Right now, you are swallowing the creepy, crawly throngs of microbes that live in your mouth. Ewwww! I know -- it sounds totally disgusting, but the hundreds of micro-organisms inhabiting your mouth actually play an important (and far too often forgotten) part in maintaining healthy teeth and a robust digestive system. It is even estimated that 90% of the population have some degree of gum disease or tooth decay caused by an imbalance of oral flora- and most people don’t even know it! Thus, while saliva-bathed bacteria colonies may not rank among your favorite topics of discussion, it’s time for the busy little microorganisms residing in your mouth to get some of the attention they deserve.
What's Living in Your Mouth?
Distracted by the endless crusade of gut-healing probiotic supplements marching onto store shelves, it seems we have completely forgotten that the mouth is also home to hard-working organisms that are essential to health. Think of the mouth as a window to your body: when you look inside your mouth (which is after all, the beginning of your digestive system) you are seeing a representation of the condition of your entire intestinal tract!
In essence, your mouth is a mini-ecosystem. It is like a tropical rainforest teaming with life- bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. With a steady climate of 95 degrees and 100% humidity, certain microorganisms thrive, forming communities that live on our teeth, gums, tongue, etc. Indeed, your mouth is an ideal breeding ground for germs! In fact, in one mouth, the number of bacteria can easily exceed the number of people living on earth (over 7 billion). 1
Generally, the microbe communities of the mouth are not a problem. In fact a bustling oral flora is an integral part of having robust digestive and immune systems. Most of the organisms that reside in the mouth are harmless, and some are even quite helpful- they support the breakdown of food, keep those pearly whites sparkling and strong, and work to prevent serious infection and disease. Healthy colonies of micro-organisms in the mouth help to crowd out the enemy viruses, fungi and bacteria that we are often exposed to in our environments and through the foods we eat. As outrageous as it may seem, the thriving armies of good organisms in the mouth are absolutely vital to the health of the entire body. 2
Maintaining a Safe Oral Environment
Generally, the microbe communities of the mouth are not a problem. However, the oral microbiome is also not invincible, and can be taken over by some not-so-friendly leaders if not carefully cared for. The oral environment is strongly influenced by factors such as our diet, lifestyle, health status, and is quite easily disrupted. Stress can disturb our immune system, which in turn affects the microbes in our mouth. Hormone levels also have an impact, as they encourage the growth of specific organisms over others. Diet has probably the greatest impact, with sugar and other carbohydrates acting like fertilizer for rapidly proliferating yeasts and hungry bacteria. When the environment of the mouth is rattled by any one of these factors, nasty pathogens such as E. coli, Streptococcus, Candida or H. pylori can more easily become overgrown, causing massive systemic problems.
Recent scientific findings, as well as the ancient wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine, have confirmed a direct link between oral health and chronic illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. A disbioisis of the flora in the mouth is possibly even more critical than widely publicized probiotic deficits in the gut. Thus, although paid little attention in our modern discussion of health, maintaining appropriate micro-communities in the mouth is one of the very first steps in preventing and reversing disease. There are many factors consider, but below are a few quick guidelines to get you started on balancing the microbiome of the mouth.
1. Consume Nutrient Dense Foods
Certain foods are more likely to disrupt flora. Sweeteners, carbohydrates and processed foods are particularly difficult as they promote the growth of dangerous sugar-hungry yeasts and bacteria. Follow these tips on how to transition to a more traditional diet.
2. Drink Filtered Water
Contrary to what public health officials may lead us to believe, drinking water additives such as fluoride and chlorine have been found to actually cause harm to the microbe communities of the mouth. Check out the Water Resource Center to learn more.
3. Supplement with Fermented Cod Liver Oil & High Vitamin Butter Oil
The unique synergy of vitamins A, D and K2 found in fermented cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil is powerful in fighting off cavitation. Dr. Weston A Price observed tremendous reversals of tooth decay in the patients he treated with this superfood, and many modern biological dentists have found the same. You can discover more about these strategies in the book Nutrition & Phsyical Degeneration or Cure Tooth Decay.
4. Try Oil Pulling
This ancient Ayurvedic technique involves swishing oil around in the mouth to dislodge unhealthy organisms and promote the growth of more health varieties. Learn more in my video on how to start oil pulling, or check out Oil Pulling Therapy, by Naturopathic Physician Bruce Fife.
5. Make Your Own Toothpaste
Did you know that some toothpastes contain dyes, abrasives, sweeteners and other chemicals hazardous chemicals? The swallow warning on toothpaste labels is not a joke! Check out our recipe for making your own toothpaste: DIY Toothsoap Recipe Using Cold Pressed Coconut Oil.
6. Invest in Oral Irrigation
It might be on the pricier side, but hydromagnetic oral irrigation systems can be very helpful in preventing the build-up of tartar and unwanted pathogens. Using hydromagneitics, certain oral irrigators (I like the HydroFloss system) can actually reverse the polarity of the ions in the water at the molecular level to inhibits certain bacteria's ability to attach to the tooth's surface and reach a critical mass.