Explore Your Oral Microbiome: Unveiling Its Significance in Health

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the importance of the gut microbiome. We have billions of bacteria in our digestive tract that are vital to our health. The bacteria in our intestinal tract have been linked to mental health, weight gain and chronic disease, to name a few. Many treatments for gut health focus on working with/against these microbes. There has been a lot of talk about how we look after this bacteria. For example, prebiotic foods (to feed the bacteria) and probiotic foods (to seed the bacteria). But when discussing the importance of looking after these bacteria, we often forget about the start of the digestive tract, the mouth. Many people spend little time thinking about their oral microbiome, let alone its role in their health. Let me explain…

The mouth is home to the second most diverse microbial community in the body.

It hosts over 700 species of bacteria colonising the tongue, hard palate, teeth, tonsils, gums and below gums. The membrane that lines the oral cavity can be very porous, meaning that when damaged, microbes can easily penetrate this barrier and enter the bloodstream. Inflammation and infection in the mouth easily damage this lining and can trigger an immune response. In the Human Microbiome Project, they found microbes found in the mouth also being found in the colon. There are many links between oral and general health; the role of the oral microbiome is just one example. It is a reminder that when addressing gut issues (and issues related to the gut), we also need to consider the mouth’s health.

Are you feeding your friends or foes?

The bacteria species in the mouth have their protective biofilm, for example, plaque. When you visit the dentist, this is the very thing they are working to remove from the teeth and gums. By removing the plaque, we can disrupt these communities and control the bacteria in the mouth. Additionally, brushing and flossing are essential in looking after these bacterial communities.

Another essential element in managing the bacteria in the mouth is the diet. The food we eat will feed our friends or our foes. Dentists have spoken for a long time about the role of sugar in causing cavities. We now know that sugar affects the bacteria in the mouth, which then causes an imbalance and changes the acid/base balance. The change in this balance contributes to the development of cavities. We also know that a high-sugar diet causes an imbalance further down the small intestine and colon digestive tract. This is just one example where diet affects the balance of bacteria in our body.

This is just an introduction to the oral microbiome; I go into more detail about this topic in several of my talks. I wanted to write this post as a reminder of oral health’s role in general health. This is a topic I will be expanding on in the future.