The microbiome plays a key role in oral health. This article will discuss the importance of the oral microbiome and the top ways to keep it healthy.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
What is the Microbiome?
The microbiome is a community of microorganisms that live in or on the human body. These would include fungi, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The microbiome consists of microorganisms that help protect the body from illness and disease by defending it from harmful bacteria and other foreign invaders. The microbiome consists of trillions of healthy microorganisms and can be found primarily in the gut, but are also found on the skin, in the vagina, mucus membranes, and in the mouth.
The Oral Microbiome Defined
While much attention has been placed on the gut microbiome, the oral microbiome is important as well. Oral microbes were first discovered in the 1700s by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek when he observed dental plaque under a microscope. He called the microbes “Dierken”, which means small lively objects.
The oral microbiome consists of:
- Hard and soft palates
- Gingival sulcus
The oral microbiome has also been called the oral microbiota and oral microflora. Over 700 species of bacteria are in the oral cavities of humans. 
Oral Microbiota Imbalances In the Mouth
The oral microbiota connects the digestive tract and respiratory system to the outside world. As a result, the oral microbiota is often the first line of defense against harmful organisms that enter the body via the mouth. Problems can occur in the oral microbiota when harmful bacteria outnumber good bacteria. Also known as gut “dysbiosis,” this imbalance contributes to several health issues.
Dental Caries (Tooth Decay)
Also known as tooth decay, dental caries have been linked to a high carbohydrate intake. Carbs can cause an increased production of acid by microbes in the mouth, reducing the buffering capabilities of saliva and saliva pH levels. This can result in the increased production of biofilm that traps and concentrates acids on teeth enamel. 
Dental caries can cause dental abscesses, tooth fractures, tooth loss, and severe pain. If left untreated, tooth decay could lead to the following:
- Facial cellulitis (spread to soft tissue)
- Osteomyelitis (spread to the jawbone)
- Endocarditis (reach the heart via the bloodstream)
- Sepsis (blood poisoning when bacteria enter the bloodstream)
Periodontal disease leads to the destruction of the tooth-supporting tissues. Periodontal diseases are either gingival diseases or periodontitis. Diabetes is a risk factor for periodontitis: the microbiome regulates homeostasis, affecting many pathological processes, including diabetes. 
The oral mucosa is the mucous membrane that lines the inside of the mouth and is usually reddish-pink or brown. An imbalance in the oral microbiome could increase the risk of mucosal diseases.
Common mucosal diseases include the following:
- Oral leukoplakia (OLK). Thick, white mouth lesions or patches that can’t be rubbed off.
- Oral lichen planus (OLP). Inflammatory mucous membrane condition can cause flat, itchy, purple bumps.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). A chronic autoimmune disease with several symptoms, including mouth ulcers, pericarditis, or fever. If left untreated, SLE could lead to several health issues including blood clots, heart attack, inflammation of the heart, and strokes.
Oral Microbiota Imbalances in the Body
Studies on oral microbiota imbalances have linked it to many health issues in the body:
Gastrointestinal diseases, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), gastrointestinal cancers, and liver cirrhosis are all associated with the oral microbiome. Individuals with IBD often have various oral symptoms, including dry mouth, oral ulcer, and pyostomatitis vegetans. Dysbiosis was “strongly associated” with an elevated inflammatory response of cytokines with depleted levels of the lysozyme (an antimicrobial enzyme) in the saliva of IBD patients. 
Periodontal disease and tooth loss have also been linked to increased gastrointestinal cancer risk, which are associated with oral bacterial health. Studies indicate oral bacteria could activate alcohol and smoking-related carcinogens through chronic inflammation. Researchers also found pancreatic cancer risk increases with a history of periodontal disease and the increased presence of antibodies to oral pathogens. 
Nervous System Diseases
Nervous system diseases affect the spinal cord, autonomic and peripheral nerves, and the brain. Studies have found links between oral microbiomes and nervous system diseases. For example, studies on individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) discovered several oral bacteria in brain samples, which suggested that certain bacteria were more closely related to AD than previously thought. 
Immune System Diseases
Oral microbiomes have been linked to immune system diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Studies on the oral and gut microbiomes of rheumatoid arthritis patients found dysbiosis, along with elevated levels of Lactobacillus salivarius, a healthy probiotic bacteria species. 
Individuals with HIV often have a wide range of oral health conditions, with lower levels of oral microbial diversity when compared to healthy individuals. 
Other Health Conditions
Other health issues linked to oral microbiota imbalances include obesity, cardiovascular disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Natural Mouth Care Tips
Maintaining a healthy oral microbiome is essential to good health. Here are the top ways to maintain good oral health and the habits to avoid.
Top Foods to Eat and Avoid
Diet plays a key role in oral health. Some foods will feed the healthy bacteria in mouth while other foods can disrupt the balance of the oral microbiota and increase the risk of cavities and gum disease:
Top Foods: Oral Health
Worst Foods: Oral Health
Top Herbs Spices: Oral Health
Probiotics (apple cider vinegar, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut)
Prebiotics (onions, leeks, artichokes, apples, asparagus)
Algae and seaweed
Soft drinks/energy drinks
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cauliflower)
Green leafy vegetables
Liquids (water, herbal teas, green tea)
Protein bars/granola bars
Healthy fats (nuts, seeds, olive oil)
Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic practice where oil is used as an adsorber to pull toxins and bacteria out of tissues and trapping them into the oil. Oil pulling has been used for centuries to remove harmful bacteria that causes plaque. A study on oil pulling therapy showed a reduction in the plaque index, modified gingival scores, and total colony count of aerobic microorganisms in the plaque of adolescents with plaque-induced gingivitis. 
Sunflower oil, coconut oil and sesame oil are popular options for oil pulling. Simply swish 1 tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes and spit it out.
Also known as brushing your tongue, gently scraping the tongue helps to remove any excess bacteria from the tongue’s surface. Brushing the tongue can help decrease halitosis (bad breath), which is believed to cause up to 50% of bad breath cases.
Mouth Care Habits to Avoid
Many of the oral care practices of today might be doing more harm than good. Here are a few surprising habits to avoid:
Conventional Mouthwash and Toothpaste
The majority of conventional mouthwash and toothpaste products are abrasive and toxic. For example, many can’t be swallowed, and recommend consulting with a physician if ingested. In addition, these ingredients can disrupt the oral microbiome, causing an imbalance of good bacteria.
Top ingredients to avoid include the following:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
- Propylene glycol
Tooth Whitening Gels and Strips
Commercial tooth whitening products contain toxic ingredients and are highly abrasive. These ingredients can weaken enamel and cause permanent teeth damage. Instead of using these products, brush the teeth with baking soda or other bi-carb sodas.
Hard Bristle Toothbrush
A hard bristle toothbrush is abrasive, which could damage the gums and enamel.
Chemically Treated Tap Water
Some tap waters contain fluoride or chlorine. Both are used to kill bacteria to make water safe for drinking, but could disrupt the oral microbiome. The use of fluoride is a controversial subject: while studies indicate a small amount can decrease the prevalence of cavities, ingestion of fluoride more than the recommended limit leads to toxicity and adverse effects. 
Oral Healthcare Products
In addition to the tips listed above, oral healthcare products are available that help keep the oral microbiome healthy:
Skinny Nature's Mouthwash contains Skinny Coconut Oil® and peppermint essential oil. This mouthwash is used to get fresher breath, whiter teeth, and stronger gums. This is accomplished by oil pulling, which removes plaque, harmful bacteria, and other toxins the toothbrush can’t reach.
For best results, swish 1 tablespoon of Skinny Nature's Mouthwash for 2 to 20 minutes and rinse.
Unlike traditional toothpaste, Revitin Oral Therapy Rejuvenating Gum & Teeth Care contains no harsh chemicals and is safe to ingest. This product contains NuPath® BioActives, a patented* and proprietary blend of micronutrients, antioxidants, herbal extracts, and homeopathic salts. This unique mix is designed to support the mouth’s ecosystem.
This product is all natural, and contains many healthy ingredients including the following:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Non-GMO stevia leaf extract
- Tangerine oil
- Cranberry seed oil
- Lemon oil
The oral microbiome plays a critical role in overall health. In addition to oral health, it can have a direct impact on other areas of the body as well, such as the immune system and the linked to gastrointestinal diseases. Start taking the appropriate steps to improve oral health today.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Revelation Health. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Revelation Health and associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Revelation Health encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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