Oral health and overall health go hand in hand, so it is an important piece of the constant puzzle of what you need to stay in top condition. Great oral health is a lot more than a white, even smile. Oral microbiome is strongly connected to gut microbiome, although the actual strains are completely different. Even though there is a difference, they both work synergistically towards an essential health support component of the salivary immune system. Understanding how to achieve a good balance between your “friendly” bacteria in your mouth and the “friendly” gut bacteria means understanding your oral products, as well as your diet.
The importance of these friendly bacteria in the mouth is so often missed when reading about the “unfriendly” bacteria. Antimicrobial and antibacterial mouthwashes are designed to kill “bacteria.” They do not, however, discriminate between the good and the bad. The human body needs the assistance of the friendly bacteria, not only to assist with the breakdown of foods by starting the digestive process, but also to keep the bad bacteria that causes bad breath and decay. And, one person’s bacteria may not be the same as another’s. There could be 100 to 200 different forms of bacterial species at any time. The alcohol-based rinses can mask the odors, and dry out the mouth in the process, making the breath odor issue worse once it wears off, rather than improved. Probiotics can help keep the good bacteria numbers at a healthy balance. Studies in New Zealand are testing to find a way of keeping the sulphurous bad smelling bacteria at bay with a strain called Streptococcus salivarius K12 - which is typically the first friendly oral bacteria acquired in infancy. Having had positive effects on the subjects, it is now available in oral probiotics and lozenges.
The healthy oral bacteria start the digestive process, as well as form part of the essential mix to support the immune system and protect against viruses and bad bacteria from the environment.
Vitamins and minerals support oral health, as well as overall health. Calcium levels are important for teeth and bones and helps maintain strong jaws which hold teeth. Calcium also helps keeps gum disease and tooth decay at bay. Iron deficiency can cause inflammation and sores in the mouth, so make sure to eat iron-rich foods and have a multivitamin with iron. Vitamin D3 deficiency can also cause burning mouth syndrome, especially through the short winter days. Taking a high quality supplement, will also help in the absorption of calcium and magnesium. Mouth sores can result from lack of B12, B2 and B3, niacin. B3 can also help to prevent bad breath. A Vitamin C deficiency can result in loose teeth and bleeding gums.
Foods which are bad for oral health include carbohydrates, because bad bacteria feed on any residue and produce an acid that will decay teeth. Bread, especially sticky white bread, crackers, chips, pasta, and cookies can be as bad for your teeth as sweet sugary candy. Sticky or chewy foods or candies, even dried fruits, like raisins, can stick to your teeth and prove hard for the saliva to rinse off. Candies and gum leave a coating on teeth that encourages bacteria to attack, and can lead to cavities. Carbonated sweet drinks and fruit or vegetable juices can also coat the teeth with sugar, and the carbonation can wear down enamel, leaving teeth vulnerable to decay. Be aware, if the foods you are choosing tend to be sticky, sweet, and/or sugary, (even fruits have sticky fructose), and you are drinking sodas or acidic coffee/tea, then wait at least 20 minutes before brushing. Scrubbing teeth after eating is often when the enamel is weakest, and so by doing an act that seems to do good, it is actually causing more harm by removing enamel. The best way to help your teeth, as well as making healthy meal choices, is to swish water through your teeth after each meal. You can swallow the rinse water. Naturally acid foods are an important part of a balanced diet and help with the digestive process, which is why bitters and lemons reduce acid reflux. Too much of this acidity, however, can erode tooth enamel.
The mouth is subject to constant change throughout, not only over a person’s lifetime, but also throughout the day, with changes in the microorganisms that colonize it. These microbiome cells can form clusters, called biofilms, which adhere strongly to dental enamel and can then form plaque. Plaque can then lead to inflammation, which in turn leads to other health problems, as shown in the thousands of studies which have linked oral disease to systemic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. The link between periodontitis and diabetes seems to start with inflammation in the mouth weakening the control of blood sugar, causing a lack of insulin. The inflammation impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin, causing diabetes. Thus, poor oral hygiene can encourage and accelerate diabetes.
As well as watching for vitamin and mineral levels, be aware that certain medications and over-the-counter items such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants can reduce saliva and cause bad bacteria and the acid they produce to attack the mouth, teeth and gum health, which in turn can lead to decay and disease.
Sally Warren, PhD Naturopathic Doctor
Metro Integrative Pharmacy
Dental Health Notes from the Naturopath:
Good oral hygiene is a daily routine of a good diet and good choices of oral products.
Your routine should include regular dental brushing, flossing and rinsing, with as non-abrasive, non-chemical and “good bacteria” friendly product, such as oral probiotics. I strongly recommend good vitamin and mineral supplementation, since many necessary nutrients are missing in everyday diets, or lacking, even in good diets. Support your good routines with regular checkups. Try to find a holistic dentist, who understands how dental hygiene relates to overall health, and uses products that are not all chemical, such as ozone. Metro has a great selection of natural, healthy toothpastes, mouthwashes, probiotics and mineral and vitamin supplements that promote good dental health. Remember, whatever goes into your mouth gets absorbed into the bloodstream, so choose products with safe as well as effective ingredients, since everything will shortly be circulating through your entire body.
Please come in to discuss the best choices for you personally with Metro Integrative’s practitioners.
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This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. The information in this article is for educational purposes only.