Dr. Nammy Patel explains how your oral health affects the rest of your body. She explains how bad oral bacteria contributes to conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and then, she outlines how to improve the health of your oral biome.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Pate, 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 bestselling books, Age With Style: Your Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living and Total Wellness: Understanding the Link Between Your Teeth and Your Health. Today, our topic is your oral microbiome and how it impacts your health.
Welcome, Dr. Nammy.
Dr. Nammy Patel: Hi, John. Thank you for having me.
What Is Your Oral Microbiome?
John: Sure. So, Dr. Nammy, what do we mean by your oral microbiome?
Dr. Nammy: So John, the oral microbiome is an ecosystem. So, when we say a biome, a biome is an environment where different species, different animals, different environments come together in a sustainable system. And so now, when we talk about the oral microbiome, because the mouth is a small cavity, we look at it as a small microbiome, which means a small ecological system that exists.
There’s different species of bacteria, there’s different species of funguses, there are different things that live together, kind of like even on our skin. We have microbes that live on our skin. They’re actually good for us and there’s some that are bad for us. So, they all pretty much coexist. And now, when the bad ones overgrow is when we get disease and dysfunction. For example, in an oral microbiome, what happens is like if somebody is mouth breathing and causing oxidative stress, which means they’re not getting enough oxygen, what happens is that this mouth becomes really dry.
Now, there’s not enough oxygen. So, the bacteria that overgrow are the ones that don’t need that much oxygen to survive. And they’re the ones that are pathogenic. They’re the ones that cause heart attacks, they’re the ones that lead to diabetes. They’re the ones that lead to high risk pregnancies, dementia, and what have you. So, that is what I mean by an oral microbiome.
A biome is a sustainable ecosystem, and when it’s out of balance, that’s when we are going to have problems. And it could be with bacteria, it could also be with the fungus. For example, if somebody has metal fillings, metal fillings tend to attract an increase in the fungus because the fungus actually uses the metal to overgrow. And that’s when we say somebody has a candida infection and that is an unstable microbiome again, and there’s contributory factors that cause that, and we want to address a root cause of those problems, so that we can put the microbiome back in balance.
Function of Bacteria in Your Mouth
John: So overall, what is the function of bacteria in your mouth? And you mentioned that there’s good bacteria and bad bacteria. What is it all for?
Dr. Nammy: So, bacteria is really important for us because we need bacteria to live. Believe it or not, we have a sympathetic relationship with the bacteria, with the good ones, at least the bad ones obviously cause infection, that we need bacteria for a number of reasons. We need bacteria to, number one, when we have the good bacteria and the bad bacteria, the good bacteria keep the bad ones in balance, so we don’t get infections. A lot of times these bacteria are needed for digestion. We’re able to utilize different bacteria species to be able to digest food better.
We’re also using bacteria to actually convert different minerals, also different co-factors for our bodies to be able to utilize. That’s our main function of bacteria is to use them for the purposes that we need. It actually helps us live, and that’s why we need bacteria. The thing is we only need the good ones. It’s kind of like, this is a really funny example, but I’m going to use an example for, we want to spend money. We want to spend money on good investments versus having a lot of debt.
And that debt would be a good example of bad bugs, good investments would be good bacteria that helps us grow our wealth and helps us age gracefully and helps us avoid disease and dysfunction and live better.
How Does Your Oral Microbiome Affect the Rest of Your Body?
John: Okay. And so, tell me a little bit more about how your oral microbiome affects the rest of your body.
Dr. Nammy: So, the oral microbiome is super important. The main reason for the microbiome to be really important is that there’s five species of bacteria that really cause havoc into the body, and they’re the ones that are linked to heart attacks, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, low birth weight, also dementia.
Believe it or not, the reason why people get dementia or Alzheimer’s is actually because these small snake-like bacteria that we find in gum disease, they actually get access to your body. And as they get access to your body, what they do is they’re able to get through the blood brain barrier, and as it goes into the brain, your body tries to fight them off. And as it tries to fight them off, it damages a little bit of gum tissue. So, that’s where Alzheimer’s and dementia kind of come in.
Choose a Mouthwash That Supports the Good Bacteria in Your Mouth
John: Does mouthwash affect your microbiome, and does it do a good job of killing the bad bacteria while leaving the good bacteria in your mouth?
Dr. Nammy: To be honest, John, mouthwash is a bunch of caca, unless it’s an all natural one. The purpose of mouthwash is to make us feel good. As far as microbiome, if it has alcohol in it will be horrific for your microbiome. It actually gets rid of the good bugs too, and that’s not what we want. It’s not selective.
There are specific types of mouthwashes you can utilize, like natural teeth and gums is one of my favorites. And what that does has clove, cardamon, cinnamon, all these different things in there. They’re all Ayurvedic and they promote healing and also are selective because what we want to do is kill off the bad bugs, not the good bugs.
We want the good bugs to thrive. When we’re using a mouthwash base with alcohol, it’s going to kill everything. And that is the indirect conflict with what we’re intending, but we’re really intending is for good bacteria to grow.
How to Promote a Healthy Oral Microbiome
John: And how do you promote a healthy oral microbiome while also getting rid of the bad bacteria in your mouth?
Dr. Nammy: The best ways to promote the healthy oral microbiome is number one, flossing, brushing your teeth, also getting tested, see if there’s any resistant bacteria that’s in your mouth that we may not be aware of or that we may not see. Even as a dentist, I can’t see some bacteria. I’ve been really surprised when I’ve found patients with these five pathogens, I was telling you about.
I wouldn’t have thought that just looking in their mouth because it doesn’t really look like they have a ton of bone loss or anything like that. But we test them to figure out what’s really going on, number one. Number two, eradicating the bad ones and testing for it again is going to be really key. And then let’s say for example, I’m not able to see you. Obviously, you’re living somewhere else and you want to figure out ways to help.
What are the bare minimums you can do to help promote a healthy microbiome? It’s definitely going to be flossing. Electric toothbrush is going to be really key. Scraping your tongue is going to be really key because bacteria does live on the tongue as well. The other things that I would recommend is probiotics, not just in your mouth for the rest of the body as well. And also nose breathing, sitting and taking that nitric oxide in, sitting and putting the tongue at the roof of the palate and doing 20 minutes of breathing is really going to be key because it keeps your mouth hydrated, it gets that nitric oxide making your body function really well, so that it’s more apt and prepared to be able to bite off these bad bugs.
Contact Green Dentistry Today
John: All right. Well, that’s really great information, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Dr. Nammy: My pleasure.
John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call (415) 433-0119.