The Oral/Gut Connection

Did you know the mouth is a mirror of one’s overall health and a gateway to the rest of the body? This especially holds true in regard to the relationship between your oral and gut microbiome. What happens in the mouth affects your gut and vice versa! And it all begins at birth.

According to leading researcher Purnima Kumar, Ph.D., a professor of periodontology at Ohio State University, gum disease and cavities are more prevalent in someone if their mother had gum disease or smoked while pregnant. This leads to the accumulation of bad pathogens in the mouth starting at an early age. These pathogens can hitch a ride through the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body including the gut.

On the flip side, toxins, bacteria, and undigested food particles can actually flow freely through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream triggering an inflammatory cascade that impacts one’s oral health. One prime example of this is gingivitis, inflammation of the gums. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, also known as “gum disease,” which can lead to a host of negative effects including bad breath, receding gums, chronic root sensitivity, cavities, and tooth loss.There is no cure for periodontitis, but it CAN be treated and managed by a trained dental professional.

So what can I do now to promote a healthy microbiome of the mouth and gut? The tongue is often forgotten, but it harbors countless bacteria and needs just as much attention as the teeth and gums do. If you have not already, start using a tongue scraper and rinsing with an alcohol-free mouth rinse in addition to daily brushing and flossing. Another suggestion is to consume foods that are anti-inflammatory and rich in fiber. Consider taking both oral and gut-specific probiotic supplements. Early research in probiotics formulated for the oral microbiome is very promising, but ensure you are getting a quality product. The bacterial strains to look for include Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Streptococcus salivarius strains K2 and M18.

If you have not been paying attention to your gut or oral health as much as you probably should, I am here to tell you it is never too late! Even if you no longer have teeth, your gut can still be cared for! Start small and make a change today. Your body will thank you!

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