KCU Dental Health Tips
Dr. Linda Niessen

Poets and playwrights have said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Dentists believe the mouth can be a window to overall health. A careful look inside your mouth at your teeth and gums reveals not only your good oral health but also can give hints of heart disease, high bloodpressure and even cancer. The oral health – whole health (also known as the mouth-body connection) connection has long been championed by Linda C. Niessen, DMD., MPH., MPP Professor and Founding Dean, College of Dental Medicine and Vice Provost, Oral Health Affairs for Kansas City University throughout her career.

Meant to last a lifetime, your teeth require daily care and attention to make the entire journey. Enamel is the only part of the body that does not regenerate. While you can “remineralize” or strengthen your enamel with fluoride toothpaste, rinses or varnishes, you can’t replace it, it you wear it away by brushing too hard or grinding. That makes protecting tooth enamel key to oral health. Issues such as Teeth grinding or clenching may require the support of a mouth guard.

Some medicines dry out the mouth. Without sufficient saliva good oral health, the bacteria in your mouth germs can lead to infections, tooth decay and gum disease.  Dr. Niessen reminds us, “Saliva is a natural resource for our oral health, our friend. It is nature’s natural cleaner, a protective fluid. Saliva swishes around and removes bacteria germs and dislodges debris. It also begins the digestive process and contains antibodies that protect us. Saliva also coats the teeth making it more difficult for germs to adhere and cause a problem.”

Positive practices for dental health


  • Brush teeth at least once a day (but twice is better) with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Remember to floss  
  • Do not use tobacco. 


  • See your dentist at least annually. 
  • Make smart food choices for oral health. 

Lifestyle: As you eat healthier, you improve your oral health.  One way to do that is to increase your calcium, protein, fruits and vegetables. Reach for a fresh pear, banana or grapes instead of dried fruit, like raisins. The dried fruit concentrates the sugar in the fruit and stick to the teeth, unlike fresh fruit.a carb. And Try to avoid sticky candy, like gummy bears, taffy, foods, e.g. candy that sticks to the teeth. The sugar in the candy provide nutrition for the bacteria that cause tooth decay.milk duds concentrated sugars that erode tooth enamel. When selecting beverages, water is always best. Be sure that flavored waters are sugar-free. And avoid energy drinks-not only are they high in sugar, they are also very high in caffeine which dries out your mouth.

Dr. Niessen encourages patients, “Take time to prepare for your appointment. It will help your visit go smoothly. Just as we prepare for our other annual checkups, it is important to remember that the dentist, like your physician or primary care clinician medical doctor, is on your side.”

Patient tips for dental visits:

1) Fill out the form. – It is important to share your health conditions and any medications. This information is critical for an accurate and informed oral exam. For example, diabetes can cause you to be at greater risk for gum disease (periodontal disease). Be sure to include all the medications you take. Medications can not only cause a dry mouth, some medications can also cause various oral problems.

2) Sharing your medical information – That information gives your dentist the tools needed to not only understand your oral health but also to be a partner on your healthcare team. Dr. Niessen considers it a privilege to partner with her patients and share ion their healthcare journey. Once you establish yourself with a dentist, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist any questions you have about your oral health. Iit will help to reduce your anxiety and over time you will be more comfortable with your newly appointed teammate. And if you have dental insurance, remember to use it since it is really a form of prepayment for dental services, not traditional insurance like for our car or home. Think about scheduling your dental appointment today.