If you were to stand in front of a mirror and look deep inside your mouth, you might see some interesting things. But what you wouldn’t see are the 800 or so different types of bacteria that call your mouth home.
In fact, it’s the most diverse microbial population in your body. Yep, your mouth has more kinds of bacteria than your gut! Why? Your mouth is dark and moist, has a variety of surface textures, and is constantly fed with nutrients.
In other words, it’s the perfect breeding ground.
If you’re icked out by that, thinking all microbes are the “bad guys,” think again. In our attempt to search and destroy all bacteria on our bodies, in our bodies, and in our homes, we’ve virtually ignored how beneficial so many microbes really are. Like the Rebel Alliance, they stand vigilant in an attempt to keep us healthy. And while most microbiome studies currently focus on gut flora, we might do well to remember, the mouth is actually the start of our gastrointestinal tract.
By way of digestion, your mouth is connected to your gut. That’s one reason why maintaining a diverse population of helpful bacteria in your mouth helps maintain whole body health. Research on the relationship between chronic inflammatory diseases and gum disease already proves this.
Helpful and harmful bacteria are always in relationship with each other. Like any relationship – nothing personal here – coexisting isn’t always easy. And as part of a complex ecosystem, your beneficial oral flora must not only forge relationships with each other. If they’re to survive and hold down the health fort, they must also establish relationships with your gut, skin, and urogenital tract bacteria, too.
Providing your body with probiotics – living, beneficial microbes – helps those invisible troopers bloom with healthy oral flora. In a balanced relationship with other constituents, they work as a natural defense system in your body.
The most common – and most commonly studied – strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Both are considered part of the normal human microbiota. They’re even present in breast milk.
But just because you’ve been weaned doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of these well-studied probiotics and hundreds of others. For one, you can eat foods that contain them. These include
- Fermented pickles.
- Raw cheese.
- Fermented cod liver oil.
- Raw apple cider vinegar.
There are also a variety of supplements available to support a healthy balance of oral flora. A good biological dentist or naturopathic physician can recommend products best suited to your individual needs.
- Improved gingival health.
- Decreased gum bleeding.
- Decreased inflammatory markers in saliva.
- Decreased pocket depth in high risk groups such as smokers.
- Reduced oral candida (yeast) counts in some populations.
- Reduced counts of cavity-causing bacteria in saliva.
- Reduced halitosis (bad breath).
How will YOU up your intake of probiotics to help keep both mouth and body at their healthiest?
Image by Pietro Garrone