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Posted on: May 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm
Last updated: July 4, 2018 at 12:44 pm

It seems like today our conception that ‘clean is healthier’ is sneaking into every aspect of our life. We use anti-bacterial soaps, hand washes, shampoos and even deodorants! Our mouth is much the same where we see a constant battle with microbes to keep our pearly whites, pearly.

Oral health and much of the advice we receive now from health professionals centers around removing harmful bugs from a plaque on our teeth. But what if microbes weren’t that bad after-all?

Our Tiny Companions

Until the mid-90s, it was our general belief that all bodily fluids were completely sterile. By sterile, we mean without the presence of any bacteria at all. And so was our conception that tiny companions were only present in disease and sickness.

Since then, our body has since been shown to be crawling with bacteria, so much so they outnumber our own cells 10 to 1. Living in separate, related, yet distinct populations, the human microbiome includes our skin, gut and you guessed it, our mouths.

The stomach, which hosts the largest colony, prevents invasion from unwanted bugs and also manages many bodily functions like gut barrier function, as well as vitamin and hormone secretion.

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The Oral Microbiome

The entire length of our digestive system is populated with trillions of microbes, with the mouth and the stomach containing a 45% overlap between species.

At birth, these tracts are sterile, and the mouth is the first point of colonization of bacteria. It then proceeds to manage and ‘seed’ the gut population.

During the first two weeks after birth, oral and stomach microbial populations are identical, before eventually establishing themselves as separate functioning entities.

However, throughout life, they remain in constant communication with the mouth acting as a kind of ‘bodyguard’ that screens and ushers only suitable bacterium to the gut population.

Why Disease is Often Imbalance and Not ‘Invasion’

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Tooth decay is a dietary driven disease where the mouth environment is overwhelmed by bacteria that thrive on metabolizing simple carbohydrates and producing acid.

Scientists who measured fossilized dental plaque from our ancestors revealed that modern human mouths had undergone a significant loss in diversity.

This has coincided with the proliferation of disease-causing bacteria, due to the large-scale consumption of processed flour and sugar that happened to pop up right at the time of the agricultural, industrial revolutions.

Nature’s Probiotics: Fermented Foods

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sauerkraut

It’s no coincidence that fermented foods were consumed across the globe in all civilizations. They are chock full of probiotic bacteria as well as prebiotic fibers that we know feed the entire microbial colonies.

The key lies within the chemistry of Lactobacillus bacteria which have the ability to convert sugars into lactic acid. These bacteria readily use lactose or other sugars and converting them to lactic acid.

Lactic acid is a natural preservative due to it inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. It also increases or preserves the enzymes and vitamins improving digestibility. When fresh vegetables weren’t as readily available throughout the year, they were often preserved through fermentation.

Due to improved transportation and storage, vegetables are available all year around; while refrigeration and canning have become the methods of choice. While convenient for retaining vitamin content, they lack many of the crucial elements that fermented foods provide to feed our mouth and gut microbiome.

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While dairy is boiled and homogenized and plants sprayed with fertilizers, we’ve clearly lost the connection to the intricate bacterial processes of food.

Try this Homemade 2 Ingredient Sauerkraut!

Add Natural Bacteria to Your Diet TODAY

Remember when you sit down to a meal that you’re not only feeding yourself but the trillions of bacteria that live in your mouth and gut

While they may taste a bit tangy to your normal palate, fermented foods offer a delicious and satisfying addition to your daily dietary intake that your mouth and gut bacteria will LOVE.

You should aim to have one serving of fermented food such as:

Dr. Steven Lin is currently the Principal Dentist at Luminous Dentistry, a dental practice on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, that strives to give individuals of all ages the best possible smile.

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Dr. Steven Lin
Board Registered Dentist
Dr Steven Lin is a practicing board accredited dentist, writer and speaker. As passionate health educator, Dr Lin works to merge the fields of dental and nutritional science to show how the mouth is an integral part of our overall health. As a TEDx speaker his work has been featured on influential health websites such as MindBodyGreen and About.com. Dr Lin is now working on his own publication ‘The Dental Diet’ an exploration of how food is the foundation of oral health.

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