ORAL HEALTH AS A WINDOW TO OVERALL HEALTH
Thousands of studies have linked oral disease to systemic disease. Meaning, the health of your mouth, teeth and gums has a direct connection to health in the rest of your body. (Mercola, 8/27/2016)
Most of the billions of bacteria living in the mouth are harmless – even necessary for good health. Maintaining good oral health supports those good bacteria and enables the body’s natural defenses to keep bad bacteria under control. But, without proper oral hygiene, pathogenic bacteria can reach levels that lead to tooth decay and gum disease – and also create disease elsewhere in the body.
Additionally, medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants reduce saliva flow. Saliva helps wash away food particles and neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping protect against microbial invasion or overgrowth that could lead to disease. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016)
Pathogenic bacteria living in our oral cavities enter the blood stream through a variety of daily activities, such as chewing, eating, brushing and flossing. Invasive dental treatments greatly increase the risk of pathogenic bacteria’s spreading elsewhere in the body via the blood stream. (Whiteman, 2013)
DISEASES LINKED TO ORAL HEALTH
Poor conditions in the mouth contribute to many problems elsewhere in the body, including:
- Endocarditis. Endocarditis is a dangerous infection of the inner lining of the heart (the endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other pathogenic microbes from the mouth or elsewhere in the body spread through the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in the heart.
- Cardiovascular disease. Research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke are linked to infections and the inflammation pathogenic oral bacteria can cause.
- Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis (a set of inflammatory diseases affecting the tissues that surround and support the teeth) is linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
- Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s is an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth.
- Diabetes. Diabetics have a reduced resistance to infection and have more frequent and more severe gum disease. Research has found that people with gum disease have a harder time controlling blood sugar levels and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
- HIV/AIDS. HIV and AIDS are immunodeficiency conditions caused by the HIV virus. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
- Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis may be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the UK, discovered the presence of a bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when they were alive. This bacterium is usually associated with chronic gum disease. Worsening oral health is generally seen as Alzheimer’s progresses.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. A strong link between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was found in a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. 70% of the RA patients had gum disease. In 30% the gum disease was severe. The population norm for gum disease is 35% with 5% having severe gum disease. Severe gum disease is often found in the early stages of RA. RA patients should get complete oral health exams regularly.
- Head and neck cancers. A link between head and neck cancers and poor oral health at the time of oncology diagnosis has often been observed. A British group studied the oral health state of 100 people with head and neck cancers before beginning cancer treatment and found periodontal disease in 71% of the subjects who still had their teeth. The periodontal disease was severe in 51% of them. 61% of them had cavities in one or more teeth.
- Eating disorders. Anorexia, bulimia and binge eating take their toll on oral health. Without proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissues in the mouth may bleed easily. Saliva glands may swell and cause chronic dry mouth. Repeated vomiting exposes teeth to strong stomach acid, causing lost tooth enamel and tooth edges to become thin and break off easily.
- Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Source: (American Dental Association, 2016), (Critchlow et al, 2014), (Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, 2015), (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016), & (Whiteman, 2013)
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR ORAL HEALTH
Since the mouth is the “gateway to total body wellness” (Mercola, 8/27/2016), maintaining oral health – or restoring it if it has been compromised – is of utmost importance. Here are some suggestions for accomplishing that:
BRUSH YOUR TEETH PROPERLY AT LEAST TWICE A DAY
CONSUME A DIET CONSISTING OF REAL FOODS
A nutritious, balanced diet promotes healthy gums as well as a healthy body. In many cases, gum disease is directly connected to poor nutrition habits. Eat a well-balanced diet packed with plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Vitamins C and B are both essential to healthy gums.
SCHEDULE REGULAR DENTAL CHECKUPS AND CLEANINGS
– preferably with a biologic/holistic dentist who understands the connection between oral health and health in the rest of the body. And be sure to see your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises.
AVOID ANTIBACTERIAL MOUTHWASHES
“Your mouth is teeming with bacteria. It’s true. And it’s a good thing. There are more bacteria in your mouth than there are people on Earth. And a huge number of them actually benefit you by protecting against the more dangerous bacteria.
“When you used an antibacterial mouthwash, it kills all kinds of bacteria, even the good ones! This can be the opportunity that the hazardous bacteria need to take over and start an infection. This is known as a “rebound effect.”
“Another side effect of bacteria loss is reduced production of nitrites (which help your blood vessels to expand and contract efficiently). A Swedish study linked lower nitrite production from antibacterial mouthwash to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.” (Blodgett, 2015)
“KILLS GERMS by up to 99.9%” for up to 12 hours – THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING
USE AN IONIC TOOTHBRUSH
A manual or electric toothbrush mechanically removes plaque bacteria from the teeth but new studies have shown that ionic toothbrushes do a better job. Plaque biofilm is hard to brush off because it has a positive polarity while teeth have a negative polarity. Opposite charges attract and like charges repel. Much like dust is attracted to objects in our homes, plaque is attracted to our teeth.
An ionic toothbrush temporarily reverses the polarity of the tooth surfaces from negative to positive. This draws plaque towards the ionic toothbrush head, allowing the toothbrush to clear away more of it. As you use an ionic toothbrush, plaque is actively repelled by your now positively charged teeth and attracted to the negatively charged bristles – even in hard to reach areas that haven’t been touched by the brush – and acids in the mouth are neutralized. Research has found that ionic toothbrushes reduce hypersensitivity, plaque, and bleeding. (Parker, 2016)
AVOID TOOTHPASTES CONTAINING TOXINS
Most toothpastes contain toxic ingredients – such as fluoride, parabens, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, triclosan, sodium hydroxide, bleaches and other harsh chemicals These chemicals damage the body as a whole and can impair the good probiotic bacteria in the mouth.
Switch instead to an herbal toothpaste that’s free of metals and carcinogens. Look for ingredients such as eucalyptus, licorice, neem, clove and peppermint – natural antibacterial agents and breath fresheners.
Here’s an example of an effective, healthier toothpaste:
From Auromére’s website:
Auromére ‘s highly effective line of Ayurvedic toothpaste combines the natural fibre PEELU with the astringent and invigorating properties of NEEM and 24 other barks, roots, plants and flowers which have been esteemed for centuries by Ayurvedic specialists for maintaining optimum dental hygiene. The all-natural botanical extracts and essential oils in Auromére Toothpaste are prized for their astringent, cleansing properties that help freshen breath and leave teeth feeling squeaky clean. In addition, Auromére Toothpaste contains no fluoride, gluten, artificial sweeteners, dyes or harsh chemicals commonly found in many toothpastes.
Free of fluoride, gluten, bleaches, artificial sweeteners, dyes, and animal ingredients.
Concentrated formula: Each tube lasts 3 times longer than other brands!
Available in 5 varieties: Licorice, Freshmint, Mint-Free, Foam-Free Cardamom-Fennel, and Foam-Free Freshmint.
USE AN ORAL IRRIGATOR
Oral irrigation removes plaque that tooth brushing doesn’t reach – from below the gum line. My favorite oral irrigator, and the one recommended by holistic/biologic dentist Reid Winick, DDS, is made by Hydrofloss. I use it at night before bedtime and can feel the difference when I’m away from it while traveling.
USE AN ORAL PROBIOTIC
Keeping an adequate supply of good probiotic bacteria living in your mouth defends against over growths of bad pathogenic bacteria. Using an oral probiotic lozenge after you’ve cleaned your mouth before bedtime aids in maintaining dental and periodental health, reducing the incidence of inflammation and infections.
Here are two examples of high quality oral probiotic lozenges:
EvoraPro® Oral Probiotics for Dental Professionals
- A product of more than 30 years of probiotic research by industry leader ProBiora Health
- Features a patented, proprietary, extra-strength blend of beneficial bacteria, ProBiora3®
- The blend of beneficial bacteria in EvoraPro are ones naturally found in healthy mouths
Life Extension Florassist Oral Hygiene
- An oral probiotic that provides the beneficial bacteria that can help block harmful bacteria that first develop in the mouth
- Allows the healthy and naturally occurring organisms found in the body to out-compete the harmful bacteria
- Contains BLIS K12 and Bacillus coagulans, a unique blend of two oral probiotics
USE A TONGUE SCRAPER
A fast way to get bad bacteria out of your mouth is with a tongue scraper. This is a traditional Ayurvedic technique for removing bacterial build-up, food debris, fungi, and dead cells from the surface of the tongue. The technique cleans the mouth, freshens the breath, and also stimulates the metabolism.
DRINK GREEN TEA
Green tea not only protects against radiation, boosts mineralization of bones, and helps with weight loss, it also promotes healthy teeth and gums. High levels of catechin, an antioxidant, seem to be responsible for green tea’s ability to reduce inflammation in the body, including the mouth.
TRY CAMU CAMU FOR ITS HIGH VITAMIN C CONTENT
Vitamin C’s positive impact on oral health is well known. “In fact, the use of vitamin C in dental disease is one of the earliest recorded uses of nutrient therapy in Western medicine. In 1747, a British Naval physician named James Lind noticed that lime juice, which is rich in vitamin C, helped prevent scurvy, which causes tooth loss. As a result, British sailors bottled lime juice for gum disease prevention. Incidentally, this practice later gave rise to the term ‘Limey’.” (Life Extension, 2016)
An interesting source of vitamin C is a fruit called camu camu that’s native to the Peruvian and Brazilian rain forests. It has an exceptionally high vitamin C content. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and reduces the incidence of bleeding gums, gingivitis, and periodontitis. Other benefits are repairing and maintaining cartilage and bones throughout the body and improving the texture of the skin.
EXPERIMENT WITH OIL PULLING
Oil pulling is a highly effective method of detoxifying the oral cavity. Swishing a tablespoon of oil (preferably organic coconut oil, but olive or sesame can also be used) around in the mouth for 10-20 minutes removes the toxins, leaving an oral environment where healthy saliva flows properly to prevent cavities and disease. Research has shown that oil pulling reduces plaque-induced gingivitis and the bacterium Streptococcus mutans, a known cause of cavities.
The first synthetic bristled toothbrush so familiar to us now first went on sale on February 24, 1938, but oil pulling has been used for centuries in India as a traditional remedy to:
- Cure tooth decay
- Kill bad breath
- Heal bleeding gums
- Prevent heart disease
- Reduce inflammation
- Whiten teeth
- Soothe throat dryness
- Prevent cavities
- Heal cracked lips
- Boost the Immune system
- Improve acne
- Strengthen the gums and jaw
See Dr Josh Axe’s Coconut Oil Pulling Benefits & How-to Guide for more information on the benefits of coconut oil pulling plus a useful how-to video.
Sources: (Axe, 2016), (Felts, 2014), (Life Extension, 2016), (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016), (Mercola, 8/27/2016), & (Winick, 2016)
“Pathogens are now being recognized as resident microbes that are out of balance … (T)he same bacteria that keep us alive can have a pathogenic expression when disturbed.
“I have been tooting the horn about getting out of the ‘pesticide business.’ I’m also speaking about natural pesticides. Not just triclosan, clorhexidin and those synthetic types, but also tea tree oil, tulsi oil, oregano oil and other antimicrobial oils that … have a potent disturbing effect on the oral microbiome.
“In the mouth, you don’t want to have a ‘scorched earth policy,’ nuking all bacteria and hoping the good bugs come back … (G)ood bugs basically have a harder chance of setting up a healthy-balanced microbiome when you disturb them, denature then, or dehydrate them with alcohol-based products.”
– Biologic dentist Gerry Curatola, DDS (quoted in Mercola, 8/27/2016)
“(T)housands of studies have linked oral disease to systemic disease.
‘Inflammation is known to be a disease-causing force leading to most chronic illness, and gum disease and other oral diseases produce chronic low-grade inflammation that can have a deleterious effect on every major organ system in your body.
‘Oral disease can therefore contribute to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few. Advanced gum disease can raise your risk of a fatal heart attack up to 10 times. And, according to Curatola, if you get a heart attack related to gum disease, 9 times out of 10 it will be fatal.
‘There’s also a 700 percent higher incidence of type 2 diabetes among those with gum disease, courtesy of the inflammatory effects of unbalanced microflora in your mouth.” (Mercola, 8/27/2016
For more information on oral health, see these earlier posts:
For more information on how ionic toothbrushes work, see:
Many thanks to Anne Mercer Larson and Morrie Sherry for suggesting I write on this topic as a follow up to my Root Canals and Breast Cancer post.
American Dental Association. (2016). Eating Disorders. See: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/e/eating-disorders
Axe, J. (2016). Coconut Oil Pulling Benefits & How-to Guide. See: https://draxe.com/oil-pulling-coconut-oil/
Blodgett, K. (2015). Is Mouthwash Bad for You? Blodgett Dental Care. See: http://www.blodgettdentalcare.com/blog/is-mouthwash-bad-for-you/
Critchlow, S.B. et al. (2014). The oral health status of pre-treatment head and neck cancer patients. British Dental Journal, 1:216. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24413141
Felts, L. (2014). DETOX YOUR MOUTH: 9 HOLISTIC TREATMENTS FOR ORAL HEALTH. See: http://thechalkboardmag.com/detox-your-mouth-9-holistic-oral-health-treatments
Hardin, J.R. (3/14/2014). Is Antiseptic Mouthwash Harming Your Heart? See: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2014/03/14/antiseptic-mouthwash-harming-heart/
Hardin, J.R. (2/16/2014). Oral Health and Overall Health. See: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2014/02/16/oral-health-overall-health/
Hardin, J.R. (2/16/2014). Oral Health, Thermography and Inflammation. See: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2014/02/16/oral-health-thermography-inflammation/
Hardin, J.R. (7/31/2016). Vitamin C for Tooth Pain. See: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2016/07/31/vitamin-c-toothache/
Hardin, J.R. (8/22/2016). Root Canals & Breast Cancer. See: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2016/08/22/root-canals-breast-cancer/
Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. (2015). Dental Health and Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Research Update. See: http://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/arthritis-news/ra-news/dental-health-and-rheumatoid-arthritis-a-research-update/
Life Extension. (2016). Periodontitis and Cavities. See: http://www.lifeextensionvitamins.com/peandca.html
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Oral health: A window to your overall health. See: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475
Mercola, R. (8/27/2016). For Optimal Health, Mind Your Oral Microbiome and Avoid Fluoride, Harsh Mouth Rinses and Amalgam Fillings. See: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/08/27/optimize-your-oral-microbiome-avoid-fluoride.aspx?utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20160827Z1_B&et_cid=DM117251&et_rid=1638888152
Parker, K. (2016). The Science Behind Ionic Toothbrushes. See: http://www.holistic-healing-information.com/ionic-toothbrushes.html
Whiteman, H. (2013). Alzheimer’s disease linked to poor dental health. See: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264164.php
Winick, R. (2016). Five Steps You Can Take to Naturally Promote Healthy Gums and Prevent Disease. Dentistry for Health NY. See: http://www.dentistryforhealthny.com/PromoteHealth
© Copyright 2016. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.