This is Part 3 of a 4 part series about everything to do with oral health.
May 14th, 2021
How to Nourish Your Oral Microbiome
Definition - the microorganisms in a particular environment (including the body or a part of the body).
The human microbiome consists of a core microbiome and a variable microbiome. The core microbiome is common to all the individuals, but the variable microbiome is unique to individuals depending on their lifestyle and physiological differences.
The oral cavity has two types of surfaces on which bacteria can colonize: the hard and the soft tissues of teeth and the oral mucosa, respectively. The surfaces of the oral cavity are coated with a plethora of bacteria; we call this the bacterial biofilm.
The oral cavity is an ideal environment for the growth of microorganisms. The temperature in our mouth is an average of 37°C, which provide bacteria a stable environment to survive. Our saliva also has a stable pH of 6.5–7, the favorable pH for most species of bacteria. Thus, our mouth keeps bacteria hydrated and also serves as a medium for the transportation of nutrients (food) to microorganisms and our body.
Our oral microbiome is crucial to health as it can cause both oral and systemic diseases. As mentioned in my previous post, studies suggest that when the finely-tuned equilibrium of the oral ecosystem is disrupted, it allows disease-promoting bacteria to manifest and cause conditions such as caries (cavities), gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease).
Here are 5 tips to promote a healthy oral microbiome:
1) Remove products that can kill your microbiome.
We now know that there are good (beneficial) bacteria as well as bad bacteria. While your Listerine mouthwash may kill the bacteria that's causing your bad breath, it's also killing the other beneficial microorganisms which form the biofilm in your mouth. It's akin to taking oral antibiotics, which destroys the bad (and unfortunately the good) bacteria as well. While antibiotics are often necessary for infection, it's always important to consider whether there is an underlying cause for bad breath (halitosis) and if there are other ways to manage this.
Ingredients in your oral care products to be especially mindful of include:
While researching this topic, other sites also included ingredients such as carrageenan, propylene glycol, and even sodium fluoride (due to the risk of too much fluoride which can accumulate in the teeth and bones).
I would also be mindful of the following ingredients in your oral care products as well:
2) Be mindful of what you eat!
We know that acidic foods leach calcium out of the teeth; thus, we should aim to incorporate a diet full of alkalizing foods rich in minerals and anti-oxidants. Remember, our mouth is a mirror for our body. A way of eating that is healthy for our body (e.g. whole foods, plant-based, fermented foods, being mindful of sugar consumption) is also healthy for our oral health. Drink lots of water (check out my previous post on fluoridated drinking water) and be cognizant of the water that you use to prepare your food.
3) Don't forget to brush your teeth and floss!
Brush your teeth at least twice a day (bonus if you can sneak in a brush after a sweet snack or during lunch). Slow down when brushing your teeth and use proper technique (correct angle, getting the gum line, up and down motion, brushing the tongue, gentle motions!) and focus on each tooth. Most people brush their teeth for less than a minute, which is not enough time to brush 28-32 teeth (that's like one to two seconds a tooth!). Remember to change your brush head every 3 months! Floss daily.
4) Keep those dental appointments!
Despite all our best efforts, plaque may still accumulate and staining of the teeth can occur. It's important to have regular visits with your dental team so that they can remove the plaque, check for cavities, and assess your oral health. This is especially important if you decide to use fluoride-free dental products.
5) Oil pulling?
While not endorsed by the American Dental Association or Canadian Dental Association, oil pulling (known as Kavala graha or Gandoosha) is an ancient ayurvedic practice for oral hygiene. Typically, it involves taking a comfortable amount of oil/medicated oil in a person's mouth and holding/swishing it for a certain amount of time (e.g. 20-30 minutes). When the oil turns thin and milky white, the individual spits it out.
Asokan et al., found that oil pulling therapy with sesame oil was equally effective as chlorhexidine in decreasing plaque induced gingivitis. A recent systematic review suggests that oil pulling with coconut oil may have a beneficial effect on improving oral health and dental hygiene and that oil pulling with coconut oil could be used as a adjunct to normal preventative regimes to improve oral health and dental hygiene although further studies are needed to determine the level of effectiveness.
Links and Citations:
Oral Microbiome: Unveiling The Fundamentals
Everything You Should Know About Your Oral Microbiome – And How to Clean It Up
The oral microbiome – an update for oral healthcare professionals
Oral microbiota: A new view of body health
Deo PN, Deshmukh R. Oral microbiome: Unveiling the fundamentals. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2019;23(1):122-128. doi:10.4103/jomfp.JOMFP_304_18
Leoty-Okombi S, Gillaizeau F, Leuillet S, Douillard B, Le Fresne-Languille S, Carton T, De Martino A, Moussou P, Bonnaud-Rosaye C, André V. Effect of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Applied as a Patch on Human Skin Physiology and Its Microbiota. Cosmetics. 2021; 8(1):6. https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics8010006
Sanidad KZ, Xiao H, Zhang G. Triclosan, a common antimicrobial ingredient, on gut microbiota and gut health. Gut Microbes. 2019;10(3):434-437. doi:10.1080/19490976.2018.1546521
Sharma N, Bhatia S, Sodhi AS, Batra N. Oral microbiome and health. AIMS Microbiol. 2018 Jan 12;4(1):42-66. doi: 10.3934/microbiol.2018.1.42. PMID: 31294203; PMCID: PMC6605021.
Shanbhag VK. Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene - A review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016;7(1):106-109. Published 2016 Jun 6. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.05.004
Woolley J, Gibbons T, Patel K, Sacco R. The effect of oil pulling with coconut oil to improve dental hygiene and oral health: A systematic review. Heliyon. 2020;6(8):e04789. Published 2020 Aug 27. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e04789