“You have two eyes and one mouth. Use them proportionally.” — Epictetus, Greek Philosopher
Although running is healthy, running your mouth is not. It is important to take care of what you say.
That so noted, it is also important to take care of your mouth itself. Oral hygiene is among 23 Key Health Factors for 2023. Here’s why.
Keeping Your Mouth Healthy Keeps Your Body Healthy
Over twenty billion bugs (!) make their home in your mouth. These residential bacteria protect you from pathogens which enter your mouth each day. At best, the skin within your mouth, the oral mucosa, is a “selectively permeable” barrier. Thus, beneficial and pathogenic bacteria can get directly into your bloodstream. It is important to maintain a diverse healthy level of beneficial oral bacteria to defend your body from pathogens.
- A healthy mix of 700+ types of bacteria lower your blood pressure as well as your risk of cardiovascular disease, stomach ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. They also protect your teeth from dental caries, the clinical term for tooth decay, the most prevalent chronic disease worldwide. Healthy minerals in saliva help tooth enamel heal.
- You swallow at least 140 billion bacteria each day, seeding your gastrointestinal tract with the microbes from your mouth. Pathogenic oral bacteria negatively impact your gut microbiome leading to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, liver cirrhosis and gut-related cancers.
- Periodontal disease is also associated with high body mass index and old age.
So given it is important to keep your mouth healthy, what are the best practices for dental care?
The Importance of Daily Dental Care
When people stop all forms of oral hygiene, the bacteria in their mouths skyrocket after only four days. In a dental care study of 145 people, after 10 days without oral hygiene, everyone developed moderate to severe gingivitis. When they resumed normal dental care, they were able to lower the amounts of bacteria on their teeth. However, unfortunately, the composition of their oral microbiome did not bounce back to baseline, even after two weeks of renewed oral hygiene. The pathogenic bacteria remained.
Recommended Dental Care
To take good care of your mouth:
- Brush your teeth after meals with an electric toothbrush
- Evidence-based research organization Cochran, found that electric toothbrushes decrease more plaque and gingivitis than manual toothbrushes.
- After three months of use, plaque was reduced by 21 percent and gingivitis by 11 percent.
- Use a healthy toothpaste. Some toothpastes contain dangerous chemicals such as triclosan and sodium lauryl sulfate. Although high levels of fluoride (> 2.0 mg/L in tap water) are considered dangerous, fluoride consumption from toothpaste is low because it is spit out. The average amount of fluoride swallowed in a brushing by an adult (0.1 mg) is similar to the amount of fluoride found in a cup of brewed black tea (ranging from 0.07mg – 1.5mg). Fluoride does help prevent cavities. However, top dentists recommend Boca and Risewell hydroxyapatite toothpastes, which provide similar benefits to fluoride without toxicity risk. Also, too much fluoride (fluorosis) discolors teeth.
- Floss at least once per day. Avoid floss with dangerous chemicals such as PFAS. Companies like Boca and Risewell make safe floss too.
- Avoid conventional mouthwash that contains antimicrobial agents like chlorhexidine or cetylpyridinium chloride. Killing your oral microbiome harms your oral and overall health. For example, when patients used chlorhexidine-containing mouthwash, their blood pressure increased. If you use mouthwash to help with gum disease, cavities, or bad breath, oral health experts such as Cass Nelson-Dooley and Dr. Steven Lin recommend changing your diet instead. It is no surprise that what you eat impacts your health.
- Make sure you have a dentist that you like and once you are safe from COVID-19, see them at least twice per year for cleanings.
- If you are in the 20% of people who have a genetic predisposition to periodontal disease, go three times a year, paying for the extra session that insurance doesn’t cover. Your health is worth it.
- Ask your dentist if they use advanced techniques for early detection of cavities such as diagnostic rinses, and for white spot repair to prevent cavities.
- Of note, in America today, it is estimated that 150 million people or 50% of the U.S. population does not have dental insurance. As a result, many people who are uninsured do not seek dental care on a regular basis, leading to an assortment of dental and medical health issues. Don’t be one of them.
- Avoid mouth breathing! Breathe through your nose.
Common Oral Diseases and Causal Microbes
In his thoughtful book, “Heal Your Oral Microbiome,” Cass Nelson-Dooley compiled a list of pathogenic microbes causing oral diseases. Here they are:
- Cavities — Actinomyces, S. mitis, S. mutans, S. salivarius, S. sobrinus, Candida
- Gingivitis — Actinobacillus, Campylobacter, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Porphyromonas gingivalis
- Periodontitis — Eubacterium saphenum, Parvimonas micra, Prevotella denticola, Prevotella gingivalis, Treponema denticola, Treponema forsythia
- Atherosclerotic plaques — Fusobacterium nucleatum, Neisseria, Prevotella gingivalis, Streptococcus sanguinis, Treponema denticola, Treponema forsythia
Setting Your Health Baseline: Oral Microbiome
To find out what bugs you have in your mouth, so you can see whether you can improve your oral microbiome through better dental care and diet, you can ask your dentist or primary care physician to order saliva tests from OralDNA Labs.
Beneficial Oral Microbiome Supplements and Herbs
Healthy Lactobacillus strains found in saliva are L.fermentum, L.rhamnosus, L.salivarius, L.casei, L.acidophilus, and L. plantarum. To boost them, consider taking oral probiotics such as:
- Pro Dental Probiotics ($22.95 / 45 count) — L.paracasei, L.reuteri, L.sakei, L.salivarius and chelated zinc
- Great Oral Health ($25.99 / 60 count) — L.Acidophilus, L.Reuteri, L.Salivarius, L.Paracasei, L.Thermophilus, Streptococcus Salivarius and zinc
Additionally, antimicrobial spices and herbs kill pathogenic bacteria and fungi while promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Eat more garlic, thyme and oregano in your diet to lower dysbiosis, a harmful imbalance of bacteria. Berberine supplements are also effective.
Saliva controls the pH, or the acid-base balance, in your mouth by keeping the amount of calcium and phosphate at the right levels to build and repair your teeth, a process called mineralization. Calcium and phosphate also make the pH more basic, to avoid acid levels which could damage your teeth.
Your saliva contains many helpful enzymes and proteins:
- Lysozyme defends you from bacteria by breaking down their cell walls. Enzymes are worker proteins that catalyze reactions, or change molecules in the body by acting on them.
- Lactoperoxidase enzymes are antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic. They help prevent cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease.
- Lactoferrin is a protein found in saliva, as well as breastmilk, that steals nutrients from bacteria as a way of starving them out.
- Immunoglobulins that bind up and eliminate bad stuff like pathogens or foreign food molecules that might be harmful. The immune defenses in the saliva are immunoglobulins A, G and M (IgA, IgG, and IgM for short). They are also helpful for preventing and fighting coronavirus infections.
- Proline-rich glycoproteins (sugar-protein molecules) help bacteria anchor to teeth.
- Additional elements in saliva clean your mouth, provide nutrition to bacteria and help them attach to your teeth. Saliva also washes some bacteria away to be swallowed.
Best Oral Health Books and Videos
For further in-depth study of the mouth, check out:
- Heal Your Oral Microbiome ($7) by Cass Nelson-Dooley
- The Dental Diet ($12.49) by Steven Lin
- HealthFirst Consulting Docuseries ($194) (video series)
Setting Your Health Baseline: Speech Testing Analytics
One last item of interest for measuring your health. Companies have created voice-recognition software apps which can detect early health deterioration. These reside on your phone or at-home devices and listen for impairments in your speech over time. Examples include:
This concludes today’s article. As your reward for reading, here are 20 Funny Dentist Jokes, although only ~8 are actually funny. The next time you have a cavity problem, book your appointment for tooth-hurty in the afternoon.
…or see this video from a championship NBA head coach on a new way to brush your teeth…