Over the past decade, studies have been published showing the importance of our gut microbiome. As a reminder of what your gut microbiome is, it’s made up of billions of bacteria – good bacteria and bad. Depending on if your gut microbiome is flourishing with the beneficial bacteria or the harmful bacteria, it can have a positive or negative impact on other parts of your body. In short, we now know that good gut health is vital to our overall health.
Studies are currently being conducted on the importance of not only our gut microbiome but how our oral microbiome is essential to our overall health as well.
I bet you didn’t even know such a thing existed!
What is the Oral Microbiome?
The oral microbiome is made up of water, salivary proteins, minerals, immune complexes, and over 700 species of microorganisms accounting for the 6 to 10 billion bacteria in our mouth. An environment with balanced bacteria assures adequate nutrient collection, waste removal, and collective survival that is vital for good health. When your oral microbiome is balanced, it helps our overall health. When it’s not in balance, well, it could cause potential systemic diseases. Let’s take a look at why exactly your oral hygiene is so important to your overall wellbeing.
Why Is Oral Microbiome Important To Your Health?
Periodontal bacteria and bacteria products that are found in between your teeth can set off an inflammatory response in your mouth. This causes inflammatory molecules to accumulate, which can then travel to other parts of your body through your digestive tract or bloodstream. It can negatively affect your liver, heart, gut and even cause inflammation-induced pregnancy complications.
These high amounts of inflammatory markers can give rise to gum disease and affect certain organs, increasing your risk for noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. What’s concerning is that 85% of adults who are over the age of 35 have some form of gum disease. This means that the entire population above is at a higher risk for noncommunicable diseases!
In fact, people with gum disease are three times more likely to die from a stroke, and two times more likely to die from a heart attack! Poor oral hygiene can also increase rates of pneumonia and respiratory infections – which we really don’t want, especially during this virus season.
However, when you have good oral hygiene with a balanced oral microbiome, it not only helps fight bad breath, reduces staining, prevents cavities, and protects against gum diseases, but it can help your total body health. A balanced oral microbiome can help digestion, produce vitamins, protect you from pathogens, and even strengthen your immune system.
Products to Avoid to Protect Oral Microbiome
Many traditional oral care products cause an imbalance in the oral microbiome, which can actually cause plaque buildup. An imbalance of the oral environment can cause gingivitis and can attract Fusobacteria and Spirochetes which can destroy the basal layer, leading to more damage.
Most oral products that are advertised not only are ineffective but are also harmful. Are you using any of these? If so, maybe it’s time to throw it in the trash and get some alternatives.
Avoid Colgate Total
This contains the chemical, triclosan, which can cause growth malformations and increased risk for fetal malformations. This ingredient is also an endocrine disruptor, allergen, environmental pollutant, and can cause cross-resistance to antibiotics. This toothpaste was once banned, but then reapproved after a study was conducted stating it was safe. However, that study was backed by the Colgate company itself, which makes it biased.
Because of the controversy over this ingredient, Colgate says it relaunched its product without triclosan. However, be sure to check yours at home because this switch was just made in the last couple of months. You could still have the older formula.
The new formula includes the ingredient, stannous fluoride. The warning label on the box states how “stannous fluoride may produce surface staining of the teeth”, yet the next sentence says ”This product is specifically formulated to help prevent staining.” A bit contradicting…
Avoid Certain Ingredients in “Natural” Toothpaste
Xylitol: a sugar substitute that is an antimicrobial, which means it’s a bacteria inhibitor.
Tea Tree Oil: contains powerful antimicrobials that aren’t suitable for eyes, mouth, nose, pets, or allergies and denatures the oral microbiome.
Licorice Root: this is a powerful antimicrobial as well. Some natural ingredients derived from Licerocie root have properties that act like estrogen (estrogen-mimicking chemicals are known as endocrine disruptors).
How to Improve Your Oral Microbiome
- Get rid of the harmful oral products you are currently using. Revitin toothpaste is a great choice in toothpaste. It can be found here on their website or on amazon. This is a great choice because it balances homeostasis in your natural oral microbiome. It also contains vitamins, prebiotics, and CoQ-10 (important coenzyme and anti-oxidant).
- Eat more anti-inflammatory, alkaline, antioxidant-rich foods. Be sure to eat organic fruits and vegetables and organically raised meats, as well as fermented foods and drink filtered water.
- Learn to manage your stress to reduce inflammatory markers.
- Incorporate an easy, homemade mouth rinse comprised of ¼ tsp of Himalayan salt/water.
- Give oil pulling a try. This is when you swish oil (like coconut oil) around in your mouth to promote good oral hygiene. It can prevent bad breath, reduce inflammation, and get rid of the bad bacteria. However, this is not a life long practice. We only recommend doing this for a maximum of two weeks per year.
Get in Touch With a Function Medicine Provider
Dr. Lisa Ballehr, a Mesa, AZ Functional Medicine Physician, can help you overcome your health issues and optimize your health. Unlike conventional doctors, Dr. Ballehr takes the time to look at the specific areas that make you unique- genetics, environment, diet, lifestyle behaviors, and movement. From there, she uses personalized medicine methods to create a health plan just for you. If you don’t live in the Mesa area, she also offers telemedicine services so you can still benefit from her care. To learn more or to set up an appointment with Dr. Ballehr, she offers a Free Online Health Assessment to get started.