What happens in the mouth… doesn’t stay in the mouth
Most of us are reasonably au fait with the idea of the gut microbiome…it has been something of a hot topic in the realm of health & wellness over the last few years
BUT how many of us know much about the ORAL MICROBIOME?
That’s right: oral health isn’t just about those pearly whites (though they’re a nice to have!). We have billions of microbes (700 species identified so far & counting…many good, some bad) living around our teeth, gums, tongue and the rest of the oral cavity. That’s the 2nd biggest microbiota in the body after the gut
These bacteria can influence how we taste our food (nuts right?!) Studies demonstrate that moving to a diverse plant based diet can alter our oral microbiome, which could explain why the more fruits and veggies we eat the more we start to crave!
Thing is, these bacteria don’t just stay in our mouths. What do you think happens every time you swallow?! Bacteria migrate through the rest of our digestive system (after all, the mouth is just the gateway to one long food-to-poop tube!) where unhelpful species can contribute to dysbiosis and gut symptoms (loss of a healthy balance of bacteria) – once they’re done with causing inflammation and cavities in the mouth!
They can also be absorbed into the bloodstream where they activate our immune system, causing low-grade chronic inflammation. This can have a pretty negative impact on our systemic (whole body) health. A disrupted oral microbiome and oral infection/inflammation have been implicated in numerous inflammatory conditions including heart disease, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis & some cancers.Turns out, your mouth and how you look after it is really rather important & oral health is often a good proxy for overall health.
If you’re planning a pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding looking after your mouth is even more crucial! The hormonal shift can predispose to inflamed, bleeding gums & gum disease in pregnancy and studies link poor dental health to complications such as pre-eclampsia, premature birth & low birthweight babies.
10 ways to support our oral (& whole body) health
- Visit your dentist every 6-12 months and your hygienist every 6. Those cleans might not be pretty but damn, are they important for eliminating plaque
- Brush twice a day and floss floss floss! If you don’t, you’re effectively leaving 25% of your mouth unclean – yuck! Interdental sticks or water irrigators are even better for preventing plaque.
- Wait 30 mins after eating to brush your teeth. It takes this long for the PH of your mouth to return to baseline (it’s vulnerable to erosion in the acidic environment caused by eating)
- Avoid snacking. Every time we eat, whatever we eat (though sugary foods are the worst), the PH of our mouth reduces. This promotes acid-loving bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, which produce more acid to weaken enamel, setting the stage for demineralisation & cavities
- Get yourself a copper tongue scraper. Use it first thing in the morning when you brush – you’ll be amazed (revolted!) what you can get off your tongue. That’s the less-great bacteria right there forming a “biofilm”
- Ditch the mouthwash! Much like antibiotics decimate the good bacteria as well as the bad, harsh mouthwashes don’t differentiate between friend and foe. We want to nurture the good guys for a balanced microbiota – not kill them dead!
- Use a fluoride toothpaste but switch to one free of SLS (an unnecessary & hash foaming ingredient which can irritate the gums). Zendium is my favourite – a probiotic toothpaste which support a healthy microbiota
- A dry mouth is a disaster for microbial harmony. Hydrate hydrate hydrate!
- Do you wake up parched with morning breath? Chances are you’re a mouth breather – whether or not you know it. Try taping your mouth closed at night using Somnifix or surgical tape. Not as scary as it sounds(!) & the science-backed benefits are undeniable: a less dry mouth & healthier oral microbiota = fewer cavities and bad breath; better quality sleep; & increased healthy nitric oxide production.
- Diet-wise, ditch the sugar & white carbs when you can (she says, with a mouthful of Easter chocolate!) and think FIBRE!!! Including a ton of fibre-rich plant foods to feed our friendly bacteria is one of the best things we can do to support a healthy gut AND oral microbiome…