Mouth & Body Connection – Part 1

Written by Anil Bajnath, MD
Posted September 7, 2021

Dear Longevity Insider,

We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of our gut microbiome, but have you ever heard of your oral microbiome?

The oral cavity has the second largest and diverse microbiota after the gut, harboring over 700 species of bacteria. Additionally, oral microbes present incredible diversity of predicted protein functions compared to other parts of the body. Our oral microbiome nurtures numerous microorganisms which include bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. It has been thought that our oral microbiome begins at birth. There is a lot of research that suggests the genetic makeup and environment babies get exposed to in utero play significant roles for our oral microbiome. It is not clear what the oral microbiome looks like when we are born and there has been research done to figure out if it begins at birth or is already established beforehand. Recent studies have reported intrauterine environment colonization, specifically the amniotic fluid, by oral microorganisms, in up to 70% of pregnant women.

Before we turn one years old, our oral microbial community composition becomes equal to a profile that is similar to that of children. While there is limited research, the introduction to new nutrient sources, breastfeeding versus formula, and tooth eruption in infants are all factors that make our individual oral microbiome so uniquely complex. Similarly to the gut microbiome that we previusly discussed, our oral microbiome is influenced by different factors such as age, genetics, and oral hygiene practices along with environmental influences.

WHY IS OUR ORAL MICROBIOME IS IMPORTANT FOR OUR OVERALL HEALTH?

The oral microbiome is important for several reasons. The importance of our oral microbiome can be seen in how it could have an effect on immune defense and overall health. First, oral bacteria can enter the body to cause systemic diseases such as heart disease and osteoporosis (when oral pathogens like "Porphyromonas gingivalis" enter the bloodstream through an oral infection). Second, oral microbiome is important for immune defense. The mucous membranes that line our mouths are the first lines of defense against infections and other foreign invaders. When we have a healthy balance in our oral microbiome, it can help us fight off any unwanted pathogens entering the mouth. Third, the oral microbiome is responsible for maintaining good oral hygiene. Finally, because it is one of our first exposure to microbes (even before we are born), maintaining a healthy oral microbiome should be high on everyone's priority list! 

IMPACT ON HEALTH – BEYOND THE MOUTH

The oral microbiome has an impact on health by affecting our immune system, metabolism, body weight, and oral diseases such as cavities. Research suggests that changes in the oral microbiome can cause or exacerbate common diseases such as diabetes and obesity. It's important to keep a balance within our oral microbiome so that we are not too susceptible to pathogen invasion or unable to fight off pathogen invasion.

When you visit your primary care physician for your routine wellness visit, have you noticed they ask about your oral health? In fact, it is common for them to ask you when was your last dental cleaning was and inquire about your dental health. Why if they are not your dentist? Well, our oral hygiene and subsequently, our oral microbiome impacts our overall health.

There's so much more we haven't covered yet. See you on Thursday!

 

To your longevity,

Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Officer, Longevity Insider HQ