How does it affect the Body?
The US Surgeon General In 2000, called the mouth “the mirror of health and disease in the body.” When most people look at their mouths, they think it is a closed system. Meaning it has no effect on any other part of the body. No pain no problem. SO We treat it like it is a separate part of our body. We go to the dentist for our mouth and we see a Physician for our body. Even though science and research are giving us the proof needed …. telling us there is a direct correlation …we are not connecting the dots and the puzzle pieces are scattered. We are still ignoring the warning signs our mouth is giving us.
If gut health is so key to our understanding of health and disease, and the mouth mirrors the health of the body, it should be no surprise that oral health is linked with gut health and what may be going on in our body at any given time.
Our brain, gut, and mouth are very interconnected and it’s this hygienist’s opinion we should be starting the conversation about being healthy and diagnosing disease with the health of our mouth.
Did you know there are 700 different types of bacteria in our mouth and 120 different diseases that have signs and symptoms that start in the mouth? Yet our mouth is not where we look first when someone is not feeling well. It is usually the last place we look for answers. If someone happens to be at the dentist and the dental professional sees something we send them to see their medical Dr. But what if we could find things sooner if we change the conversation. When I sit down and go over a patient’s medical history I still have people ask what that has to do with their mouth. They say I am just here for a cleaning.
For most people going to the dentist is the hail mary play. They have tried everything else and we are their last resort. Or they tell us what has been going on and we say it could be linked to malocclusion, tongue posture, a tongue tie, or your oral microbiome. They say why has no one ever told me that before? As a patient, you have to be open to the conversation. We grew up believing different things and changing someone’s mindset is not an easy task. I can see if someone is not buying what I am explaining. When their eyes glass over or I can see they checked out, I usually just change the conversation.
Increasing evidence has been associated with gut microbiome in both gastrointestinal and extragastrointestinal diseases. Dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut have been linked to causing several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression, which are very prevalent today with everything going on in the world. Our gut is known as our second brain. What we put in our mouth, the health of our mouth, and how we breathe is where we should look first when we talk about health.
This is where our understanding of the oral microbiome begins.
What is the oral microbiome?
The community of microbial residents in our body is called the microbiome. The term “microbiome” is coined by Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel Prize laureate, to describe the ecological community of symbiotic, commensal, and pathogenic microorganisms. These microorganisms literally share our body space. The number of microbes present in our bodies is almost the same or even more as compared to that of our cells.
Oral microbiome, oral microbiota, or oral microflora refers to the microorganisms found in the human oral cavity.
The mouth is an exceptionally complex habitat where microbes colonize the hard surfaces of the teeth and the soft tissues of the oral mucosa. In addition to being the initiation point of digestion, the oral microbiome is crucial in maintaining oral as well as systemic health.
An ideal environment is provided by the oral cavity and associated nasopharyngeal regions for the growth of microorganisms. The normal temperature of the oral cavity on average is 37°C without significant changes, which provides bacteria a stable environment to survive. Saliva also has a stable pH of 7, the favorable pH for most species of bacteria. It keeps the bacteria hydrated and also serves as a medium for the transportation of nutrients to microorganisms.
What impacts the oral microbiome?
Poor oral hygiene, a high-sugar diet, and other salivary, immunological, and microbial factors lead to the development of pathogenic biofilms (i.e., known as dysbiosis).
The teeth, tongue, cheeks, gingival sulcus, tonsils, hard palate, and soft palate provide a rich environment where microorganisms can flourish. The surfaces of the oral cavity are coated with a plethora of bacteria, known as a bacterial biofilm.
How oral microbiome affects gut & overall health.
As a Dental Hygienist, I was taught how bacteria in the mouth can cause dental diseases like cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, thrush/candida.
What I was not taught and what was not well known back then was just how an imbalance in your mouth impacts your body.
The oral cavity has the second largest and most diverse biome after the gut harboring over 700 species of bacteria of the body, second only to the gut which has about 100 trillion bacteria, both good and bad, inside your digestive system.
The oral microbiome is an exciting and expanding field of research. The oral microbiome is crucial to health due to the fact that it plays a role in both oral and systemic diseases. It rests within biofilms throughout the oral cavity and forms an ecosystem that maintains health in a state of equilibrium. However, certain imbalances in this state of equilibrium allow pathogens to manifest and cause disease. Disruption of the oral microbiome leads to dysbiosis. Both in the mouth and the gut.
Identifying the microbiome in health is the first step of human microbiome research, after which it is necessary to understand the role of the microbiome in the functional and metabolic pathways associated with the disease.
Over the years I have recommended over 100 patients see their physician, after looking in their mouth 10 of them were diagnosed with diseases that after being treated by their medical Dr. Their dental health and gum measurements improved by their next three-month visit.
Most of the patients I referred to just looked at me like I was crazy for thinking what I was seeing in their mouth was related to something undiagnosed in the body.
My uncle was one of them. He did not like going to the Dr. In fact if I were not a dental hygienist he probably would not have gone to a dentist until he was in pain and would have a tooth pulled. I worked for a periodontist when I first started seeing him in the office. He was a heavy smoker and he had a severe case of periodontal disease. Nothing we tried helped, I saw him every three months. I did not look healthy. I chalked it up to smoking, lifestyle choices, and gut health. Until he was diagnosed with diabetes. After getting his sugar under control miraculously, his probing depths had improved.
This is when I started to see a pattern in other patients being diagnosed with diabetes and thyroid disease. Once treated their gums measurements improved.
What is dysbiosis?
Your body is full of colonies of harmless bacteria known as microbiota. Most of these bacteria have a positive effect on your health and contribute to your body’s natural processes.
But when one of these bacterial colonies is out of balance, it can lead to dysbiosis. Dysbiosis typically occurs when the bacteria in your mouth and gastrointestinal (GI) tract — which includes your stomach and intestines — become unbalanced.
Some effects of dysbiosis, such as stomach upset, are temporary and mild. In many cases, your body can correct the imbalance on its own without treatment.
What are the symptoms of dysbiosis?
How to recognize its symptoms, and what you can do to prevent and treat this condition.
Your symptoms will depend on where the bacteria imbalance occurs. They may also vary based on the types of bacteria that are out of balance.
Common symptoms include:
- bad breath
- upset stomach
- difficulty urinating
- vaginal or rectal itching
- chest pain
- rash or redness
- having trouble thinking or concentrating
If your symptoms become more serious, you’ll need to see your doctor for a diagnosis.
How is dysbiosis diagnosed?
After going over your medical history and assessing your symptoms, your doctor may order one or several of the following diagnostic tests:
Organic acids test:
Your doctor will collect a urine sample and send it to a laboratory. The lab technician will test for certain acids that bacteria can produce. If these acid levels are abnormal, it may mean that certain bacteria are out of balance.
Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA):
Your doctor will have you take home a special container to obtain a sample of your poop. You’ll return this sample to your doctor for lab testing. The lab technician will test the poop to see what bacteria, yeasts, or fungi are present. The results can tell your doctor if there’s an imbalance or overgrowth.
Hydrogen breath test:
Your doctor will have you drink a sugar solution and breathe into a special balloon. The air in the balloon can then be tested for gases produced by bacteria. Too much or too little of certain gases can indicate a bacterial imbalance. This test is often used to test for (SIBO) Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth.
Dietary Changes May Be necessary?
If your diet is at the root of your bacterial imbalance, which is usually the case, your doctor will help you create a nutrition plan.
This can help make sure you’re getting and absorbing enough nutrients to keep bacteria in balance, including:
- B-complex vitamins, such as B-6 and B-12
Foods that you can add to your diet for balance include:
- dark, leafy greens, including spinach and kale
- fish, including salmon and mackerel
- fresh meats (avoid processed meat products)
Your doctor may also tell you to stop eating certain foods that contain harmful chemicals.
- processed meats, such as deli meat and salted or canned meat
- carbohydrates in corn, oats, or bread
- some fruits, such as bananas, apples, and grapes
- dairy, including yogurt, milk, and cheese
- foods high in sugar, such as corn syrup, maple syrup, and raw cane sugar
The gut actually talks to the brain, releasing hormones into the brain through a neural circuit that allows it to transmit signals in mere seconds. … called dopamine. Dopamine, also known as the “feel-good” hormone, is a neurotransmitter that’s an important part of your brain’s reward system. Dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, motor system function, and more. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that carries signals between brain cells. It also gets blamed for addiction. Sugar is both a reward and an addiction to our brain. Which makes it hard for us to make good food choices some days. Sugar throws off our microbiome and causes inflammation.
This is my problem. I am addicted to sugar. For me, it creates an imbalance and throws off my whole system to the point I can not function. All I want to do is sleep. Cancer feeds on sugar. So I just kept feeding my cancer.
This is where taking probiotics come into play.
Taking probiotics can also help keep your mouth and gut bacteria in balance. These supplements contain cultures of specific bacteria that you can eat, drink, or take as medications. Talk to your doctor about which types you’ll need to keep your microbiota balanced.
Dysbiosis is usually mild and can be treated through medication and lifestyle changes. But if left untreated, dysbiosis can lead to chronic conditions, including IBS and certain cancers.
See your doctor right away if you’re experiencing any unusual or persistent stomach pain or skin irritation. The sooner your doctor diagnoses your condition, the less likely you are to develop any additional complications.
There can also be dysbiosis in your mouth. There are Probiotics specific to your mouth microbiome.
I use BURST Oral probiotics
I am a BURST ambassador and if you use my link in the notes to get my professional discount. I do get a recommendation credit which I use to create more content to share. I only promote and share products I personally use that I truly feel are valuable to improving your health and that of your family.
How to take BURST oral probiotic:
- Pop one to two lozenges in your mouth, dissolve, and let the probiotic coat your mouth in its entirety.
- To work their magic, oral probiotics need time to populate and colonize your mouth. That’s why we want to dissolve the tablet and not just swallow it. Dissolve or chew it up real good as my Grams would say so the good guys can get really stuck in.
- Also, while we all love a good snack, avoid food and drink for at least 30 minutes after taking it for maximum effectiveness.
- As the old saying goes: brush, floss, take your probiotics daily . . . at least that’s our take on it. While you may see (and smell) some results immediately, remember consistency is key! With daily use, you’ll see your oral health achieve ultimate levels in 4 to 6 weeks.
Why is the mouth a good environment for bacterial growth?
The mouth is kept moist by saliva which forms a thin film all over every surface of the mouth. Saliva has an important role in maintaining the well-being of teeth by flushing away the microbes and by neutralizing the acid produced by bacteria as a result of carbohydrate metabolism. Saliva has enzymes that aid in digestion which is why digestion actually starts in our mouth.
The warm and moist environment in the mouth aids the growth of many microorganisms and offers nutrients, such as saliva proteins, glycoproteins, and gingival crevicular fluid (GCF). The teeth are the only natural non-shedding surfaces in the human body and provide unique opportunities for biofilm formation, and a secure haven for microbial persistence. Dental restorations, crowns, and bridgework, removable prostheses, and implants constitute additional non-shedding surfaces in the mouth that can influence biofilm formation. That is why brushing and flossing consistently are so important to disrupt the biofilm. When we do not brush it continues to grow, multiply and cause disease.
The role of saliva in promoting oral health is well established. Chewing, swallowing, speech, and aiding digestion, saliva contains vital enzymes and proteins that help maintain a balanced microbiome.
Salivary components are the primary nutritional source for microorganisms and are required for the development of a balanced microbiome. Another salivary component with antimicrobial potential is nitrite, converted from dietary nitrates by oral bacteria. Nitrite is further reduced to nitric oxide that can inhibit the growth of bacteria and may help to protect against cavities. We produce nitric oxide when we breathe through your nose. When we mouth breath we do not produce nitric oxide and mouth breathing also reduces our saliva causing dry mouth.
Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator with the antimicrobial activity which plays a critical role in sustaining cardiovascular health and stimulates gastric mucus production.
Saliva not only helps to maintain an environment that allows biofilms to flourish, but also modulates the layers of plaque with the help of a number of proteins, including enzymes and glycoproteins, and minerals, which control biofilm build-up. Plaque biofilm is also dislodged by the movement of the oral muscles of the cheeks and tongue, during chewing by the flow of saliva, and with brushing and flossing.
The promotion of health or progression toward disease is critically influenced by our microbiome. The oral microbiome usually exists in the form of a biofilm. It plays a crucial role in maintaining oral homeostasis, protecting the oral cavity, and preventing disease development.
The degree by which biofilm accumulates varies between individuals. In patients not susceptible to periodontal disease, the inflammatory response can lead to gingivitis which is reversible and self-resolving by disrupting the plaque and biofilm, again with brushing and flossing. But in susceptible patients, multiple genetic, epigenetic, or patient-modifiable factors (tobacco, alcohol, diet, unregulated diabetes, stress, etc) can trigger an exaggerated response, creating chronic, non-resolving inflammation in the connective tissues leading to disease.
The diverse community that makes up the oral microbiome is finely tuned by nature to protect us from disease. Modern lifestyles and choices can disturb and upset the natural balance of our oral microbiome, and our goal should be to re-establish balance by whatever means are necessary and appropriate to each individual patient. This is pivotal for both patients and healthcare professionals to embrace the concept of a balanced oral microbiome and its importance in oral and systemic health.
Treatments should include prevention strategies, such as oral hygiene practices, brushing, flossing, diet, water consumption, and how we breathe.
We can achieve this through educating on appropriate lifestyle choices and the application of effective plaque control techniques that preserve dental biofilms at levels compatible with oral health.
Which is beneficial to reduce the risk of dental disease from excessive plaque accumulation. Once dysbiosis occurs, the treatment goal should be to re-establish the lost harmonious balance by maintaining good oral hygiene and modifying lifestyle factors such as diet and smoking.
The use of antibiotics for the treatment of oral diseases should be avoided, aiming to safeguard the beneficial oral microbiota and avoid antibiotic resistance.
For the control of caries, in addition to the use of topical fluoride, measures should be taken that encourage a shift away from an acidic environment, through the reduction in the amount and frequency of the consumption of sucrose and acidic drinks (even if the latter are sugar-free), together with supplementation with agents that can reduce acid production and/or promote alkali generation within dental plaque. Such as oral probiotics.
Being consistent with mouth care and certain habit and lifestyle changes can help maintain your bacterial balance and prevent overgrowth from occurring.
Looking at how we are breathing is also an important key in balancing our oral microbiome. Changing mouth breathing habits back a nose breathing is one way to help the oral microbiome.
As you can see, the oral microbiome is closely related both to the health of the gut but also to the entire body by extension.
9 Ways You Can Support Your Oral Microbiome:
- Breath through your nose
- Mouth Taping
- Brushing 2 x a day
- Tongue scraping
- Oral probiotics
- Using an alcohol-free mouthwash
- Xlear nasal spray
Xylitol kills germs. It does not do it in the traditional dental way — killing upon contact. Xylitol stops bacteria from living by starving it, and acids are not created, which alters the pH.
Studies have shown that baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, can effectively kill bacteria in the mouth.
These are some of the ways you can help keep your oral microbiome healthy. Most dental disease is preventable at home by you with simple daily consistent care. It starts with you knowing the health of your mouth. Do you have cavities, gingivitis, or periodontal disease?
If we teach our kids to establish healthy habits from the start we can change their future health. Since the agricultural revolution, we have had more diseases than ever before. Changing our habits can change our life.
Starting with our habits and our choices. The way we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and getting enough sleep.
We are our greatest health care advocates. Take ownership of your health and your family’s health. It all starts at home with you.
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