Did you know there’s a strong link between your oral and gut health… and in turn, your overall health? Think of the GI tract as one, continuous connection throughout your body, with your mouth serving as the main entrance point. Just like the gut microbiome, there are important bacteria in your mouth (which harbors over 700 different species) that not only help to keep your teeth healthy, but also serve as the first line of defense for your body. In fact, a 2019 study published in the Journal of Oral Microbiology showed that gut microbiome balance starts in the mouth! The delicate ecosystem and interplay of the bacteria between our mouth and our gut (and our gut to our mouth) helps to prevent disease. Therefore, a balanced gut-oral microbiome axis is critical to our overall health and wellbeing.
Oral bacteria can spread throughout the body and has been associated with a variety of systemic diseases (including Alzheimer’s, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes), as well as gut specific diseases, including colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and pancreatic and liver cancers. To further study the link between disease and oral-gut transmission, a 2019 study from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory examined samples from colorectal cancer patients. Compared with healthy individuals, patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer had higher transmission rates of bacteria from the oral cavity to the gut. While scientists are still unsure as to why this is, these results support a clear link between the oral and gut microbiome.
Contrary to common dental practice, the oral hygiene goal isn’t to kill off all the germs in your mouth with harsh products like alcohol-based mouthwash or over-exposure to fluoride. Simply removing microbes from our mouth isn’t the answer! The key to improving our oral microbiome is actually to stopthe indiscriminate killing of microbes in our mouth and instead, cultivate a healthy oral microbiome through dental hygiene practices that create bacterial balance. Of course, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is also critical.
Here are some tips for improving your oral hygiene to help you maintain a balanced oral-gut microbiome axis:
1. Brush twice daily with non-fluoridated toothpaste
2. Floss after each meal and limit in between meal snacking
3. Visit your dentist on a regular basis
4. Refrain from tobacco products
5. Eat a healthy diet comprised of fresh veggies, fruits, and other whole, plant-based foods
6. Increase your intake of nutrients that cultivate oral health – vitamin C, CoQ10 (found in broccoli, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, and sesame seeds), and chlorophyll-containing vegetables
So while brushing and flossing throughout the day and maintaining a healthy diet are critical, it’s also important to stay away from those harsh oral antibacterial ingredients. Remember, oral health equals gut health!