It probably comes as no surprise that brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day are good steps to avoid cavities. Turns out that keeping your teeth clean and healthy plays an important role in keeping your brain healthy too. Problem is, most commercial oral care products may be doing more harm than good to your teeth (and therefore your brain too).
In this post I will explain how most commercial oral care products are likely doing the opposite of what you want them to do. I will also cover why oral health and brain health are so closely linked. Next week I will give you a comprehensive guide to natural and effective oral care.
The first thing to know is that your mouth, like your gut, has a microbiome that is critical to the overall health of your teeth and gums. (Read this post to learn more about the importance of the microbiome to your health.)
The oral microbiome is a collection of trillions of bacteria that, when they are in balance, help reduce the bacteria that cause plaque and can lead to tooth decay, receding gums, periodontal disease and more. When the microbiome is unbalanced (a state known as dysbiosis) it can lead to all the problems just mentioned, as well as cause infections that can seep into the bloodstream via the pockets caused by receding/bleeding gums, and cross the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB, or the filtering mechanism of the capillaries that carry blood to the brain and spinal cord tissue, blocking the passage of certain substances). These oral infections that travel to the brain have strong links to Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and dementia.
Another link to AD and dementia are the "silver" amalgam fillings used to treat cavities. Silver fillings are an amalgam of silver, tin, copper and mercury. These heavy metals can wreak havoc in the body in numerous ways, one of which is by accumulating in brain tissues. This is one of the links between oral health and brain problems such as AD and dementia.
People with AD have been in shown in studies to have mercury levels up to 4x higher than people without AD.
The number one cause of high mercury levels is silver dental fillings. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mercury is a cumulative toxin, meaning it is not easily removed from the body. It can pass through the BBB, binds to tissues all over the body, (the brain and thyroid are particularly sensitive to mercury toxicity), it alters DNA, cell membranes, nerve function and mitochondria (the energy generators of the cell). On a local level, mercury in the mouth has been shown to contribute to receding and bleeding gums and periodontal disease. It also disrupts the oral microbiome by being toxic to the beneficial bacteria in the mouth while creating an environment where the pathogenic bacteria can get a strong foundation in the mouth. Mercury is a perfect food for many of the pathogenic bacteria that reside in the mouth. In a healthy mouth, these bacteria are outnumbered by the “good guys”: and so don’t cause problems. But a mouth with silver fillings is not a healthy mouth.
Other problems caused by mercury include digestive problems and nutritional deficiencies. Mercury prevents the absorption of many nutrients so even the healthiest diet won’t provide you with the nutrients your body needs if mercury is present.
To get mercury out of your mouth, it’s important to go to a holistic or biological dentist with experience in removing mercury fillings. On a side note, the Journal of Dental research notes that chewing gum can increase mercury vapor release by 1500%! Chewing gum is problematic for a number of reasons and now you can add mercury release if you have silver fillings to that long list of problems.
If you're thinking at this point that you want to go grab your Colgate and brush your teeth and rinse with Listerine after, hold on a sec! Using most commercial toothpastes and mouthwashes can be counterproductive. They may give the illusion of fresher breath and whiter teeth, but the harsh chemicals and antibacterial ingredients can actually lead to receding gums, opening pathways for undesirable bacteria to get into the bloodstream. Receding gums also lead to gingivitis and exposes dental enamel that is softer and less durable than the tooth enamel above the gumline, leading to greater decay and potential cavities.
Mouthwash has been shown to cause 36,000 cases of oral cancer per year.
Mouthwash has been shown to cause 36,000 cases of oral cancer per year. The exact mechanisms have not been identified, but a big part of the reason is because these products strip the beneficial bacteria out of our mouths. These beneficial bacteria keep the pathogenic microbes in check. Other ingredients in mouthwash that disrupt the microbiome balance are:
Triclosan. An antibiotic that severely disrupts the oral microbiome.
Coloring. FD&C red #5 and other artificial colors
Propylene glycol. Used in antifreeze for cars and to de-ice. Known to irritate skin and gum tissues.
Fluoride. But fluoride is supposed to be good for teeth! Unfortunately it’s not. Fluoride irritates gum tissue leading to gingivitis, disrupts collagen production. Reduces enzyme activity, accumulates in the pineal gland, lowers IQ, and forms deposits in the brain related to AD. It also stiffens soft tissue and makes bones brittle.
Alcohol. Dries out the delicate gum tissue making it more susceptible to receding and disease.
Ethanol, artificial sweeteners, surfactants, sodium laurel sulfate, carrageenan (has been shown to disrupt the gut microbiome) and more. All of these are known microbe mutators, meaning that they can change the DNA expression of the beneficial bacteria in your mouth.
Up Next week: Strategies to optimize oral health and therefore brain health (and all other body systems as well).