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.
But can our oral health actually cause whole body health issues?
Can poor oral health actually cause a breakdown in our whole body wellness? And if so, what can we do to stop this disease process?
The short answer to both questions is, yes.
Several studies in recent years continue to strongly suggest that a decline in our oral health can cause whole body disease. First, we’ll take a look at what’s going on with this. Then, we’ll take a look at what we can do to prevent or address the gum disease that’s creating these other, whole body problems.
Meet the microbial thugs…
In particular, researchers have found that two microbes 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 these altered proteins, starts to identify them as invaders and attack 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 in 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 oral gum pockets 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 flossing) to be the iconic warning sign. If your gums bleed when gently flossed, this means that thug bugs have access to your entire body via the bloodstream.
Why does the mouth play such an important role in the disease process?
Our mouths, particularly our gum pockets, the little spaces between our gum tissue and the roots of our teeth, play a very important role in the formation of systemic disease.
You see, the gum pockets provide a place ‘outside the body’ in a sense where the thug bugs can reproduce and grow their populations.
We say ‘outside the body’ because although of course our gum pockets are in the mouth, they are functionally outside the reach of our immune system. But, unlike having some thug bugs trying to colonize another area outside our bodies, like on the surface of our skin, the gum pocket is a low oxygen environment, just what these thug bugs need to thrive.
When you add this to the fact above how they have direct access to the whole body through the bloodstream, you can see why we consider gum disease to truly be like having the enemy planning their attack from inside your fortress.
How to stop this colonization…
The good news is the path to keeping these thug bugs from dominating our mouths is clearly understood.
The strategy is simple: disrupt and disorganize the thug bugs to thwart their attempts to colonize, populate and build their army along and under the gum line.
Here are a few key strategies to help you accomplish this:
This is particularly important for children to learn so 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) daily.
The mainstream media recently threw flossing under the bus with some research that 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 between our molars, which is where they gain their strength first. Check out our article about how flossing helps to reduce our risk of heart disease (another chronic inflammatory disease).
And here’s one for you floss haters, “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 your gum pockets.
We designed our HealThy Mouth System specifically to help those in our community who are already dealing with advancing gum disease. It’s not too late for you to make massive positive change, even if you have periodontal disease.
The strategy in the mouth is the same; disrupt and disorganize these thug bugs.
However, if you have gum pockets 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 any deeper gum pockets. This is what the HealThy Mouth System teaches. You can check out how others have benefited from using the HealThy Mouth System here.
Research studies have shown that several essential oils are very effective at helping us manage our oral microbiome by keeping plaque from maturing.
Essential oils of peppermint and clove are the most effective in managing the biofilm that encourages P gingivalis to flourish. (4) Our HealThy Mouth Blend does a fantastic job in assisting us to 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.
As we explain in our “Are all plaques bad?” article, the game isn’t to apply a scorched earth approach and kill all bad bugs in the mouth.
Instead, the strategy is to be a good steward of this micro flora garden in our mouths 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 there only a connection between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis?
Maybe, but we don’t think so.
The studies on the causal relationship between these specific thug bugs and arthritis is just one aspect that’s been identified. There are lots of different thug bugs implicated with gum disease 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 see 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 Dr Josef Issels, a famous integrative cancer doctor wasn’t far off when he stated, “97% of all cancers have a causal relationship to the mouth, teeth, jaw and tonsil”.
So, let’s teach our young ones how to manage their oral flora. Learn to also become a good conductor of the symphony in your own mouth and let’s stop this chronic inflammatory cascade from undermining our health as a global community.
If you found this article helpful, please help us help others and share 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? [article]
What to do if you really, really don’t like to floss [article]
Can some plaques actually help our teeth stay healthy? [article]
Why is the HealThy Mouth Blend so effective? [article]
Is a major cause of disease hiding right under our noses? [article]
The common, unknown risk of having wisdom teeth removed [article]