How To Biohack Your Oral Microbiome
You’ve probably heard about microbiomes in terms of gut health, but they don’t stop there. Your mouth is also home to these living communities of bacteria, viruses, and fungi known as the microbiome. Microbiomes are not just important for healthy teeth and gums. They are also critical in maintaining our overall health.
If your oral microbiome becomes overrun with harmful bacteria— also known as dysbiosis— you can experience a variety of oral diseases and conditions such as gum disease, cavities, and bad breath (halitosis). Since the mouth is the primary point of entry to the body it is important to keep a balance of healthy bacteria to help fight off harmful bacteria. Research has shown poor oral health to be associated with several different health conditions and diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Let’s take a deeper look at how the oral microbiome is connected to the rest of the body and learn a few ways you can biohack your oral microbiome to ensure optimal health.
What Is The Oral Microbiome?
Your mouth is home to trillions of living microbes and even houses the second-largest (and most diverse) microbial community in the body. The oral cavity alone is home to more than 700 unique species of bacteria with an average of 100 unique species per person.
These microorganisms are found on your tongue, inside your cheeks, on your teeth, and in every crevice in between. They can be either planktonic (free-swimming cells) or connected together in complex structures of microbes attached at different surfaces also known as a biofilm. Some microbes are commensal (beneficial) and critical to maintaining overall health, and some are pathogenic (harmful) and can cause disease.
The Beneficial Bacteria
Most people don’t know that food digestion starts in the mouth where certain bacteria are responsible for metabolizing the food you eat. Healthy microbes thrive and grow into niches that help to prevent pathogenic microbes from invading the mouth and causing disease. These beneficial bacteria also help create saliva. Saliva covers your teeth and acts as a barrier against harmful bacteria. Saliva also contains minerals that are essential to maintaining and restoring the integrity of your teeth.
Beneficial oral bacteria also provide health benefits beyond your mouth. Certain specialties help promote cardiovascular and metabolic regulation. Some species are known to improve cognitive function. These bacteria reduce nitrate into nitric oxide which is a powerful vasodilator molecule that regulates your blood pressure. By eating foods high in nitrate like beets, and leafy greens (kale, arugula, and spinach) you can reap these benefits.
It is imperative to maintain the balance in your oral microbiome. Avoid overusing products that could potentially eradicate commensal bacteria, such as antibiotics or alcohol-based mouthwashes to allow your microbiome to repopulate its commensal bacteria. Otherwise, pathogenic bacteria will take over leaving you susceptible to disease.
The Mouth Is The Gateway To The Body
Your oral microbiome is the first line of defense against foreign pathogens and it is also often the first point of entry for severe infection. Research shows that pathogenic bacteria that cause inflammation in the mouth can actually cause inflammation in other parts of the body. Inflamed gums also cut more easily leaving your body more susceptible to bacteria entering your bloodstream.
Creating a proper oral hygiene routine, eating a well-balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will aid in an overall healthy oral microbiome, ultimately leading to less risk of chronic diseases. Take care of your mouth to live a healthy life.
Tips To Create A Healthy Oral Microbiome
Follow these tips to ensure a healthy oral microbiome and a healthier life:
Stay away from alcohol-based mouthwashes: They kill off both good and bad bacteria and have been associated with high blood pressure.
Brush and floss your teeth regularly: Wait at least 30 minutes after eating to brush your teeth because when you eat your mouth becomes acidic and with the combination of toothpaste you can cause damage to your enamel.
Use a tongue scraper: Bacteria that cause bad breath like to live on your tongue. Utilize a tongue scraper to disrupt the biofilm of these pathogens.
Stay hydrated: Water increases saliva production which helps wash away food particles that harmful bacteria can live on.
Feed your good bacteria: High-fiber fruits and vegetables, foods with high levels of arginine or vitamin K2, and high pH alkalizing vegetables can help remineralize your teeth, reduce plaque buildup, and neutralize acid which helps promote oral health. The nitrate in these foods can also help boost the helpful bacteria that create nitric acid which may reduce your blood pressure.
Avoid refined carbs, sugars, and acidic drinks and foods: The bacteria that cause cavities feed off of sugar and then release an acid that destroys your enamel. These bacteria are also known to thrive in acidic environments. It’s okay to eat these foods and drinks in small doses and then wash them down with water to ensure you wash away the bacteria.
Take an oral probiotic: Oral probiotics have been known to reduce halitosis.
Ultimately be sure to treat your mouth with the respect it deserves so it can help you fight off infections and live a healthier (and bad-breath-free) life.