Yes, every cell in your body will eventually find out about what you put in your mouth. Let’s talk microbiome. The oral cavity houses over 700 species of bacteria, or microbes, that play an important role in the biology of health and disease. These microbes are composed mostly of beneficial bacteria that, in health, are oxygen-loving or aerobic. Any change in response to our environment—diet, weight, hormones, and even state of mind—will influence it. They provide the first line of defense, and the host’s immune system controls this bacterial colonization. Our oral health is directly related to the types (and amounts) of good and bad bacteria in our mouths.
Generally speaking, most Americans today are well aware that these species found in our mouths travel through our bloodstream, our breathing, and our digestion to the rest of our body. New research has correlated this and the fact that these pathogens have been linked to Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases (arthritis and psoriasis), and several cancers. There is even new research linking gum disease and COVID-19. Hospitalized COVID-19 patients with underlying gum disease are more likely to suffer respiratory failure.
In 2000, the U.S. Surgeon General called the mouth, “the mirror of health and disease in the body.” It’s not a closed system. This is why a well-trained biological dentist has a pretty good general idea of a person’s health in just that first comprehensive examination. If there is an imbalance of the oral flora, you can be sure there’s an imbalance in the gut, which will lead to inflammation, illness, and disease. For instance, P. gingivalis is found in patients with gum disease (periodontitis) and dysbiotic gut. Dental plaque is the material that sticks to your teeth. Plaque is a biofilm on the surfaces of our teeth, and depending on the concentration ratio of good to“bad bacteria, we are healthy and in equilibrium or not.
How Do I Know If I Have Good vs. Bad Bacteria?
This is why oral DNA testing is one of the best tools we have. It’s a simple, painless salivary test that in a few days gives us a detailed description of the types and quantities of flourishing bacteria present—the good, the bad, and the ugly. With this information, we can design a plan of action with options to enhance the good, lower the bad, and eliminate the ugly. Every patient is unique, but with each individual case and patient involvement, a plan of action is designed. We have many tools at our disposal, including essential oils, laser therapy, ozone treatments, and even simple supplementations developed in conjunction with our PCPs, functional practitioners, nutritionists, chiropractors, and wellness coaches.
Immunity Actually Starts in Our Mouth
Before the Industrial Revolution, our guts were better equipped to fight off inflammation, viruses, and fungi. Unfortunately, our highly processed diets, refined sugars, and chemical and pharmaceuticals in our foods and water have immensely changed how our bodies fight inflammation. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are almost impossible to fight off, even though bacterial resistance is a natural process. Statistics show that superbugs kill someone every 15 minutes—and that’s just in the U.S. However, there is promising research with macrophages found in our guts that have the ability to “eat up” these superbugs.
The oral microbiome is essential to health as it can influence both oral and systemic diseases. In health, your teeth feel “squeaky clean,” and your gums are pink. This plaque or biofilm in our mouths contains the blueprint for our health—or lack of health. Plaque is easily removed when it is soft. However, if left to harden (calculus), it becomes tartar and needs to be scraped off. When this tartar is present, the body reacts to attack it, creating inflammation. Chronic inflammation leads to the accumulation of the bad and “ugly” bacteria to colonize in deep pockets. If left untreated, this will inevitably lead to tooth loss and eventually dysbiosis in the body. Small amounts of bacteria can create small problems. Large amounts of bacteria will create large problems. Be proactive, not reactive.
The microbiome can also influence insulin. Insulin not only regulates blood sugar, but it may also protect you from cancer by regulating cell division. It protects from telomere shortening and even mediating metabolic signals in heart-related diseases and obesity. The current research shows that the gut microbiome is a major contributor to metabolic diseases. Any alterations in the “normal” relation of specific bacteria will interfere with intestine permeability, biochemical pathways, and the development of obesity, which is also influenced by the microbiome composition.
A Word About Probiotics
Probiotic supplementation is a billion-dollar industry. The “new” terms are not only probiotics and prebiotics but postbiotics as well. Don’t be fooled by the number of strains (billion/trillion). The type of strain is more important, and that depends on each individual’s needs. Certain species/strains are specialized for digestion or immunity strength, while others help with blood pressure, brain clarity, and weight regulation. I encourage patients to visit their functional doctor for an evaluation that discovers the root cause and therefore develop a plan of action. The highly colonized microbiome in your mouth determines your quality of health. In fact, the research suggests 98% of the microbiome is beneficial bacteria, and only 2% is not.
My Takeaway Pearls
- Visit your biological dentist regularly—the earlier you intervene, the greater the success
- Consume whole foods (non-processed)
- Choose REAL probiotic foods—kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, Kombucha
- Eliminate daily mouthwashes—they decrease your nitric oxide levels
- Get out in the sun—vitamin D is excellent for your teeth and bones
- Reduce refined sugars—they feed funguses (Candida) and cancers
- Take more vitamin C—my favorite is liposomal
- Supercharge your immune system with certain herbs—olive leaf extract is one of my favorites
But remember: Your diet is not only what you eat. It’s what you listen to, what you read, what you watch, the people you hang around with, and what you speak. Every single cell in your body is listening!
Dr. Josephine Perez, DMD, has been practicing dentistry for 29 years. She is a graduate of Tufts University School of Dentistry in Boston and interned at New Orleans Coast Guard/Navy Base. Her holistic approach to dentistry encompasses each person’s unique and entire (or whole—holistic) state of physical and emotional well-being. The ability to maintain health through preventive measures and treatments of oral disease is her priority. Dr. Perez focuses on the underlying condition, rather than only treating the symptoms. She tests for biocompatibility to find pathways to reduce inflammation and apply biocompatible and biomimetic materials, supplements, essential oils to restore and strengthen the oral cavity and ultimately, the whole body. After decades of restoring and transforming smiles, Dr. Perez has integrated total wellness into her oral health enhancement practice—a revolutionary style of dentistry.
Visit Pure Dental in Naples at 4444 Tamiami Trail N, Ste. 6–7, call 239.692.9623 or go to: www.puredentalnaples.com.