Updated: Oct 18
A holistic approach to health recognizes that all components of your well-being are interconnected. By taking a step back and taking an integrative approach, we can address health issues at a deeper level.
Your teeth and gums can have a profound influence on your overall health. Oral health isn’t just a matter of improving the appearance of your smile. The impacts of poor oral health are wide-ranging, from cardiovascular to mental health - about 50 health conditions are influenced by poor oral health! (1) Let’s take a look at the importance of oral health and how you can optimize yours.
The Impact of Oral Health and Overall Health
Scientists are discovering new links between bacteria in the mouth and the cardiovascular system. In fact, people with periodontal disease have two to three times the risk of having a cardiovascular event like a heart attack. (2) Although more research needs to be done, evidence suggests gum inflammation raises inflammation elsewhere, increasing C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. (3) Elevated CRP levels indicate inflammation in the blood vessels. Do you know your CRP level? Ask your primary care doctor about it at your next annual exam!
Inflammation in the mouth also affects your gut when bacteria enters the intestines. That may be why patients with conditions like inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to experience periodontal disease. (4) Do you experience gas or bloating? It may be time to take a deeper look at your gut. At Wellness With Elizabeth, we use the Genova GI Effects test for a comprehensive analysis of your gut microbiome!
The connection between oral health and mental health goes both ways. People with mental health conditions can neglect their oral health. One study found that the risk of losing all teeth is as high as 30% for patients with depression. (5) At the same time, poor oral health can negatively impact mental health, in part because of concerns about appearance and the pain associated with periodontal disease.
The chronic inflammation associated with periodontal disease may raise the risk of certain cancers, including kidney, lung, and pancreatic cancer. (6)
Mouth bacteria can also move to the lungs, leading to diseases like pneumonia. (7)
Infertility and erectile dysfunction
It’s not often considered when looking at infertility issues, but studies have found that periodontal disease in women can lengthen the time it takes to conceive. (8) For men, the inflammation and oxidative stress triggered by periodontal disease can affect blood vessels, including blood circulation to the penis. (8)
A recent British study of about 40,000 adults found a correlation between poor oral health and changes to the structure of the brain visible on an MRI. (9) While we don't do imaging here, we do offer the BrainSpan screening. To learn more, visit: https://www.wellnesswithelizabeth.com/healthy-aging-screening
Assessing Your Oral Health
Because of its intimate connection with your overall well-being, any complete health assessment must include your oral health. Some warning signs that need prompt attention include:
● Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.
● Bleeding or tender gums.
● Any sore in your mouth cavity or on your lip.
● “Clicking” noises in your jaw.
● Cracked teeth.
● Pain when you chew or bite down.
● Receding gums.
● Gums that bleed when you floss or brush your teeth.
● Bad breath - if you’re not sure, ask someone you trust!
In an initial consultation, we complete a nutrition-focused physical exam that looks at your tongue and mouth (as well as your hair, skin, and nails) to assess the health of these important tissues.
Natural Approaches to Improving Oral Health
Because it is a systemic issue, optimizing your oral health moves beyond conscientious brushing and flossing - although that’s obviously important!
Here are some proven tips for better oral health.
Scrape your tongue. This is a simple step that goes a long way in improving bad breath and fighting inflammation. That thin film on your tongue is composed of dead cells and half-eaten food. (13) It may even improve your sense of taste! (14) I recently started tongue-scraping my tongue and my kids'! We bought the MasterMedi from Amazon.
Try oil pulling. Oil pulling involves “swishing” oil through your mouth, with the aim of reducing bacteria levels. (15) Many people find that in addition to reducing bacteria, it can improve gum health and help with bad breath. Because it tastes better than many oils, liquid coconut oil is a popular choice. Dr. Axe goes into more detail about how to do oil pulling and the benefits.
Eat an alkaline diet. A highly acidic diet can erode the minerals in your teeth. Instead, focus on foods high in antioxidants and minerals, such as leafy green vegetables, broccoli, avocado and blueberries. Dr. Jaffe has a great guide on his website.
Consider taking oral probiotics.* By improving the balance of good bacteria in your mouth, probiotics can fight inflammation (11) and even improve of bad breath. (12)
Consider supplementing with essential minerals.* Just as we want to ensure strong bones, we want to keep teeth strong by giving them the nutrients they need.
*As always, consult with a healthcare practitioner before starting supplements. Our clients receive a thorough supplement review of what they're currently taking compared to what they actually need, and personalized recommendations are made based on a comprehensive assessment.
In summary, you can see there are a lot of steps you can take to improve your oral health and assess your overall health status. Oral health is an important component of your overall well-being. If you have any concerns or want to discuss options for lifestyle improvements, please reach out. To get started, schedule a FREE Discovery Call at www.WellnessWithElizabeth.com
Byrd KM, Gulati AS. The "Gum-Gut" Axis in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: A Hypothesis-Driven Review of Associations and Advances. Front Immunol. 2021 Feb 19;12:620124. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.620124. PMID: 33679761; PMCID: PMC7933581.
Papageorgiou SN, Hagner M, Nogueira AV, Franke A, Jäger A, Deschner J. Inflammatory bowel disease and oral health: systematic review and a meta-analysis. J Clin Periodontol. 2017 Apr;44(4):382-393. doi: 10.1111/jcpe.12698. Epub 2017 Mar 6. PMID: 28117909.
Kisely S. No Mental Health without Oral Health. Can J Psychiatry. 2016 May;61(5):277-82. doi: 10.1177/0706743716632523. Epub 2016 Feb 10. PMID: 27254802; PMCID: PMC4841282.
Rajesh KS, Thomas D, Hegde S, Kumar MS. Poor periodontal health: A cancer risk? J Indian Soc Periodontol. 2013 Nov;17(6):706-10. doi: 10.4103/0972-124X.124470. PMID: 24554877; PMCID: PMC3917197.
Bansal M, Khatri M, Taneja V. Potential role of periodontal infection in respiratory diseases - a review. J Med Life. 2013 Sep 15;6(3):244-8. Epub 2013 Sep 25. PMID: 24155782; PMCID: PMC3786481.
Farook F, Al Meshrafi A, Mohamed Nizam N, Al Shammari A. The Association Between Periodontitis and Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Mens Health. 2021 May-Jun;15(3):15579883211007277. doi: 10.1177/15579883211007277. PMID: 34013796; PM
Dutt P, Chaudhary S, Kumar P. Oral health and menopause: a comprehensive review on current knowledge and associated dental management. Ann Med Health Sci Res. 2013 Jul;3(3):320-3. doi: 10.4103/2141-9248.117926. PMID: 24116306; PMCID: PMC3793432.
Riccia DN, Bizzini F, Perilli MG, Polimeni A, Trinchieri V, Amicosante G, Cifone MG. Anti-inflammatory effects of Lactobacillus brevis (CD2) on periodontal disease. Oral Dis. 2007 Jul;13(4):376-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-0825.2006.01291.x. PMID: 17577323.
Burton JP, Chilcott CN, Moore CJ, Speiser G, Tagg JR. A preliminary study of the effect of probiotic Streptococcus salivarius K12 on oral malodour parameters. J Appl Microbiol. 2006 Apr;100(4):754-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2006.02837.x. PMID: 16553730.
Almas K, Al-Sanawi E, Al-Shahrani B. The effect of tongue scraper on mutans streptococci and lactobacilli in patients with caries and periodontal disease. Odontostomatol Trop. 2005 Mar;28(109):5-10. PMID: 16032940.
Timmesfeld N, Kunst M, Fondel F, Güldner C, Steinbach S. Mechanical tongue cleaning is a worthwhile procedure to improve the taste sensation. J Oral Rehabil. 2021 Jan;48(1):45-54. doi: 10.1111/joor.13099. Epub 2020 Nov 22. PMID: 32978806.
Kaushik M, Reddy P, Sharma R, Udameshi P, Mehra N, Marwaha A. The Effect of Coconut Oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans Count in Saliva in Comparison with Chlorhexidine Mouthwash. J Contemp Dent Pract. 2016 Jan 1;17(1):38-41. doi: 10.5005/jp-journals-10024-1800. PMID: 27084861.
Colgate, How High Alkaline Foods Benefit Your Teeth, https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/nutrition-and-oral-health/how-high-alkaline-foods-benefit-your-teeth