In traditional Chinese medicine, the mouth relates to the center of the body.
While this notion of the mouth being located at the center of the body may seem strange to those of us raised in Western thought, it seems that the ‘Chinese wise guys’ from days of old may have been onto a truth…
Modern research continues to suggest that the health of the mouth has a causal role in the health of the whole body.
As we have discussed in other articles, the microbiome of the mouth, what we call our ‘oral flora’, plays a critically important role in whether we as a whole experience radiant health or ill health. We believe that we all will hear a lot more about the importance of how to balance the oral microbiome in the years to come.
A theory of disease from the 1930s coming back into fashion…
It’s fascinating (and a bit disturbing) to watch various theories of illness and health go into and out of fashion through time.
One of these theories of disease is called focal infection theory.
Weston Price, one of our favorite dental heroes of old, helped make focal infection theory famous with these studies. The basis of focal infection theory suggests that an infection in the mouth can seep/travel into the whole body and cause other infections and diseases including: arthritis, cancer, heart disease, even mental illness.
Well, in the 1940s, focal infection theory fell into criticism and decline, mostly based on the lack of medical research capabilities of the time. And there the notion that the health of the mouth could directly cause ill health throughout the body sat for over 50 years.
Until the 1990s, when the newly emerging field of ‘Periodontal Medicine’ began to publish articles with some very peculiar relationships between the bugs related to periodontal disease (advanced gum disease) and many wide ranging diseases including: arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Recently added to this list of diseases related to gum disease are: osteoporosis, pancreatic cancer, metabolic syndrome, renal diseases and neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Is there a connection?
The similarity between the list of diseases associated with focal infection theory and the currently recognized list from periodontal medicine is no odd coincidence…
Ironically, the current stance from periodontal medicine has been very cautious to state a causal relationship.
We get that. Just because periodontal disease and heart disease both show up together doesn’t mean one causes the other.
The ‘official’ stance is more research has to be done to establish a causal relationship.
Hmm, what about the study where men at risk of heart disease flossed for 6 months and had their risk eliminated (as referenced by relative levels of C reactive protein, a common blood bio-marker for heart disease risk) we reference in the article ‘Does flossing really lower my risk of a heart attack?’
Yet others in the field state, “Oral inflammatory lesions have been shown unequivocally to contribute to elevated systemic inflammatory responses.”
What does this all mean???
Here’s where we currently are with our understanding of the relationship of the mouth provoking imbalances that can ultimately result in systemic diseases.
It’s all about inflammation.
The bad bugs implicated with gum disease (officially called periodontal pathogens) colonize along and under the gum line. The bad bugs build up their populations along the gum line under their protective fortresses we all know as calculus (also called tartar).
From their protected zone, bad bugs have access to the whole body through the bloodstream via the capillaries in the gum tissue. (Incidentally, if you have bleeding gums, this is a complete NO BRAINER sign of an active infection that has access to the bloodstream. It must be dealt with to stop the damage from continuing. Here’s a link to an article that will help, “How to stop bleeding gums in 3 easy steps”)
Chronic infection in the bloodstream provokes a chronic inflammatory state. This chronic inflammatory state is the perfect storm for ‘metabolic syndrome’ and the initiation of autoimmune disorders.
By the way, if you aren’t familiar with the idea of autoimmune disorders yet, you owe it to yourself to take a look at the research around inflammation and autoimmunity.
At a really fundamental level, autoimmune disorders (essentially every common disease we hear of in the news these days) is the immune system getting so chronically hyperactive that it turns and attacks tissues of the body (rather than just the invading organisms like it’s supposed to). Over time, this leads to degradation of the body tissue and can result in all sorts of diseases based on what body tissue is attacked by the overactive immune system.
There are several theories what causes the immune system to turn on body tissues. But everyone agrees that a state of chronic systemic inflammation drives the problem.
Why is the mouth so important?
Plenty of fingers are left pointing to the mouth as the ‘port of entry’ causing the chronic systemic inflammation. Yes, some experts correctly state that gut integrity plays a huge role in provoking a chronic inflammatory state. We view the mouth as the ‘headwaters’ to the whole digestive system. Maybe the Chinese wise guys were onto something after all…
Like we have said for years, we consider gum disease to be the ‘enemy inside the gates’.
The region that allows gum disease to proliferate is unique in the human body. The gum pocket is just a fold of gum tissue up against the roots of our teeth, right? Why is that such a unique zone that allows these bad bugs to proliferate?
Well, where else in/on the body can bad bugs build up their numbers and have access to the bloodstream without being truly inside the body and therefore be subject to be attacked by the immune system??
You see, in a very real way, our gum pockets are ‘outside of the body’. ‘Outside the body’ because our immune systems can’t go into the gum pockets and stamp out the pathogens. But just on the fringe of the system, so they can access the whole body via the bloodstream.
That’s why we take our work here at OraWellness so seriously. We really consider that educating the world about caring for their mouths to rebalance their oral flora and stop the degradation of their health to be a very overlooked aspect to wellness.
Simple solutions to stop gum disease in your life:
Here’s a laundry list of quick tips you can apply to avoid the consequences of advancing gum disease.
1. Learn how to brush your teeth to disrupt and disorganize these microbes where they hang out. (And teach your kids how to brush too.)
Our first OraWellness video, ‘How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease’ still stands as the best strategy we have found on how to brush your teeth to stop the colonization of your gum line. We have a long list of customers who have emailed us, saying that they have never felt their teeth so clean as after the first time trying our not-so-fancy Bass brushes.
2. Do something habitual for between the teeth, especially your molars.
If you have the manual dexterity, flossing is a great solution (as long as you avoid the 4 most common flossing mistakes). If you are floss-phobic (or really, really dislike flossing), get an oral irrigator (and learn how to use an oral irrigator right so you don’t cause damage to your mouth). Here is the irrigator we like.
3. Practice oil pulling
Are you tired of hearing how great oil pulling is for oral health? Well, get used to it. Our culture is still waking up to the benefits of oil pulling. So, there will be plenty of research still to come we are sure.
Here’s our first article about how to practice oil pulling. For those of you familiar with oil pulling, perhaps check out our more advanced articles on this holistic practice where we discuss a common mistake most people make when oil pulling with the articles, ‘How oil pulling can help heal a leaky gut’ and ‘3 simple mouth based habits to help heal leaky gut’.
4. Don’t let a dog lick you in the mouth. (And please alert your kids to this, too)
Dogs are very common carriers of the bad bugs implicated with gum disease. While our immunity is most important, the fact remains that if we aren’t exposed to the bugs, we simply won’t have to deal with their negative impact on our health.
5. Pay attention to what’s going on in your mouth.
Various teeth relate to different body areas and internal organs. Many people have found great benefit and been able to put more pieces of the puzzle in place for their unique health situation by using our Meridian Tooth Chart. This chart will show you which teeth relate to which organs and areas of the body. Check out the meridian tooth chart here. It can be very eye opening!
6. Use our HealThy Mouth Blend
There’s a reason why dental hygienists and dentists all over the world carry our HealThy Mouth Blend and recommend it to their patients. The organic essential oils in the HealThy Mouth Blend help to rebalance our oral flora, encourage stressed gum tissue to regenerate and promote saliva production which aids in keeping our teeth free from decay.
Thank you so much for your product, the healthy mouth blend. I went to the dentist after 3 weeks of use and they said my mouth has never looked better. The hygienist was “annoyed” because I didn’t leave anything for her to scrape off. Fantastic!
Megan G from Arizona
How about you? Do you believe that the mouth could be a major contributor to provoking disease throughout the body? Why does this theory make sense to you or not? As always, we love to hear your thoughts (whether you agree or not!) in the comments below!
Helpful, Related Resources:
How to balance your oral flora [article]
Understanding the issues with root canals, part 1 [article]
Does flossing really lower my risk of heart attack? [article]
How to stop bleeding gums in 3 easy steps [article]
How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease
How to avoid the 4 most common flossing mistakes [article]
What to do if you really, really don’t like to floss [article]
What is oil pulling? [article]
Can oil pulling help heal leaky gut? [article]
3 simple ‘mouth based’ healthy habits to heal leaky gut [article]
Meridian tooth chart [free resource]
"How to Stop Tooth Decay
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