The oral health and body connection- along with my favorite dentists
The body is one large holistic, interdependent, beautiful machine. Just like there is a gut-brain connection, the mouth-body connection is one that is really misunderstood and overlooked.
Now that we understand that different parts of the body are connected and can have a knock-on impact in terms of health, exploring the mouth becomes even more fascinating.
Let’s start with the gums.
They’re a barrier to the body, and the stronger the gums, the more resistance they will put up to any pathogens trying to enter the mouth.
When there is any level of inflammation or infection in the mouth, the strength of the barrier breaks down, weakening the body’s defenses and often triggering issues, small-scale and wide-scale, as well as leading to disease and dysfunction in the long haul - and often showing up somewhere else in the body.
As well as our gums acting as a barrier, it’s also important to understand that, like our microbiome plays host to billions, if not trillions of microscopic microorganisms (that in an ideal world are balanced and working in symbiosis with the rest of our body), our mouth is no different.
Just like our gut, our mouths are home to billions of microscopic microorganisms, and research is starting to show that these bacteria actually hold power to influence the health of other parts of our body - such as the health of our heart, our brain, and all of our vital health organs. Yes, really!
How can something happening in the mouth have an impact on an organ, though?
Good question. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology shows that people who have poor periodontal health (think a lack of homeostasis in the mouth, inflammation of the gums, or immune balance in the mouth, etc.) may be at a higher risk of developing respiratory infections such as acute bronchitis, pneumonia or even Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - suggesting that the connection between the mouth and the lungs is real.
How can that even happen?
The researchers suspect that a weak barrier in the body may expose lung tissue to more oral pathogens (which get in through the mouth) could then promote or exacerbate respiratory disease (depending on the function of your immune system). It makes sense when you think of the mouth as being a barrier to entry from pathogens living outside the body.
And what about the brain? Same thing?
Yes. It’s not just your respiratory system that might be impacted by a mouth-body barrier that is malfunctioning or weak.
Another study completed by the University of Central Lancashire in the UK suggested that harmful oral bacteria could prompt and provoke physiological changes in the brain that can promote the development of dementia. Crazy!
It is thought that the high levels of harmful bacteria (that should be in balance but ultimately are out of whack) can cause the body to launch an inflammatory immune response that ultimately doesn’t need to happen and has a cascade of negative effects.
This unnecessary and overactive immune reaction is thought to cause the body to release chemicals that kill neurons over time and are likely to harm the brain and its structure.
A breakdown in brain structure = a breakdown in brain function.
And the heart? Same thing?
Yes. The Mayo Clinic has gone one step further and has confirmed that their research shows that people are at a greater risk of developing heart disease, artery issues, and even strokes if their mouths harbor harmful bacterial strains - or have a mouth that has an imbalance of these strains.
Again, the researchers suspect that problems may start to occur when these harmful oral bacteria move away from the mouth and out into the bloodstream and then into other parts of the body.
Endocarditis is an example - an infection of the inner lining of the heart - that has been shown to develop when bacteria from other areas of your body spread through the bloodstream and attach to the heart. This isn’t too dissimilar to the way that parasites can travel around the body and live in different systems in the body - just with bacteria instead.
It sounds crazy, but there is now strong evidence that working on your oral hygiene can reduce your risk of heart disease, respiratory disease, and even kidney disease.
Yes, this doesn’t stop there. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute also started to explore the connection between historic gum disease and pancreatic cancer - and they found that those with a history of gum disease had a 64 % greater risk of pancreatic cancer in comparison to people with no history of gum disease.
You can reduce your risk of diseases related to the pancreas by not smoking, keeping an active lifestyle (and aiming to keep your body at a healthy weight), getting plenty of exercise, and practicing good oral hygiene.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to tell your dentist (whether you use a mainstream traditional dentist or a holistic dentist), so they can design a personalized treatment plan for you that can keep you extra safe against oral health problems.
So, the takeaways?
The connection between your mouth and overall health and wellbeing is heavily connected and really can’t be ignored. When you understand it, it changes the way you look at your daily oral routine too.
Oral health is a window into your overall health (for more information, head to this awesome study here).
The most important thing to understand here is that your mouth is full of bacteria (mostly harmless and normal), but your mouth is also the entry point to the rest of your body - and some of these more harmful bacteria, particularly when they are out of balance, can cause imbalances and disease in the wider body.
Your body’s natural balance and defenses + good oral health care (think daily brushing twice a day for 2 minutes at a time, a non-toxic toothpaste - we love the Dentalcidin™ Toothpaste, a soft-bristled brush, and flossing) is normally enough to keep bacteria, and disease under control.
However, if things start to spiral and tooth decay or gum disease starts, it is a sign that you really need to get this under control before it starts to have knock-on impacts on other areas of the business. At the first sign, make sure you make an appointment with a dental provider - ideally a holistic dentist that understands and specializes in this connection between the mouth, oral cavity, and wider body.
It’s also really important to replace your toothbrush every 3 / 4 months (or the head if you are using an electric toothbrush), avoid smoking at all costs, monitor your sugar intake, and most of all? Spread the message.
The mouth-body connection is real, overlooked, and very, very important to our future of health and wellbeing.
Jena’s favorite dentists
Finding a dentist that you really connect with and trust in your local area is key.
If you’re based in LA, the Center for Holistic Dentistry in Santa Monica is one of Jena’s favorites. They do Ozone trays which means that they create customized trays for your mouth (reusable for the next time that you go back too) which then connect to a machine that delivers ozone directly to your gums and teeth for 10 - 12 minutes. You then repeat for the lower tray. The whole procedure takes about 30 minutes.
Ozone is a huge part of advanced holistic dentistry and is part of holistic dentists committing to help you enjoy optimal oral health and wellness using safe, natural products, techniques, and therapies.
Ozone therapy is a natural substance that can often take the place of more damaging and toxic chemicals, and ozone is amazing because it:
- Kills infectious pathogens and microorganisms (like oral bacteria and fungi);
- Improves the flow of blood in the mouth;
- Supports and amplifies the immune response; and
- Supports healing and reduces the overall risk of all and any post-surgical infections.
Jena also loves Valerie Kanter- a functional endodontist in Westwood - another awesome choice for a great holistic dentist who might be able to save a root canal as well as Dr Grigory Vershinin from Beverly Hills Bio Dental. He is known to be incredibly gentle when extracting teeth. His process involves PRP to ensure a pulled tooth heals faster and he uses zirconia implants that don't contain metal.
For more info on the mind-mouth connection and the importance of holistic dentistry, head to Episode #114 of the NATEURIOUS podcast, Where Jena Talks to Dr. Gerry Smith On Integrating Natural And Conventional Medicine To Prioritize Patient Health.
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.