By now, we’ve all at least heard something about the impact our gut has on our overall health. I can personally attest that putting in the effort to heal my gut has been a huge part of my wellness journey. However, many people don’t realize the importance of the oral microbiome.
Over seven hundred species of bacteria have been identified to exist within the mouth’s delicately balanced colony. This balance of bacteria in the mouth is the second largest and most diverse biome of the body, second only to the gut. And like the other microbiomes of the body, an imbalance in the oral microbiome will lead to inflammation, illness, and disease.
While most people think of things like cavities and gum disease when it comes to mouth health and disease, an imbalanced oral microbiome can actually affect so much more.
An unhealthy oral microbiome can contribute to IBS, gut cancer, a weak immune system, heart disease, anxiety and depression, alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, PCOS and more (check out this study for more info!). As biologic dentist Gerry Curatola says, “Your mouth mirrors what is happening in your body.” Healing the body helps heal the mouth, and vice versa.
Read on for six ways to care for your oral microbiome, plus our favorite nontoxic dental products that actually work to whiten and keep you minty fresh.
featured image: stocksy
Evaluate Your Current Products
The first step to rebalancing your oral microbiome is to clean up your oral care products and remove products that might destroy the microbiome. Avoid ingredients found in common dental products like sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), sodium fluoride, triclosan, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors (often made from coal tar), propylene glycol, and diethanolamine (DEA). And go ahead and toss your alcohol-containing mouthwash, as it can strip away all that good bacteria. Using conventional mouthwashes is to the oral microbiome what antibiotics are to the gut microbiome. On rare occasions, they can knock out a particularly bad case of the overgrowth, but in general, they wipe out all of your good bacteria too.
Upgrade Your Diet
Nutrition is vital to keeping an overall balanced microbiome. Aim for a mineral rich diet that includes foods that are alkalizing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant-rich. Eat organic fruits and vegetables and naturally raised meat and eggs when possible and incorporate plenty of fermented foods. Don’t forget to drink lots of water and be sure you’re using filtered water for cooking and drinking.
Brush and Floss Regularly
Brushing and flossing are key to biofilm and oral microbiome management – especially if your diet isn’t great. Aim to brush right after waking up, before bed and after a sugary treat for extra points. Shop our favorite non-toxic toothpaste, floss and whiteners that actually work below, including my personal fave David’s toothpaste. So minty and keeps my pearly whites staying that way. The bomb.
Add Oil Pulling
If you haven’t tried oil pulling, now’s the time. It promotes microbial diversity in the mouth while decreasing inflammation, especially if you use coconut oil! And while the originally suggested 20-30 minutes a day can feel overwhelming, dentists are saying a quick 1-3 minutes in the morning is really all you need. Just remember to spit the oil into the trash, not the sink, as it can clog pipes as it re-hardens.
Try Out Tongue Scraping
The tongue is a huge part of our oral health and is often forgotten! I started tongue scraping last year after reading this article and have noticed a huge difference in how fresh my mouth feels. It’s easy, inexpensive, and a quick habit that removes the buildup of bacteria on the tongue.
Don’t Skip Your Cleanings
Even if you eat relatively clean, most people’s diets aren’t perfect. That’s where dental cleanings come in. While daily upkeep is important, your dental hygienist is able to get off the plaque buildup that you can’t that could lead to pathogenic oral bacteria. So make that appointment!