Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC is a clinician, Naturopathic Practitioner, clinical researcher, author, and adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport. His work has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals and he speaks at conferences around the globe.
Oftentimes in functional medicine, we address gut health and hormones to get to the root of an issue. But what about oral health? We are now learning that the health of your mouth can be a major indicator and predictor of disease and chronic health issues.
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Is Your Mouth Making You Sick?
Oftentimes in functional medicine, we address gut health and hormones to get to the root of an issue. But what about oral health?
We are now learning that the health of your mouth can be a major indicator and predictor of disease and chronic health issues.
Oral health can play a major role in overall health.
Think of your mouth as the frame for the rest of the body. You can tell a lot about a person’s health by looking in their mouth.
There is a huge subset of people today with sleep disordered breathing, and it’s not just the overweight, snoring male. Teeth grinding is a major sign of sleep-disordered breathing. Also known as bruxism, grinding your teeth while you sleep is your body’s way of opening up your airway properly.
There is also a condition called upper airway resistance syndrome. This happens when you’re sleeping but you’re actually in a state of sympathetic activation because your body thinks it’s choking because your airways aren’t open properly.
When this occurs, you never achieve deep, REM sleep. When your sympathetic nervous system is activated, that can contribute to digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues.
You’re probably aware that the sympathetic mode of your nervous system is your body’s fight or flight response that contributes to chronic stress. It’s critical to be in your parasympathetic, or rest and digest, state as often as possible, especially when you’re sleeping.
Having healthy sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health.
What can you do if you have sleep-disordered breathing?
You can train your body to breathe better. You are designed to breathe through your nose. If you don’t breathe through your nose, you get a much lower percentage of oxygen, which depletes your body of this essential nutrient.
You can use myofascial therapy to train your tongue to sit at the roof of your mouth to help open up the airways. To learn more, visit drstevenlin.com. Also talk to your dentist about this or find a dentist who also specializes in sleep.
If you are experiencing unresolved fatigued, then it may be worth evaluating the possibility of a sleep related breathing disorder. If you’ve cleaned up your diet and healed your gut, you may start focusing on your breathing.
When you retrain your body to breathe properly, you can expect to see your energy drastically improve and other symptoms disappear.
What other observations in the mouth can help improve health?
Diseases in the mouth are linked to a deficiency in fat-soluble vitamins. Many people are deficient in vitamin D, but your body also needs vitamins A and K2, so all of the fat-soluble vitamins can work together.
Making sure you’re eating a nutrient-dense diet with lots of healthy fats can provide your body with the fat-soluble vitamins it needs. Additionally, supplementing with vitamin D maybe necessary, especially if you’re not getting enough exposure to the sun.
What about the oral microbiome?
Oral dysbiosis likely happens first before gut dysbiosis. Microbes are performing important jobs in your body. Oral bacteria build plaque (biofilms) on the gums to protect themselves. This is not necessarily a bad thing when it’s good bacteria and not pathogenic. These good bacteria also transfer minerals in your mouth. They use calcium to build plaque, and they transfer it with your teeth.
Tooth decay is related to a lack of minerals, specifically calcium. Excess sugar intake cause dysbiosis in the mouth, the bacteria then don’t have the calcium they need and they go into the teeth to get it. This is what causes decay.
Oral disease is a case of dysbiosis in the mouth, and it can transfer to the gut.
The best way to support a healthy oral microbiome is with healthy food. Diet is the number 1 defense tool. If you eat the right way, you won’t get dental disease.
You still need to brush and floss twice daily. However, stay away from conventional mouthwash because it can strip the oral microbiome. Probiotics for oral health can be helpful as well.
If you have receding gum lines, that is a result of dysbiosis and pathogens taking over. Anyone with gum disease should take a probiotic and focus on feeding the good bacteria. Additionally, make sure you’re taking in adequate levels of vitamin D and other fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin deficiency and gum disease are very closely connected.
Just like every other part of the body, your mouth is strongly connected to your gut. When there are gut imbalances, oral health may suffer and vice versa.
Those who have thyroid autoimmunity also have a 30% chance of having antibodies to parietal cells in your stomach that produce stomach acid. There are some oral signs and symptoms that indicate you may have this anti-parietal cell autoimmunity, which damages your parietal cells and reduces your ability to produce hydrochloric acid.
Some symptoms include dry mouth and lesions on the tongue. This is a gut issue that manifests as an oral problem. Studies have shown that vitamin B12 injections can actually arrest the autoimmunity in the stomach.
A follow up study was also published that showed only B12 injections worked effectively. Oral B12 did not have the same effect. Weekly injections were performed until levels were normal, then monthly injections were continued for maintenance.
Your oral microbiome as a predictor
What we know about the oral microbiome is a lot less than what we know about the gut microbiome. There is a lot on the horizon in the area of oral health and using the oral microbiome as a predictor of disease. At this point we don’t entirely know how the oral microbiome translates to the gut microbiome, but we do know it is all connected.
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