The role of the gut, one half of the gut-brain axis, is accepted as necessary for healthy aging. Oral health is equally as important but less well known, even though the mouth is a major portal into the body. Poor oral hygiene, periodontal (gum) disease and tooth loss disturb the delicate balance of organisms that make up the dynamic, ecologic community of the mouth microbiome, leading to overgrowth of specific bugs that set off chronic inflammation, the root cause of illness. Cavities and periodontitis are bacterial diseases, but the mouth also harbors fungi, viruses, and other classes of microorganisms. Diabetes, heart and lung disease, cognitive impairment and other systemic disorders are strongly linked to pathologic oral bacteria. The brains of Alzheimer’s patients harbor as much as a seven times higher amount of bacteria than normal brains, and most of those hail from the mouth.
Attention to oral hygiene is an easy, effective lifestyle modification for preventing, treating and slowing the progression of common chronic illnesses. Every oral health plan should include a combination of steps you can take at home, along with regular visits to your partner in oral and general wellness: the dentist.
Oral Health Steps At Home:
- Get rid of harsh, antimicrobial toothpaste and antibacterial, alcohol-based mouthwash because they carpet bomb the mouth, killing all bacteria, both good and bad.
- Brush and floss daily. Use toothpaste free of fluoride and other synthetic chemicals.
- Filter water to remove fluoride: teeth remineralized with fluoride are not normal teeth, and more likely to fracture.
- Drink mineral water rich in silica, calcium and other mouth-beneficial compounds.
- Consume a nourishing, organic, colorful, well-rounded diet supported by supplements with strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions that enhance immune function (think Oobroo!). Include fermented foods, rich in good bacteria.
- Stop smoking. Toxicants in cigarette smoke upset the normal balance of bacteria.
- Consider oil pulling, an Ayurvedic practice shown in clinical studies to reduce plaque, prevents cavities, gum inflammation, and oral thrush, and to overall improve oral hygiene.
Oral Health With The Dentist:
- Professional hygiene (teeth cleaning) two to four times per year.
- Aggressively treat periodontitis, cavities and other dental pathology. If periodontitis is diagnosed, consider evaluation of mouth flora with DNA-saliva testing that can identify specific organisms that have overgrown.
- Discuss removing dental amalgams (silver fillings). Amalgams contain inorganic mercury which can be released by eating hot food, teeth grinding, and other heat and tooth-surface disturbances. Inorganic mercury is toxic to the immune system, which directly affects oral health. Removing amalgams is controversial, but if testing finds high levels of inorganic mercury in your system, it should be considered. Referral to an experienced biologic dentist would be necessary, because the actual removal of amalgams can release mercury into the body, so for safety sake, it must be done with proper precautions.
How to oil pull: on an empty stomach, take 1 tablespoon of organic, unrefined, virgin coconut (or sesame) oil and swish it around the mouth, pulling it between the teeth, for up to 20 minutes. When done (the oil will be thinner and milky) spit into a paper towel and discard: don’t swallow the oil because it contains bacteria and toxins, don’t flush down the sink because it can clog pipes. Rinse with water and brush teeth.
Using the Ayurvedic view of the body as a temple, it’s fair to say the mouth is the dirtiest room in the sanctuary. It’s also a gateway into wellness, so take the time to restore the proper, healthy balance of mouth microorganisms. That’s something you can really smile about!