Maybe you’ve heard of the microbiome. Seems everyone is talking about how important it is to nurture the colony of bacteria that lives in your gut. And for good reason — gut health has been linked to overall health time and time again…but did you know there’s a microbiome that lives in your mouth, too?
That’s right. A whole host of microscopic beings live in your mouth. And depending on how healthy the balance is between the good bacteria (aka the probiotics) and the bad bacteria (otherwise known as the pathogens) — you may be more likely to develop disease throughout the rest of your body.
Turns out that even though we’ve been taught to treat your mouth as a separate part of your body, with a separate treatment plan…that the health of your oral microbiome is just as important as the health of your gut microbiome when it comes to overall health.
What Is The Oral Microbiome?
There are a whole lot of bacteria that live in your mouth — on your tongue, your teeth, your gums, and your tonsils. Scientists have found more than one thousand species of bacteria comprise this oral microbiome.
These oral microbiome bacteria form a kind of colony that works the same way your gut microbiome does. Each of the members of the colony performs certain tasks. The “healthy” bacteria serve to keep the “unhealthy” pathogens in check.
There’s also evidence that suggests the oral microbiome is a source of bacteria for the gut microbiome. That means that if the health of your body begins in your gut, and the health of your gut begins in your mouth — the health of your body begins in your mouth.
The problem is, we’ve been taught that all of our dental problems stem from an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. So we’ve spent decades bombarding all the bacteria in our mouths with antibacterial treatments that kill off the good guys and the bad guys.
Oral Microbiome And Disease
So, in our attempts to put a stop to cavities and gum disease, we’ve been compromising the health of our entire bodies.
And the science here is pretty clear: there’s a link between the health of your mouth and heart disease. Studies show the same bacteria in the mouth is present in the hearts of patients with coronary disease.
There’s also evidence that suggests the relationship between oral health and disease is a two-way street. Just as the microbiome affects health, health problems like diabetes can also produce changes to the oral microbiome that indicate gum disease.
How Do You Keep The Oral Microbiome Healthy?
So, how exactly do you keep up the health of your oral microbiome? How do you keep *some* of the bacteria in your mouth without also ending up with a mouth full of cavities and gingivitis?
Here are a few of my suggestions:
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
This may seem obvious, but a healthy diet that’s full of fruits and vegetables is a great place to start when trying to keep your mouth (and your entire body!) healthy. The more whole foods that you eat, the less sugar and processed foods will be sitting in your teeth and gums, breeding those pathogenic bacteria that cause all of the problems for your choppers.
- Try oil pulling.
Instead of attacking your entire mouth with a strong mouthwash, try rinsing with oil instead. Long used in Ayurvedic medicine, oil pulling is the practice of swishing oil around your mouth and then spitting it out. Especially when you use a gentle antibiotic oil like coconut oil, you can help to get rid of the bad bacteria you don’t want and encourage the bacteria you do want.
- Don’t forget to clean your tongue.
In Ayurvedic medicine, the tongue is often considered a doctor’s diagnostic tool. One look at a patients’ tongue and an Ayurvedic practitioner can determine what’s going on in the body. They say the tongue is where “ama” or disease lives…so that’s why tongue scraping is a part of a healthy morning routine. Studies suggest that tongue cleaning helps to reduce both plaques on the teeth and bad breath.
- Actually go to the dentist twice a year.
Don’t skip out on those bi-annual cleanings. They really do help to reduce the number of bad bacteria in your mouth and can help you put a stop to issues before they get too serious.
I hope this inspires you to keep your mouth at the top of your mind when it comes to your health! It’s not hard to cultivate a healthy oral microbiome, and doing so can mean a healthier body.
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