What Is Oral Microbiome Dysbiosis, And What To Do If You Have It
What is oral microbiome dysbiosis and how can you avoid it?
Oral microbiome dysbiosis is characterized by a decrease in microbial diversity in your mouth (1). Simply put, this means that your mouth lacks an abundance of beneficial bacteria and thus pathogenic (bad) bacteria overgrow and cause you to experience an increased risk in cavities, gum disease, bad breath and more.
We liken it to a garden in your mouth. Your “garden” should have every bed filled with healthy plants and fruits or vegetables. However, if one of your “garden beds” is empty this increases the chance that a weed will take up the available nutrients and begin to grow. That weed can then spread from bed to bed and begin to kill your healthy plants. Looping this back to your mouth, it means that an overgrowth of bad bacteria can kill off the good by using up their nutrients. You are then left with a garden of bad bacteria that can cause an unhealthy pH in your mouth which can lead to bad breath and a host of oral health issues.
So what can you do to keep your garden beds full of healthy plants? Encourage the growth of good bacteria! Practical ways to do this are:
1. Keep your mouth at a healthy pH. You can do this by rinsing with water or a pH balancing mouthwash after every meal. You can also eat foods that encourage a healthy pH (2). You can help keep your pH balanced at night by taping your mouth to avoid mouth breathing (but we recommend that you check with your physician if you have any health concerns before doing this!)
2. Use oral care products that contain xylitol, and chew xylitol gum in between meals. Pathogenic bacteria cannot digest xylitol and die off or become less sticky as a result (3). Chewing gum also helps stimulate salivation which also keeps your mouth clean and balances your pH. (4)
3. Eat foods that provide nutrients to your teeth like apples, leafy greens, nuts and calcium rich-foods. (5)
4. Take a dental pre and probiotic to help flood your mouth with good bacteria on a daily basis, and provide food for those bacteria too! (Prebiotics like chicory root provide nutrients for beneficial bacteria). (6)
5. Maintain good oral hygiene. Much like a real garden needs constant pruning. When you brush and floss on a daily basis you are helping remove the “weeds” or bad bacteria that have taken up space in your mouth. Make sure to brush your tongue too, or use a tongue scraper!
6. Finally, you can keep your oral microbiome in check by testing your saliva to see what types of bacteria are living in your mouth, and their relative abundance. Like a window into your oral health, oral microbiome testing helps you and your dentist see exactly what types of bacteria are in your mouth and provide customized recommendations for how to improve your oral health.
(1) Sudhakara P, Gupta A, Bhardwaj A, Wilson A. Oral Dysbiotic Communities and Their Implications in Systemic Diseases. Dent J (Basel). 2018 Apr 16;6(2):10. doi: 10.3390/dj6020010. PMID: 29659479; PMCID: PMC6023521.
(2) Namestnikova IV, Rumyantsev VA, Egorova EN. [[Influence of Nutrition Nature on Acid-Base Balance in the Mouth and the Risk of Dental Diseases].]. Eksp Klin Gastroenterol. 2016;(5):12-15. Russian. PMID: 28661588.
(3) Lynch H, Milgrom P. Xylitol and dental caries: an overview for clinicians. J Calif Dent Assoc. 2003 Mar;31(3):205-9. PMID: 12693818.
(4) Fröhlich S, Maiwald HJ, Flowerdew G. Effect of gum chewing on the pH of dental plaque. J Clin Dent. 1992;3(3):75-8. PMID: 1449615.