Beneficial mouth microbes have been linked to everything from dementia to respiratory strength. Here’s how to keep this first line of defense in great shape.
Ayurveda and Oral Hygiene
We’ve all been told by the dentist how important flossing and brushing are, but the case for good oral hygiene just keeps getting stronger.
Oral hygiene is not a new concept by any means. In Ayurveda, swishing with herbalized sesame or coconut oil has been practiced for thousands of years. Neem twigs were frayed and used as toothbrushes. Fermented foods, like yogurt or lassi, were always eaten at the end of a meal as a natural probiotic to leave a healthy amount of good bacteria in the mouth. As studies continue to reveal, the connection between our oral microbiota and our health may not be confined to the teeth and gums. There is plenty of evidence linking common undesirable mouth bacteria to a host of other health arenas, including arterial, heart, lung, blood sugar, esophagus, and cognitive health.
If that’s not enough, there is evidence that pesticides (like glyphosate, aka Roundup, which is now classified as a probable human carcinogen) eradicate good microbes that manufacture digestive enzymes in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. These are enzymes we need to properly digest foods like grains, legumes, and dairy.
Gearing our attention towards populating our mouths with beneficial bacteria may be one of the first things we should do to protect our health. After all, when we were born, creating healthy mouth bacteria was at the top of the list!
Your First Probiotic
In the first few hours after birth, the beneficial bacteria Streptococcus salivarius successfully colonizes the mouth, esophagus, and small intestines of an infant.
S. salivarius remains a major player in healthy mouth ecology for a lifetime, offering the body a host of protective benefits. It maintains a healthy balance of good bacteria in the mouth and upper digestive tract, supports healthy immunity, and maintains the balance and integrity of the so-very-important intestinal skin.
Unfortunately, many children and adults lose healthy populations of S. salivarius. This could be due to alcohol-based mouthwashes, and other overly sterile oral health products. Re-populating the mouth or gut with beneficial bacteria has long been a challenge. Most of the probiotic products on the market today use transient bacteria strains, meaning they help if you take them regularly, but they do not adhere to the epithelium, or skin (internal and external), and become permanent residents.
I started using probiotics in my practice back in 1984 and quickly saw how they helped my patients, but just as quickly saw how patients became reliant on them. Since then, I have been in search of probiotic strains that adhere to the intestines and colonize. This allows for permanent, beneficial microbial residents, so taking probiotics doesn’t become a lifetime sentence!
Professor John Tagg, PhD, a world-renowned microbiologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, has investigated the bacteria in the mouth of children, looking for the strains that can hold the key to the body’s first line of defense. He discovered a strain of S. salivarius called S. salivarius DSM 13084, which was shown to re-populate the mouth and upper digestion with beneficial S. salivarius.
Ayurvedic Oral Hygiene
For thousands of years, an important part of an Ayurvedic daily routine has been to start the day by scraping your tongue with a copper tongue scraper and brushing with a neem stick or neem toothpaste, followed by oil pulling.
There is ample science suggesting that these techniques may, in fact, support the proliferation of healthy mouth bacteria, while warding off bad bacteria and supporting healthy gums, teeth, and breath, and overall wellness.