The gut microbiome has received a lot of hype lately, but did you know that your mouth also has its own microbiome? 

Yeah, it’s a whole world of its own! 

Researchers have discovered that our mouths harbour over 700 species of both healthy and harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungus and protozoans that settle on the surface of our teeth and the soft tissue of the oral mucosa.(1) Pretty gross if you think about it, right? 

And if all these microorganisms are living in our mouth, would you think that maybe they would have some kind of an impact on our health? The answer is yes, they absolutely do! And rightfully so since the mouth is the primary gateway to the body.

In fact, your oral health plays a huge role in the health of your immune system, lungs, heart, and brain.

Oral Microbiomes

Keystone pathogens (alpha-bugs), which have the ability to regulate the variety of bacteria in our bodies, can disrupt the harmonious balance that is present in the body and promote a microbiome associated with diseases. Studies show that these pathogens have been a major cause of many microbiome-related infections that affect our overall health. One of the most recurring infections is oral infections, mainly gum disease, which is caused by a wide variety of these unfavourable pathogens that colonize the oral microbiome and wreak havoc on our bodily systems, and we are none the wiser. These disease-causing agents have been linked to oral health complications, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease.(2) 

So that saying “we are what we eat” applies to much more than just the health of our gut. 

What Causes A Microbial Imbalance In The Mouth?

For starters, the most obvious reasons are poor oral hygiene and smoking. 

But contrary to what we have been led to believe, those are not the only reasons. Did you know that pregnancy—due to hormonal changes or oral consumption of birth control pills, genetics (DNA), diabetes, and diets high in refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugars also contribute to the bacterial imbalance in your mouth?(3)

Although we don’t have any control over our genes, we definitely have control over how our genes are expressed by choosing what we put in our bodies and how we take care of them. If we sway toward poor eating and lifestyle habits, we are basically feeding these microorganisms, and helping them to multiply and get stronger. 

Do you recall the last time you glided your tongue over your teeth after eating something not so healthy and feeling that icky film on them? Well, that biofilm is actually plaque building up, which is a living community of multiple bacterial organisms that bundle together and stick to your teeth. This biofilm causes 80% of infections, even the most chronic ones, and are not easily impacted by antibiotics. They contribute to bad breath, bleeding gums, gum disease, and more.(4) Research suggests that what is growing in our mouth will also affect our gut, and rightfully so since we are constantly swallowing our own saliva. Here’s a little interesting fact. On average, we swallow one litre of saliva each day and one simple millilitre of saliva contains 108 microorganisms!(5)

External Factors Influencing Your Oral Microbiome

Could there be other external factors influencing the health of our oral microbiome? You bet!

We’ve been taught that in order to have healthy teeth and prevent tooth decay, we need to brush daily, even after every meal, floss, rinse with mouthwash, and, of course, visit the dentist regularly for checkups and cleaning, which the majority of the population does.

Tooth Decay Prevention

Yet tooth decay is more prevalent now than ever before. How is this possible? There are a plethora of additional external factors that could negatively impact our oral health. 

We now understand that in addition to our diet and lifestyle, periodontal procedures, medication and modern dentistry disrupt the beneficial bacteria of our gums and change our oral microbiome.

Silver fillings have been widely used for decades and are more economical and durable than composite fillings. However, the mercury component is highly toxic and its vapours are continuously being released into the body, even more so when chewing. Mercury passes through the blood-brain and placental barrier and binds to tissue altering DNA, nerves, cell membranes and mitochondrial function. It has been linked to degenerative disorders including dementia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

Porcelain fillings, which were thought to be better than the silver filling actually contain nickel and aluminum, BPA, and formaldehyde, which have been found to be carcinogenic.

Removing wisdom teeth and getting root canals also can weaken the jaw and promote bacterial overgrowth. And we now know how damaging these pathogens can be. 

Flouride Healthy or Harmful

And last but not least, fluoride. We get it through our city water and if we are lucky to visit the dentist regularly, then we can request a fluoride treatment to prevent tooth decay. But, is fluoride really as safe as it’s thought to be? I’ll let you be the judge. The list of possible side effects of fluoride use is enormous. Here is the list: bleeding gums, skeletal fluorosis, sclerosis, dementia, pitted and crumbled teeth, impaired myelin sheath, thyroid disease, hip fractures, hyperactivity, damaged sperm motility, increased infertility, disrupted collagen synthesis, gastritis, suppressed immune system, impaired glucose metabolism, skin rashes, damaged bone formation, cell mutation, nausea, tooth discoloration, frequent urination, poisoning, DNA alteration, and reduced IQ. 

What About The Tongue?

Just like our teeth, the tongue also accumulates pathogens. Most often than not, we auto-pilot through our dental routine, brushing and flossing, but forget that our tongue harbours everything it is exposed to daily. Just like our teeth, gunk accumulates on the tongue during the day and festers while we sleep, further contributing to the decline of our oral health. 

In fact, our tongue can speak much about what’s happening internally. The shape, colour, coating, taste bud distribution, fissuring and lesions can reveal whether a person has nutrient deficiencies and what possible health conditions could be associated.

How can you improve your oral health? 

7 Steps To A Better Oral Hygiene

1. For starters, and as obvious as it may seem, brush, floss, and rinse your teeth regularly. However, instead of using synthetic dental healthcare products, consider using plant-based ones to help remove that biofilm buildup. Conventional oral healthcare products claim that they help to kill bacteria, but what they fail to  tell you is that they also kill off the good bacteria that your oral microbiome actually really needs. Plus, they contain ingredients that can be harmful to our health. Plants have stood the test of time with regards to their ability to disrupt harmful biofilms, like plaque, in oral health. Plenty of health food stores carry a variety of non-toxic natural oral healthcare products. 

I’ve recently starting using Dentalcidin Toothpaste and Rinse, go HERE if you’d like more information.

If you’re up for the challenge, you can learn to make your own with natural staple ingredients like baking soda, plant oils (coconut, olive, sesame), and essential oils. Here’s an easy Baking Soda Toothpaste recipe to get you started.

2. Implement a salt-water rinse (aka mouthwash) and/or an oil pulling regime into your oral health routine. The salt water helps to kill bacteria after brushing and speeds up the healing of your gums and the oil swishing draws out any toxins and tartar still lurking under your gums and between your teeth. 

For the salt water, mix one ounce of salt—Himalayan or sea salt is preferable—and 16 ounces of hot-to-boiling springwater that is non-chlorinated or non-fluoridated. Store it in a glass bottle or jar and use it like you would mouthwash. Swish the mixture around in your mouth for 30 seconds and spit it out. For optimal results, do this 2-3 times a day. If you like getting creative, there are many recipes available online for homemade mouthwashes that are by far safer and more effective than any of the common ones found in the supermarket. For example, using a simple mixture of 2 cups of spring or filtered water and 10 drops of essential oils like sage, peppermint, tea tree, and lemongrass will do the job. Store it in an airtight glass jar and you are set.

Oil pulling helps to heal bleeding gums, whiten teeth and even freshens your breath. You can add essential oils—like oregano, frankincense, peppermint, and tea tree—to increase the potential and add a little taste. Here’s how. 

It is recommended to oil swish first thing in the morning before eating or drinking by mixing 1 tablespoon of coconut or coconut MCT oil (or 20 drops) with two drops of essential oil, and swishing it in your mouth for 10-15 minutes. Both the coconut oil and essential oils mentioned have antibacterial properties to help fight off unwanted microbes. Coconut oil may solidify in cold water and clog up your drain so make sure to spit it out in the trash when you’re finished.

Although coconut oil is a more commonly known option for oil pulling, pure unrefined sesame oil is the preferred oil from an ayurvedic standpoint as it is said to also help lubricate nerves, pull toxins out of the body, whiten teeth and keep them healthy and robust, and grounded into the canals.

If you really want to give your oral cavity the platinum treatment, open a capsule of probiotics and add it to the mix. This will help replenish the good bacteria in your oral microbiome.

3. Add tongue scraping to your dental hygiene routine using a tongue scraper (use copper or stainless steel, not plastic) or the edge of a spoon. Scraping your tongue aids in removing the coating of microbes and mucus that accumulates from the foods and drinks we consume and the alimentary canal, leaving you with fresher breath.

4. Remove fluoride and antibacterial products from your regime as they kill off the healthy bacteria that your oral microbiome actually needs. Including adequate amounts of vitamins C, D, K2, magnesium and calcium will also be beneficial as it supports healthy bones and teeth.

5. Drink lots of filtered water because it helps produce healthy saliva and flow, and assists with the elimination of toxins. It also filters out fluoride, medication residue such as antibiotics and birth control, and other pathogens that slip into our water supply.

6. Reduce or eliminate processed foods and refined carbohydrates that offer little to no nutritional value and that spike your blood sugar levels such as white bread, breakfast cereals, white rice, desserts, etc.). Include more plants and fermented foods into your diet and consider adding probiotics to promote a healthy oral and gut microbiome.

7. Reevaluate your lifestyle factors! Be mindful of your alcohol consumption, smoking, and even stress. It all takes a toll on your health and the health of your gut and oral microbiome. 

It may feel overwhelming to apply so many habits all at the same time, but it doesn’t have to be. Pick the one you wish to start with and when it becomes second nature, add another, then another, and so on. It is all about Hacking Your Health Habits after all!

Santé,

Dr. Nathalie

Specific references:

1. Kilian, M., Chapple, I., Hannig, M. et al. The oral microbiome – an update for oral healthcare professionals. Br Dent J 221, 657–666 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2016.865

2.  Sudhakara, P., Gupta, A., Bhardwaj, A., & Wilson, A. (2018). Oral Dysbiotic Communities and Their Implications in Systemic Diseases. Dentistry Journal6(2), 10. https://doi.org/10.3390/dj6020010 

3. Sudhakara, P., Gupta, A., Bhardwaj, A., & Wilson, A. (2018). Oral Dysbiotic Communities and Their Implications in Systemic Diseases. Dentistry Journal6(2), 10. https://doi.org/10.3390/dj6020010

4. A Healthy Oral Microbiome.  (2021, December 13). Biocidin Botanicals. https://biocidin.com/blogs/blog-archive/healthy-oral-microbiome

5. A Healthy Oral Microbiome.  (2021, December 13). Biocidin Botanicals. https://biocidin.com/blogs/blog-archive/healthy-oral-microbiome

General References:

1. A Healthy Oral Microbiome.  (2021, December 13). Biocidin Botanicals. https://biocidin.com/blogs/blog-archive/healthy-oral-microbiome 

2. Julkunen, A., Heikkinen, A. M., Söder, B., Söder, P. Ö., Toppila-Salmi, S., & Meurman, J. H. (2017). Autoimmune Diseases and Oral Health: 30-Year Follow-Up of a Swedish Cohort. Dentistry journal6(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.3390/dj6010001 

3. Mercola J. (2022, January 14) Gum Disease Increases Risk of Mental Health Problems by 37%  https://takecontrol.substack.com/p/gum-disease-mental-health?s=r 

4. Artemis, N. (2017). Renegade beauty: Reveal and revive your natural radiance. North Atlantic Books.

5. ARTEMIS, N. A. D. I. N. E. (2017). Renegade beauty: The complete guide to healthy skin and natural radiance. NORTH ATLANTIC Books.

6. The Perfect 11-Minute Morning Routine: How To Make Your Day Better By Using Ancient Ayurvedic Principles To Optimize Your Morning Routine. https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/tongue-scraping/ 

7. Brind’Amour, Katherine. (2018, August 27). Gingivitis Symptoms and How to Get Rid of Gum Disease (5 Natural Remedies)https://draxe.com/health/gingivitis/ 

General HealthCould Your Oral Microbiome Be Impacting Your Overall Health?
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