Oral Health

Signs of an Unhealthy Oral Microbiome - And How It Affects Your Health

Signs of an Unhealthy Oral Microbiome

A healthy microbiome can support the health of your brain, immune system, digestive system, and more. But did you know that a balanced microbiome starts in the mouth? 


That’s right, the mouth is the gateway to total body health and the first step in achieving a flourishing microbiome. If your oral health is not in tip-top shape, it will be incredibly difficult to keep your gut healthy further down in your digestive tract.1 


But how do you know if your oral microbiome is out of balance? To celebrate National Fresh Breath Day, let’s discuss the signs and symptoms of an unhealthy oral microbiome and simple tips to boost your oral health.


What is the Oral Microbiome?

The oral microbiome refers to the billions of microorganisms, or microbes, that reside in all areas of the mouth. These microbes include good and bad bacteria, yeast, viruses, and fungi. The oral microbiome acts similarly to the gut microbiome in that it needs to be properly cared for in order for the good guys to thrive.


When there is a higher percentage of good microbes in the mouth, the body is able to support necessary processes in the body - including the digestion of food, strengthening the teeth and gums, and removing waste products from the mouth and out of the body.


Some bacteria are able to travel very easily from the mouth to other parts of the body and cause damage, which is why your oral health is so important.


Signs of an Unhealthy Oral Microbiome

There are several clear signs that may indicate you have an unhealthy oral microbiome, so it’s important to pay attention to these symptoms.2


  • Increased plaque on your teeth

  • Bad breath

  • Mouth ulcers

  • Oral thrush as a result of fungal growth in the mouth

  • Gum disease

  • Frequent cavities and tooth decay

  • Tonsillitis

  • Respiratory infections

  • Tooth sensitivity

  • Heart disease


Your mouth provides a vision of what is happening in your entire body, and so understanding the state of your oral health will be your guiding point. 


What Causes an Unhealthy Oral Microbiome?

A few factors can lead to an unhealthy oral microbiome including:


  • A high carbohydrate, high sugar diet

  • Chronic stress

  • Poor oral hygiene

  • Lack of access to quality dental care

  • Damaging unconscious habits like biting nails or teeth grinding

  • Smoking

  • Chronic alcohol use

  • Certain mouthwashes and toothpaste


All of these factors can lead to gum disease and tooth decay over time, as they create a highly acidic environment in the mouth and can lead to the buildup of plaque.3


How to Support Your Oral Health

Practicing certain habits and optimizing your nutrition can support a healthy oral microbiome.4


  • Brush your teeth twice a day

  • Drink plenty of water to keep the mouth clean and prevent tooth decay 

  • Quit smoking 

  • Limit alcohol

  • Reduce intake of high sugar, high carb foods - including baked goods, candy, and sugary beverages

  • Eat foods containing beneficial bacteria, such as yogurt and kefir

  • Get regular dental cleanings and checkups


There is newer research surfacing into the benefits of beneficial microbes for oral health as they can restore microbial balance in the mouth. Food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and tempeh.5


Improving your oral health will work wonders and brings you closer to a happier total microbiome. In addition to the lifestyle tips mentioned, be sure to visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings.


References

  1. Deo PN, Deshmukh R. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2019 Jan-Apr;23(1):122-128. doi: 10.4103/jomfp.JOMFP_304_18. PMID: 31110428; PMCID: PMC6503789.

  2. Sharma N, Bhatia S, Sodhi AS, Batra N. AIMS Microbiol. 2018 Jan 12;4(1):42-66. doi: 10.3934/microbiol.2018.1.42. PMID: 31294203; PMCID: PMC6605021.

  3. Sedghi L, DiMassa V, Harrington A, Lynch SV, Kapila YL.Periodontol 2000. 2021 Oct;87(1):107-131. doi: 10.1111/prd.12393. PMID: 34463991; PMCID: PMC8457218.

  4. Ahmadi S, Klingelhöfer D, Erbe C, Holzgreve F, Groneberg DA, Ohlendorf D. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 May 27;18(11):5743. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18115743. PMID: 34071884; PMCID: PMC8198771.

  5. Allaker RP, Stephen AS. Curr Oral Health Rep. 2017;4(4):309-318. doi: 10.1007/s40496-017-0159-6. Epub 2017 Oct 19. PMID: 29201598; PMCID: PMC5688201.