A healthy oral microbiome consists a myriad of microbiota, totaling in the millions or billions, all playing their part to keep you—their host—healthy. And to think, they do it in an environment that is constantly under different stressors; heat from food, cold from drinks, outside viruses and bacterium coming in, and mouthwashes that destroy 99.9% of germs (which seems like the wrong direction to us).
The least we can do is give them a little support, right?
First, how do we view a “healthy oral microbiome”?
Defining the article title is a good place to start.
There is no perfect scientific answer, organizational definition, or composition metric to achieve the quintessential gold star on a “healthy oral microbiome” yet, at least.
Some have begun to define it as a process of lowering of specific acid-producing (biofilm-creating) strains of bacteria in the mouth like Streptococcus Mutans until the mouth is in a balance where it can deal with Streptococcus Mutans naturally.
Be that as it may, there are some obvious things when it comes to your oral health. Truly, we don’t have to scrape your gums and run it under a microscope to see if your microbiota are playing nice. There is evidence of a healthy (or unhealthy) mouth just by looking at it.
- Are your gums a nice shade of pinkish red, or do they look like they’re about to bleed at any second?
- Are your teeth clean and white, or are they covered by yellowish plaque?
- How is your gum line looking?
- What about the smell of your breath?
A healthy oral microbiome isn’t exactly rocket science—perhaps understanding the finer points of the evolution of ancient hominid microbiota is—but for the average person that wants a happy, healthy, smoochable mouth, it isn’t.
Our goal at Dr. Ginger’s is to continue to spread knowledge on how to have happy, healthy, smoochable mouths. Mouths that Dr. Ginger would be happy to see leave her office on an average Tuesday. Ones that naturally defend from caries (“cavities” for us older folks), gingivitis, plaque build up, orally obtained disease-causing pathogens, and even local or systemic diseases—without the need for consistent input of 3rd party remedies to bring your body back into balance.
If you’re searching for deeper understandings of the oral microbiome you’ll need to peek at the work from the wizards doing hard research over at Frontiers, PubMed, or other research outlets. For example: We thoroughly read this Frontiers Article and this NIH/PubMed Article to make sure we understood “Streptococcus Mutans” and “biofilms” thoroughly enough to write layman-ly about them.
Without further ado: tips to a healthy oral microbiome.
Fluoride-Free Tips To A Healthy Oral Microbiome
Tip #1 | Your Diet
According to the smarty pants over at Frontiers, dental caries is not an infectious disease, but rather likely a result of a shift in the environment in your oral cavity.
This means cavities are not something that unexpectedly “attack” your teeth, but rather are reliant on the right ingredients to occur.
What ingredients you might ask? Well according to the above articles, bacteria (that you already have) brought out of balance by refined sugars, carbs, and highly-processed (microbiota deficient) foods. AKA the “western diet” as it were.
In order to help your mouth regulate Streptococcus Mutans from creating caries in your teeth, you can potentially inhibit them by:
- Eating whole, nutritious foods (think, organic produce, meats, and nuts)
- Avoiding processed sugars, instead go for natural sugars if you have a craving
- Avoiding processed foods (most fast foods, most pre-packaged foods)
- Avoiding smoking and alcohol
- Moderating your intake of acidic foods/drinks like coffee and juice
“Eat healthy” and “don’t smoke cigarettes” shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whole foods, natural sugars instead of refined sugars, and lower intake of acidic foods/drinks are a great place to start, too.
Want a more in-depth dive of diet dos and don’ts for a healthy oral microbiome? Read 7 good tips here.
What about fluoride in the diet?
Fluoride comes to us from many different sources. Toothpastes and mouthwashes are a big one. Another source is fluoridated water, which is present in most major cities’ water supplies and is used in the processing of food.
If you have a desire to lower your fluoride intake, a great way to do that is by adding a water filter to your sink and shower (fluoride can be absorbed through the skin and mouth tissues) and to source your food from local producers.
Tip #2 | Improve Saliva Flow
But really, this appears to be another promising avenue for maintaining a healthy oral microbiome. You see, your saliva can actually lower the acidity in your mouth (or raise the pH for you sciencey people).
Your saliva usually sits at a range of 6.2 to 7.6 which is rather neutral. For reference, Streptococcus Mutans thrives in an acidic environment between 4.5 and 5.0 on the pH scale.
So increasing your saliva output appears to help maintain a healthy oral microbiome.
What are some ways to increase saliva flow?
- Xylitol based, fluoride-free gums, toothpastes, and mouthwashes
- Drink more water
- Avoid spicy and acidic foods
Tip #3 | Coconut Oil Pulling
Another great way to lower the amount of Streptococcus Mutans, and therefore bringing a better balance for a healthy oral microbiome is by coconut oil pulling (according to the NIH).
Swishing coconut oil around the mouth for 20 minutes has shown to significantly reduce the amount of acid producing bacteria.
Is 20 minutes too long to swish? We think so. Which is why here at Dr. Ginger’s we’ve formulated a mouthwash that has similar effects to coconut oil pulling in a significantly less amount of time.
Other Tip | Prebiotics
We want to preface this tip with a big: UNDER RESEARCH (as of late 2022).
According to a few studies like this one here, certain probiotics like Arginine have shown to produce a more alkaline environment which, according to the researchers, inhibits development of acidic producing species of bacteria—the bacteria that lead to dental caries.
Frontiers also shares that there are a few other prebiotics that are promising additions on the path to a healthy oral microbiome. The prebiotics that they claim warrant more research include Met-Pro, succinic acid, beta-methyl-D-galactoside and N-acetyl-D-mannosamine.
An honest disclaimer.
Dr. Ginger’s is an oral care brand that provides a delicious (and effective) alternative to big brand, blue and red dyed
chemical junktoothpaste. Dr. Ginger Price, DDS, owner of the brand, has 35+ years of dental practice under her belt—working in literally thousands of mouths over the years. She has seen the effects of fluoride first hand (promote teeth enamel, inhibit bacterial metabolism), yet she maintains belief that the human body can do a better job at supporting oral health, should we approach it with methods that align with our bodies’ natural regenerative abilities.
This article is written with the intent to take information from the up and coming field of microbiome science, chew some content down to digestible information, and give the average consumer actionable knowledge on a healthy oral microbiome.
When it comes to your health, please consult directly with a physician, dentist, or relevant persons.