Here at OraWellness, one of the recurring themes we write about is the relationship between oral health and whole-body health.
Being holistically minded, this mouth/body connection has always made sense to us, especially since the mouth is the main point of entry we use to put new ‘stuff’ into our bodies on a daily basis.
We’ve also touched on how taking action in the mouth can help lower our risk for a heart attack as well as some simple, mouth-based habits we can cultivate to help heal other whole-body issues like leaky gut.
Can poor oral health actually cause a breakdown in whole-body health and wellness?
The short answer is “yes”. In recent years, several studies have continued to strongly suggest that a decline in our oral health can cause whole-body disease.
So, what can we do to stop this disease process?
First, we’ll take a look at what’s going on with this. Then, we’ll discuss what we can do to prevent or address the gum disease that may be contributing to other, whole-body problems.
Meet the microbial thugs…
In particular, researchers have found that two of the microbes that are strongly implicated with gum disease can actually cause rheumatoid arthritis. (1)
The thug bugs, P. Gingivalis and A. Actinomycetemcomitans (or PG and AA for short), produce an enzyme that can cause certain proteins in our bodies to change shape.
If this gum disease-induced cycle of protein damage is left unchecked and becomes chronic, our immune system becomes hyper-sensitized to the altered proteins, starts to identify them as invaders, and attacks them.
Unfortunately, these proteins are commonly found in our connective tissues. Over time, this immune system attack on our own connective tissues results in the joint damage we see in both periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Both of these diseases are essentially the same thing: progressive damage of connective tissues near bone. (2)
For rheumatoid arthritis, the outcome is painful joint damage.
In the mouth, the outcome is a loss of the connective tissue that holds our teeth firmly rooted into our jaw bone, which is why periodontal disease is the #1 cause of tooth loss in adults.
According to one study, “Converging and reproducible evidence now makes a clear case for the role of specific periodontal infective pathogens in initiating, amplifying and perpetuating rheumatoid arthritis.” (3)
Why would the ‘thug bugs’ that colonize in the mouth be found all over the body?
Unfortunately, the microbes implicated with gum disease don’t stay in the mouth. They can (and do) make their way into the entire blood system via the capillaries in our gum tissue.
If we allow these thug bugs to establish themselves in our mouths and colonize in our gum pockets, they will undermine our health. And for anyone with a genetic tendency toward joint issues, chronic, unaddressed gum disease can actually cause rheumatoid arthritis.
This is why we consider bleeding gums (from gentle brushing and/or flossing) to be the iconic warning sign.
If your gums bleed when gently brushed and/or flossed, this means that thug bugs have access to your entire body via the bloodstream.
What’s the connection between the mouth and some disease processes?
Our mouths, particularly our gum pockets (the little spaces between our gum tissue and the roots of our teeth), can play a very important role in the formation of systemic disease.
The gum pockets provide a perfect place for thug bugs to settle in and grow their populations.
You see, gum pockets may be inside the mouth, but they are functionally outside of the reach of our immune system. Gum pockets also provide an anaerobic (meaning ‘low oxygen’) environment, which is just what these thug bugs need in order to thrive.
Putting together what we’ve learned so far…
If left unchecked, the thug bugs in our gum pockets have a cozy environment (beyond the patrols of the immune system) in which to reproduce and grow their numbers, and when they’re ready, they have direct access to the whole body through gum capillaries that lead to the bloodstream.
So you can see why we draw a parallel between gum disease pathogens and a super stealthy enemy. This particular enemy plans their attack and builds their numbers from just outside our walls, and then uses a trapdoor to sneak into our fortress whenever they want.
How to stop this colonization…
The good news is that we can take action to prevent thug bugs from dominating our mouths.
That’s why it’s so important to learn to manage our oral microbiome and become a ‘good conductor’ of the symphony in our mouths.
The strategy is simple: disrupt and disorganize the thug bugs, thwarting their attempts to build their army along and under the gum line.
Here are a few key strategies to help you accomplish this:
1. Learn how to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease (and then teach your kids, too).
The Bass Brushing Technique is helpful for people of all ages, but it is particularly important for young children to learn. That way, these thug bugs never have the chance to build up their populations in the young mouths of our children and grandchildren.
2. Floss your teeth (consciously) every day.
The mainstream media threw flossing under the bus when a study proved that flossing isn’t effective in stopping tooth decay between teeth. We immediately wrote an article to remind everyone in our community why flossing is still a very healthy habit.
The bottom line is, flossing helps us disrupt and disorganize these thug bugs colonies, especially between our molars (a common spot for gum disease to set in if we don’t take consistent, daily action to cull thug bug populations).
We invite you to check out our article about how flossing helps to reduce our risk of heart disease (another chronic inflammatory disease).
Also, here’s an article that explains what to do if you really, really don’t like to floss.
3. If you have deeper gum pockets, make very sure you know how to maintain a healthy microbiome inside them.
We designed our HealThy Mouth System specifically to help folks who have advancing gum disease. It’s not too late for you to make massive positive change, even if you already have periodontal disease.
The strategy inside deep gum pockets is the same: disrupt and disorganize these thug bugs.
However, if you have gum pockets that are deeper than 4mm, normal oral hygiene tools won’t be able to reach deep enough.
You have to be able to stop the advance of this attack at the base of the gum pockets.
The HealThy Mouth System contains the tools that you need to be able to do this. You can check out how others have benefited from using the HealThy Mouth System here.
Research studies have shown that several essential oils can help us manage our oral microbiome by preventing plaque from maturing.
Peppermint essential oil and eugenol (a compound found in clove oil) are among the most effective in managing the biofilm that P. gingivalis uses to flourish. (4)
Our HealThy Mouth Blend does a fantastic job in helping us maintain healthy, thin oral biofilms. Here’s a blog entry that explains more on what’s in the HealThy Mouth Blend and why it’s so effective.
Instead, the strategy is to be a good steward of our oral flora by keeping the plaque biofilms thin, because when a plaque biofilm matures, it gets thicker, which encourages the growth of thug bugs (including AA and PG).
Is gum disease only connected to rheumatoid arthritis?
Maybe, but we don’t think so.
The studies on the causal relationship between these specific oral thug bugs and arthritis represent just one gum disease/chronic disease aspect that’s been identified. There are lots of different gum disease-related thug bugs that can trigger chronic inflammation.
Medical research has already drawn clear correlations between gum disease and cancer, heart disease, diabetes, low birth weight babies–the list goes on and on.
We now know that not only is gum disease correlated with arthritis, but has a causal relationship. We think it’s just a matter of time until researchers can show that gum disease can cause a host of other diseases.
Maybe the famous integrative oncologist Dr. Josef Issels wasn’t far off when he stated his opinion that, “97% of all cancers have a causal relationship with the mouth, teeth, jaw and tonsils.”
So, let’s prevent this potential chronic inflammatory cascade from undermining our whole-body health by learning to become a good conductor of the symphony in our own mouth. While we’re at it, let’s teach the children in our lives how to manage their oral flora, a skill that will serve them going forward in life.
If you found this information helpful, please help us help others by sharing this article with your loved ones or anyone who might benefit from it.
Helpful, Related Resources:
Is stress the primary cause of gum disease? [article]
An easy step toward stopping tooth decay [article]
Does flossing really lower my risk of heart disease? [article]
3 simple mouth-based healthy habits to help heal leaky gut [article]
How to stop bleeding gums in 3 easy steps [article]
How to rebalance your oral microbiome and remineralize your teeth [article]
How to balance your oral flora and become a good conductor of the symphony in your mouth [article]
How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease [article]
How to avoid the 4 most common flossing mistakes [article]
Is flossing actually bad for you? [article]
What to do if you really, really don’t like to floss [article]
HealThy Mouth System [product solution]
HealThy Mouth Blend [product solution]
Why is the HealThy Mouth Blend so effective? [article]
Can some plaques actually help our teeth stay healthy? [article]
Are essential oils safe to use in the mouth? [article]
Is a major cause of disease hiding right under our noses? [article]
The common, unknown risk of having wisdom teeth removed [article]