Unhealthy Mouth Can Mean Unhappy Gut
The average adult produces between 0.75 to 1.5 liters of spit per day. With each swallow of spit, you are also ingesting millions and millions of bacteria from your mouth. While the oral and gut microbiomes are separate environments, these ecosystems impact one another in ways that we are only starting to understand.
For the most part, a large variety of these ingested oral bacteria will not survive in the acidic environment of the digestive system. However, in those who have periodontal disease, it has been estimated that between 1 billion and 10 billion of P. gingivalis are consumed each day. P. gingivalis is a particularly nasty oral bacteria that is known to be a major bug in causing periodontal disease and is a great manipulator of the oral microbiome and immune defense. It has been shown to be acid-resistant, meaning that when it migrates to your gut, it has the ability to survive in the acidic environment and cause gut and colonic disturbances. It has also been implicated as having a role in orodigestive cancers.
In a healthy gut with a healthy microbiome, you have all kinds of good bacteria that help to fight off bad bacteria, and to digest foods to release vital nutrients for you. When there is a disturbance of the gut bacteria, there is a shift from the good guys being the majority to the bad guys being the majority. This shift can lead to increases in inflammation and a decrease in the gut’s barrier function.
In severe diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, HIV, liver cirrhosis, colon cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), increased numbers of oral bacteria have been reported. Studies have shown that those with periodontal disease have a less diverse gut flora than those with healthy mouths.
There is mounting evidence that oral bacteria can contribute to gastrointestinal cancers. P. gingivalis has been implicated in precancerous gastric and colon cancer lesions. Studies have shown that people with periodontal disease are at an increased risk of developing these cancers. These oral bacteria are thought to change the make-up of cancer cells, allowing them to divide and grow uncontrollably.
Improvements have been seen in gut microbiota after periodontal therapy, also known as deep cleanings, showing that as the health of the mouth improves, pathogenic bacterial numbers go down, leading to improved gut health and balance.
So how do you keep your gut healthy? According to emerging research, it can start with your mouth. It has been said that the mouth is the window to the health of the body. More and more studies are coming out proving that an unhealthy mouth can have serious health effects in other parts of the body.
Twice daily brushing, flossing, periodontal therapy or regular dental hygiene visits, prebiotics, probiotics and a healthy diet can all help enhance oral bacteria related gastrointestinal disorders.
Smiles Design & Wellness Center
Haley Freymiller DMD is trained to treat patients who have complex medical conditions, as well as those with special needs. She has extensive experience in treating cancer patients and has a keen interest in the oral-systemic connection. Freymiller is well versed in how much oral health impacts body health.
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