The oral microbiome is a collection of bacteria that colonise the mouth. Just like the gut microbiome and skin microbiome, it plays a major role in health and disease. The teeth, tongue, cheek, gingiva, lip, hard and soft palates all harbour different species. It is estimated that there are 500 to 700 common oral species that colonise the mouth.
Just like the gut, when the oral microbiome is out of balance inflammation and illness can occur. A 2019 study suggests that the oral microbiome can have a big impact on the gastrointestinal tract. It found the species P. gingivalis, a species seen in periodontitis, can travel to the gut and cause dysbiosis. Meaning it disrupts the gut bacteria, leaving the digestive tract open to illness and disease.
It’s important to remember that the mouth is the gateway to the body. It is the first stop in the digestive tract where we chew and swallow food. Therefore every time we swallow bacteria from our mouth travels to our gut. From there the oral microbiome has been linked to a range of systemic diseases including tumours, diabetes mellitus, dementia, cardiovascular disease and low infant birth weight.
Consume a diet rich in minerals and vitamins – healthy fats, leafy greens, good quality protein and clean water. Limit the consumption of soda, fruit juices, alcohol and sugary foods as these can feed harmful bacteria in the mouth and cause an imbalance. Following a good oral hygiene routine is also essential as it will help disrupt the biofilm and maintain a good balance of bacteria.
The oral microbiome is an environment we should be supporting, rather than eliminating. Diversity is key and through good diet and good oral hygiene practices, we can help it flourish.