


– hold it while you take it to your dentist

– scrub it

– put it in ice or water, the cells will explode and die.

– leave it in your pocket


– pick it up by the tip that you normally see, so you don’t damage the sensitive root cells.

– lick it, to get off any dirt.

– stick it back in the gum, in exactly the place it came from. Minutes count.

– get to a dentist, as quickly as possible.

if you can’t bear to put it back in your mouth, put it in milk – that will keep it alive for up to six hours, apparently.

4. Salty Gargle

Gargling salty warm water won’t prevent a toothache, and it won’t prevent a cavity from growing, but it most certainly will work to counter any infection you have, until you can get to a dentist (or a doctor, if the problem isn’t only with your teeth). WebMD US and UK, and my very own dentist, all recommend it, and there’s research to prove it, published here by The US National Library of Medicine.

5. Some links

Here’s one of the biggest and best resources, which I didn’t mention in Part One:   Where there is no dentist

This is an astonishing resource – available to all for free. I’ve linked to the page requested on Hesperian’s website, as this is where they also publish updates. I can’t say enough good things about Hesperian, and I urge everyone who reads this to use that link and download for free, or buy print copies of any of the books that seem remotely relevant to you. It’s mostly meant for people in developing countries – but there are plenty of people in the developed world who need more information about helping themselves too.

There are UK resources specifically for conditions in this country too, of course, and the main one is the patients’ website of the British Dental Association.  There’s a lot of information here, but it’s trying so hard to be “friendly”, it’s fussy and not terribly logical. Root around, though, and you’ll find a lot of information and self-help advice.

The British Dental Health Foundation are an independent charity working to improve dental health internationally. They have a pretty comprehensive list of topics underneath the heading “Tell Me About”, as well as in other areas.

6. Tea Tree Oil

Over at WebMD/US, there’s a specific advisory against using tea tree oil in the mouth (or ears, or eyes). Apparently it can cause results as severe as coma, so the warning is important.

To Conclude

Occasional use of clove oil seems to be the only use for essential oil in dentistry terms.  Salty gargles to help keep the mouth clean are fine. And Over The Counter pain relief is relevant – ibuprofen, aspirin or paracetemol, in the recommended doses. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that packing the affected area with dampened teabags is a relief.  But all in all, all of the above bears out that prevention is better than cure.  Which could be a prepper’s motto in any case.

Stay healthy!

Dental Care, Part One

Dental care can be amazing in the West, just amazing. And although it can seem very expensive and even very painful, I for one certainly wouldn’t want to be without it. Last month, I went to the closing weeks of an exhibition at the British Museum, and one unforgettable image, which will stay with me forever, is of the huge hole in the jawbone of one of them, caused by a dental abscess.

It was particularly relevant for me, because a molar of mine had been living on borrowed time for years – there was a filling, then there was a root canal, then there was a crown, and then, in June of this year, there was an infection. A massive infection, that needed ten days of antibiotics to bring it under control, enough so that the whole thing could be extracted. The infection site could be seen quite clearly on the X rays, it was underneath the crown – so it was bound to keep flaring up every so often, nothing else to be done but have it extracted. Between the long term, low level infection that had an acute flare up, the misery of the extraction itself (painless, though, they have good drugs these days!), and the slow healing resulting from it being such a big tooth that had to go, I have a new-found sympathy for anyone suffering from dental problems of any sort, and a renewed determination to do all I can to keep myself out of the dentist’s chair. In the light of the continuing pressures on the dental work done in the NHS, that’s the only sensible way to go, prepper or not.

Dental health isn’t just about your mouth and your teeth, however – there’s a lot of evidence that it’s “linked with general health conditions such as diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease, poor pregnancy outcomes and even dementia. More research is needed to understand how these links work but there is more and more evidence that having a healthy mouth and gums can help improve your general health and reduce the costs of medical treatment.”  So says the British Dental Health Foundation.


What should be in the storecupboard?

1. toothpaste. A couple of types – fluoride and non-fluoride, at minimum.

2. toothbrushes – at least a couple stored up for each family member.  They don’t have to be the expensive sort – just a smallish head with soft or medium bristles.

3. dental floss

4. interdental brushes

5. denture brushes and cleaners: if relevant, obviously!  I don’t have any of this myself.  I wonder what denture owners would need if their ordinary cleaner wasn’t available?

6. dental mirror and kit – a couple of sets.

7. clove oil, for pain control.  More on this in another post.

8. tea tree oil, for infection control.  More on this in another post.

9. emergency fillings kit – a few, at least a few.

10. good painkillers – at least a week’s supply simply for this, let alone any other emergency, because that’s how long you might have to wait to see a dentist.

11. salt – a salt gargle is still recommended as an anti-bacterial measure, after an extraction, for instance.

My shoebox of dental prep!

So what’s the basic advice?

Technology has come a long, long way since Ancient Egyptian times, of course – and the basics, currently, are as follows:

– brush your teeth twice a day (the nooks and crannies, and the gumline, are both important).

– your toothbrush should be soft or medium bristles – hard is too hard.  It should be changed maybe twice a year, at the very minimum.

– use fluoride toothpaste.

– use dental floss, or interdens brushes.

– see a dentist twice a year for a checkup and hygiene work.

Eat healthily! It’s common sense, but for years it was hotly disputed, that what we eat is what our bodies use to grow, to fuel and to repair. So the better your diet, all other things being equal (such as your ability to digest, for instance) then the better your teeth will be. In particular make sure you get the five portions of fruit and veg a day – this is definitely the “eat healthy” part.



The recommendation about fluoride is disputed in terms of the long term safety, though I don’t think anybody disputes it’s positive effect on our teeth. And that fluoride issue. In the UK, about six million people have artificially fluoridated water, and another 300-400,000 have naturally fluoridated water. So the issue of civil liberties isn’t as strong here as it is over there, but it is still an issue, and the safety of fluoride itself is a huge issue for us, the same as for the Americans.

Having read as much as I can, I don’t have a way to judge the differing versions of the truth that are being offered, so I’m going to offer links to those alternative version here. What I can say, absolutely definitively, is that even the pro-fluoride people are saying “use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste” – whereas in the toothpaste adverts, we always see a long snake of toothpaste laid out over the whole length of the brush. That’s wrong – they want to sell more, of course, but it’s completely wrong, pea-sized is the way to go. Here are the links:

a government report from 2014 about the current state of fluoridation in the UK.

the NHS website has a lot of information about fluoridation. It has links to studies carried out in the UK, in the USA and in Australia. It does mention that there are health concerns, but says benefits exist when the correct amount of toothpaste is used, and the fluoridation of water is carried out correctly. “Correct” is a really important word, and I don’t automatically trust big firms to get these things right.

this is the home page of the British Fluoride Society – they have a free report you can download from here, if you click on the “One In A Million” link in amongst the tabs at the top. I strongly advise you to get that report, because it gives details about which areas in which regions have fluoridated water.

this is the American Cancer Society, laying out the pros and cons of the research about whether fluoride causes cancer – but the last thorough review, as they say, was conducted in 2006, quite a while ago especially for America, where over two thirds of the water supply is fluoridated.

another American website, published by the American Society of Pediatrics – as reputable an organisation as the ACS above. It looks like a fair debate for and against, but some of the wording on this landing page is open to question. Still, there’s a lot of information here, so it can be read with caution.

yet another American site (sorry! it’s a big issue over there because of the numbers involved, so a lot of the activists are US-based). Abstracts of dozens of scientific articles are freely available. They name both their Advisory Board and their half dozen or so staff members on the website.

The final entry is The UK Councils Against Fluoridation. It makes some interesting points – especially about the false “National Fluoride Information Centre”, but it really seems to be the personal website of a couple of people, not a grassroots movement of councils in the UK.

Personally, having reviewed this evidence, I’m not going to be using fluoridated toothpaste twice a day – once is enough. But I am going to be using it, and I’m going to carry on using interdens and getting my teeth checked as often as the NHS will allow.  And if the number of NHS check-ups we’re allowed is lowered again, I may experiment with that dental mirror and kit, and anything else I can think of, up to and including oil pulling.

I see I need to write another post about dental care.  That’ll be coming soon.  If anyone has any feedback, please post in the comments below – spreading the knowledge can only be a good thing.