Oral Health and Disease Immunity (Podcast)
Dr. Nammy Patel from Green Dentistry talks with John Maher about the connection between oral health and disease immunity. She explains how a healthy mouth keeps your body healthy, and she outlines how an unhealthy mouth can reduce your resistance to diseases.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole body health, and author of the best selling book Age with Style: Your Guide to a Youthful Smile & Healthy Living. Today our topic is oral health and disease immunity. Welcome, Dr. Nammy.
Dr. Nammy Patel: Hi, John. Thank you for having me.
Does Oral Health Affect Disease Resistance?
John: Sure. Dr. Nammy, does oral health impact a person’s resistance to disease?
Dr. Nammy: Oral health is really important in a person’s disease resistance, mainly because it’s our microbiome. I always say that the mouth is the most important thing, because right on top is the sinus, and sinus is where we get oxygen from and where oxygen is converted into nitric oxide, which controls all of our hormones, which controls all of our immune system.
That’s number one. The second is the mouth is the beginning in the gut. If there’s good bacteria in the gut versus bad bacteria in the gut, it’s going to make a difference on how the mouth is.
We really find that patients who have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or have gut issues tend to have a lot of gum disease associated with it, as well as breathing dysfunction. I think that oral health is the number one key to having a good healthy life, and it really is a great way to prevent a lot of disease and dysfunction.
Types of Immune Responses in the Body
John: What are the different types of immune responses that we have in our body? And why does poor oral health affect them?
Dr. Nammy: Our immune system is amazing. It’s designed to protect us against all the viruses and bacteria that are out there. Anytime there’s something that’s not good, it’s going to want to fight it out. I always describe it like we have a pond and then we have a swamp. A pond has good bacteria in it. It has some bad bacteria, and that’s when our immune system is working really. Well, it’s this beautiful Koi pond with little fish. Everyone’s harmonious. Everything’s working. It’s fixing aging. It’s fixing anything else that’s in our bodies and things like that.
Then we have a swamp. A swamp is what we call disease and dysfunction, because in the swamp you have overgrowth of bad bacteria because your immune system isn’t strong enough to handle it all. When that happens, the bad bugs overgrow. And then all of a sudden, the water’s stinky, it’s brown, and you don’t want to even go near it. And that’s the analogy that I like to use with our immune system. When our immune system is functioning properly, we have a nice, beautiful Koi pond. If our immune system isn’t working properly, then we have that swamp.
That’s the same thing that goes with the microbiome as well. When we have clear blue waters, there’s good bugs and bad bugs, but everyone’s in harmony so that’s really great. But worse when we have the swamp, that’s when our microbiomes out of whack. We have anaerobes, so basically bacteria that live without oxygen. They’re really toxic, and they’re the one that cause holes in our intestines or colitis or something along those lines.
Compromised Immune Systems and Bacteria Overgrowth
John: Right. Your analogy makes me think of my fish tank. I have fish and they have live plants in the fish tank. When everything is kind of harmonious, like you said, the fish are in there and they’re eating and they’re pooping, and then the plants are eating that and living. It’s this harmonious environment. But when things go wrong, all of a sudden, it doesn’t take long.
A couple of days later and there’s green algae all over the sides of the fish tank and that sort of thing. Yeah, you definitely don’t want that happening inside your mouth.
Dr. Nammy: No, definitely not inside your body for sure because it has a big impact. Anybody who has any sort of autoimmune disorders or any sort of compromised immune system, they always have an overgrowth of bacteria because it’s gone to the swamp side. That’s why I always say understanding the link between your health and your overall body, making sure a healthy mouth is huge.
Why Is Oral Health So Important to the Body?
John: And is it because we are breathing through our mouth and our nose and because we’re eating through our mouth, all of the things that are going into our body are going by way of our mouth? Is that why it’s just so important?
Dr. Nammy: Yeah. What happens is, so our mouth is really great because we have our mouth and right on top is our sinus space. What happens is when the food just goes in, we’re able to chew it, break it down, and then it goes into our bodies, right? That’s number one.
The second thing is the oxygen that I was talking about earlier, is that we want to be able to nose breathe. People who cannot nose breathe have really small palettes, so their pallets are like this, so that they can’t get the air through the nose as well as we want it to so they breathe through the mouth.
When they breathe through the mouth, they don’t get the advantage of nitric oxide, and nitric oxide like I was saying is really important. The nose hairs that we have when the air goes in, it converts oxygen into nitric oxide, which tells our blood vessels to dilate it out, lower blood pressure, helps us relax, and do all the things that we need to. And that’s the reason why I always say that it’s this entire area right here that’s really key.
How Does Good Oral Health Support Immunity?
John: Right. Right. In terms of immunity and preventing diseases, how does your oral health really affect that and help to stave off other types of illnesses?
Dr. Nammy: When we have a healthy mouth, our immune system is not overwhelmed. When we have gum disease, for example, there’s a lot of bad bugs that cause… They’re the anaerobes or the steak like bacteria that eat away the bone.
Now, if we have a lot of those in our bodies, they can go from our mouth into our body. And they can go to the intestine. That’s where colitis happens. It can also go into your blood and that’s why we hear about some people in the hospital from a dental infection. Those are all really common.
And then just for immune purposes, having a healthy mouth and nose breathing is really key, not just having a clean nice mouth, but the shape of the mouth needs to be really important because we want to have a nice wide jaw, nice space for the tongue. We want the tongue to be resting at the roof of the mouth, making sure that we’re getting the breathing in, because again, that’s activating all the whole hormones that activate your immune system to work really well.
Contact Green Dentistry to Talk About Your Oral Health Today
John: Right. That’s really great information, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Dr. Nammy: Thank you.
John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call (415) 433-0119.