The Mouth’s Microbial Menagerie – Biotic Oral Care
Our mouths are a microcosm mirroring the macrocosm of imbalances on our planet. Our dental dysbiosis reflects our lack of symbiosis in our relationships to our bodies, global food production, medicine, and the environment. On a microscopic level, everything that is going on in our mouth is going on in the world: enamel and topsoil erosion, systemic corrosion, crumbling bones, mold in our homes, triclosan in toothpaste, toxins dumped in haste, factory farms festering with fungi, pollutants in the sky, adverse effects of petroleum oil, glyphosates affecting our gums, guts, and soil; deforestation, fluoridation, pesticides, and antibiotics that mutate microbes, gum pockets that erode, chronic disease, mercury in our mouths and seas, environmental allergens, chaotic carcinogens, and invading pathogens. These things threaten the bacterial borders of our body and the boundaries of our planet.
The mouth is the principal portal into our bodies; it interfaces, absorbs, and assimilates our world. The endocrine, immune, and digestive systems are intimately bound to the microbiome of our mouths. By understanding the human microbiome, we understand that our health depends on a thriving microbiome; and as human hosts to this bacterial banquet, the key to vitality in our bodies and mouths is bacterial balance.
What we now know is that many of the periodontal procedures and medicants of modern dentistry disrupt the beneficial bacteria of our gums and mutate our mouth’s microbes. Many of our oral-care practices suppress immunity. Instead, we need to reconcile with our bacterial community. We need to fluff our oral flora, and befriend our body’s bacteria. We need to abandon the products, practices, and antibiotics that are making our microbes mutate, mottling our teeth, and deforesting the flora of our oral ecology.
There are more bacteria in a kiss than there are people on the planet. Our mouths are a microbial menagerie. As holobiont human hosts to these microbes, we have forged an elaborate evolutionary and ancient alliance. A good host provides a stable, loving home and nourishing food for their flora friends. In return, these microbes micromanage our bodies by digesting food and secreting beneficial biochemicals. They are also sentient sentinels that strengthen our immunity while preventing pathogenic periodontal party-crashers from proliferating and from excreting endotoxins and colonizing the community.
The key to oral health is maintaining an ecologically balanced and diverse microbiome. Contrary to this, we have been caught in the dross of carpet-bombing the biome—practicing a scorched-earth policy of periodontal care. Chemicals in teeth bleaching, fillings, rinses, and fluoride; the sudsy surfactants of toothpastes; the antibiotic atomic bombs on bacteria; masticating meals of glyphosates and pesticides; root canals festering focal infections; the metallic mass of mercury, titanium, and nickel—these have all scorched the hive intelligence of our oral habitat. This defoliation of our oral flora-nation has made extinct and mutated microbes, resulting in complex ecological shifts of resident microbiota, giving rise to gingivitis, halitosis, cavities, oral thrush, cankers, and bleeding and receding gums. Our mouth, once a moist microhabitat of homeostasis, becomes an oxygen-starved oasis of anaerobic activity eating away at our immunity and sending systemic disease throughout the body.
Just as toxic food and chemical irritants induce leaky guts by microscopically perforating the intestines, the scrubbing and rubbing of our gums with mutating medicants and caustic chemicals cause ‘leaky,’ bleeding gums. Bacteria from our mouth does not normally enter our bloodstream, but dental procedures and products can perforate the epithelium, the skin in our mouths, which is only one cell thick, providing a port of entry into the bloodstream. When the bacteria and plaque that cause tooth decay and gum disease enter our circulatory system, they cause a cascade of inflammation, releasing cytokines and C-reactive proteins.
Our bodies will always contain a population of pathogens; the beautiful balance is to have the good bacteria far outnumber the bad. For example, even healthy mouths are homes to the cavity-causing Streptococcus mutans. Some research is positing that what might make S. mutans virulent is that it’s missing its ancestral bacterial buddies. This particular pathogen only causes a problem when it forms a biofilm and adheres to the tooth’s surface. Normally, pathogens exist in a free-floating planktonic state in our body’s ecosystem. But when they grow in numbers, they are able to gain traction by communicating through quorum sensing, enabling them to colonize into a biofilm. Quorum sensing is the way in which pathogens communicate to coordinate group behavior and regulate gene expression. A biofilm is a densely packed colony of microbes that adhere to surfaces and surround themselves with sticky secretions. A mucopolysaccharide plaque layer is produced around the biofilm colony, which forms a barrier that is not permeable to antibiotics, yet antibiotics are often prescribed for oral disease.
Dental plaque is a biofilm that can either entrap existing oral pathogens from flourishing or provide a refuge for pathogens to hide from alkalinizing salivary flow. Under healthy conditions, an oral-ecological balance of bacteria keeps biofilms healthy and stable. But plaque is an ideal nest for germs. This blocks the teeth from respiration and prevents the saliva and dentinal-lymph fluid from doing its job of cleansing the teeth with a protective coating.
To restore balance to the mouth’s microbiome, we need strategies to inhibit the quorum sensing that forms biofilms. We need to clear colonized citadels of their powerful cohesion on our mouth’s surfaces and crevices. There is extensive research on strategies that inhibit quorum sensing. In various studies, essential oils such as cinnamon, peppermint, tea tree, frankincense, and clove showed promising results in reducing quorum-sensing activity. In one study, clove oil reduced quorum sensing by up to 70 percent![i] These essential oils indicate anti-infective activity that can coexist with our flora while cleaning up periodontal pathogens. Now we have scientific studies confirming the ancient wisdom of using botanical-biotics to maintain oral ecology.
Elevate Oral Ecology: Stop, Seal, and Seed
Start by ceasing many of the daily and dietary habits that are compromising to healthy oral ecology. Whatever improvements you make to your mouth will benefit your body’s well-being as well.
Stop Using Synthetic Dental-Care Products from the “May Be Harmful if Swallowed” category.[ii] Our gums and teeth are living tissue, and we want to approach cleaning them a little differently than we would scrub a countertop. If toothpaste is the magic cleaner for our teeth, then why are cavities at an all-time high, and why does toothpaste come with a big warning label: “May Be Harmful if Swallowed”?
Most toothpastes and rinses, including many of the brands sold in health food stores, use chemical and synthetic ingredients that are more appropriate for industrial purposes than for cleaning the delicate tissue of the body or cultivating oral health. Brushing with these chemicals may be harmful to our health. Absorbing through the mouth’s mucous membrane into the bloodstream, these synthetic substances may lead to decomposing collagen, hinder hormones, damage the delicate epithelium, activate acne, disturb microflora in the digestive tract, and, in the end, encourage poor health.
Seal and Heal
Bleeding, inflamed, and receding gums are signifiers of bacterial imbalance and that bacteria may be entering the bloodstream. Restore integrity to the oral epithelium by healing and sealing leaky gums and enabling the saliva’s ability to protect enamel. The DIY biotic dental solutions below are bona fide beneficial.
Feed with Seeds
With so many agents in our society making our microbes extinct, from antibiotics to pesticide-laden processed foods, we need to build our oral bacterial bank account and fund it with investments of diverse flora.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Maintain an oral microbiome of bustling bacteria with prebiotics and probiotics, as they are microbe multipliers. Prebiotics feed and enhance the growth of probiotics. Chicory root, available as an easy-to-use powder, is a prebiotic rich in oligosaccharides. Probiotics are food supplements with living microbes that are beneficial when used in adequate numbers. Lactobacilli (specifically L. fermentum, L. plantarum, L. casei, L. reuteri, and L. rhamnosus) and Bifidobacterium all showed the ability to adhere to saliva, inhibit the proliferation of periodontal pathogens, and reduce cavity-causing bacteria and plaque.[iii]
Researchers are looking for modes of delivery that increase retention and exposure times of probiotics to the mouth using lozenges. Yet we don’t have to wait. Daily use in the diet along with swishing, seeding, and applying increase probiotic presence in saliva, dentinal lymph, and the entire gastro-intestinal tract. Successful experiments at some dental practices have applied a mixture of probiotics after scaling and root planing called Guided Pocket Recolonization.[iv] This can be safely and simply carried out at home with our Living Libations blunt-tipped syringe, filled with powder from one Brilliant Biotic capsule and a carrier oil, like MCT, or one of our Swishing Serums.
Our bodies are brilliantly designed. When we repopulate our mouth’s microbiome and activate our invisible toothbrush by eliminating what hinders the innate functioning of our bodies, the external maintenance of brushing and flossing is so easy, because our teeth are alive and will respond to our efforts! The current condition of our mouth can evolve, as enamel can be restored, dentine can be reactivated, saliva can remineralize, and gums can be rejuvenated.
A mouthful of bustling bacteria just might keep the dentist away.
DIY Solutions to Maintain your Mouth’s Microbial Menagerie
ONE MINUTE MOUTH WASH
Supercharge the mouth’s microbiome by swishing with probiotics; simply pop a capsule in water with a pinch of an oral alkalinizer: baking soda or sea salt, and a drop of peppermint. Swish a freshly cleaned mouth for one minute and then swallow.
PEPPY MINT PASTE
Liquefy coconut oil in a jar in a warm bowl of water and add in the other ingredients. Mix together, (pour into smaller jars, a different jar for each person in the family, if desired), and pop in the fridge to solidify. Once solidified, it can be stored out of the fridge.
30 ml Coconut Oil
20 ml Baking Soda
5 Brilliant Biotic capsules
20 drops Peppermint
10 drops Frankincense
10 drops Spearmint
OIL PULLING PRO
Oil swishing, otherwise known as oil pulling, is an ancient Ayurvedic practice used to cleanse the mouth, teeth, gums, and the entire oral cavity. The oil pulling process involves swishing in the mouth about a tablespoon of oil for 15 minutes. It facilitates the flow of tooth and tongue-bathing saliva, and balances the pH in the mouth. The warm, liquefied oil dissolves and traps food on the teeth and “brushes” your teeth as you swish. Positively perk up your oil pulling practice by adding a capsule into the mix.
If you prefer expertly prepared products to swish with, you can add a Brilliant Biotic to your oil pulling routine with capsule we have created two beautiful swishing serums with our organic, Happy Gum Drops + Oil Swishing Serum or Mint +Myrrh Oil Swishing Serum. Both serums overflow with time-treasured and scientifically measured botanicalbiotics to bolster the balance of your mouth’s microbiome, protect your teeth, and freshen your breath.
Oil Swishing How To
It is best to oil swish first thing in the morning and after brushing at night.
Measure about a tea spoon of MCT, coconut, or olive of oil, 1 drop of peppermint or frankincense oil and 1 Brilliant Biotic capsule and swish in your mouth.
Swish without swallowing for up to 15 minutes.
Spit. If you swish with coconut oil it may solidify in cold water and clog your pipes, so spit it a trash bin.
Follow your regular routine, including your Successful Oral Care steps.
DIY TOOTH BUTTER CUPS
These prep-ahead butter cups make morning swishing a breeze. This recipe makes about 4 single serving cups that store endlessly in the fridge or freezer.
Gently warm the coconut oil until it becomes a soft enough to stir. Add the probiotics, baking soda, and essential oils and the clay or charcoal if desired. Drop them into tablespoon sized balls or molds and refrigerate until hardened. To use, pop one butter cup in your mouth and let it melt then swish vigorously for 10 minutes and spit.
60 ml Coconut Oil
6 Brilliant Biotic capsules (powder)
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
15 drops of an organic essential oil: Peppermint, Frankincense, Rose Otto, Cardamom, Seabuckthorn, Clove, Happy Gums Drops, Mint + Myrrh, or Yogi Tooth Serum
Optional: 2 teaspoons Clay or Activated Charcoal
Check out Renegade Beauty to dig deeper into optimal oral health.
Nadine Artemis, the founder of Living Libations, is the author of Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums, and Renegade Beauty: Reveal and Revive Your Natural Radiance, which was named one of “The Top 10 Books on Skin Care” by The Strategist of New York Magazine. She is a respected media guest and contributor, and her products have received rave reviews in the New York Times, LA Times, Elle, People, Vogue, and Hollywood Reporter. Described by Alanis Morissette as “a true-sense visionary,” Nadine crafts elegant formulations and healing creations from rare botanicals that have skin glowing around the world. Her concept of Renegade Beauty encourages effortlessness and inspires people to rethink conventional notions of beauty and wellness.
[i] Shodhganga, “Summary,” http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/63580/18/18_summary.pdf.
[ii] Dig deeper into oral ecology, self-dentistry, and botanical oils for the mouth in my book Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums.
[iii] R. M. Karuppaiah, S. Shankar, S. K. Raj, K. Ramesh, R. Prakash, and M. Kruthika, “Evaluation of the Efficacy of Probiotics in Plaque Reduction and Gingival Health Maintenance among School Children—A Randomized Control Trial,” Journal of International Oral Health 5, no. 5 (2013): 33–37.
[iv] W. Teughels et al., “Guiding Periodontal Pocket Recolonization: A Proof of Concept,” Journal of Dental Research 86, no. 11 (November 2007): 1078–1082.