Why Your Periodontal Health is Vital to Overall Health
It’s simple – better oral health can indicate better overall brain health.
While doing research for my book, Radical Longevity, I came across several studies that directly connected gingivitis to people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. What’s the connection? A type of bacteria – P. gingivalis – the culprit behind periodontitis and recently found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Gingivitis is a common infection. It is estimated that 3 out of 4 American adults have gingivitis, the earliest form of gum disease. If not treated early, gingivitis can cause a more advanced stage of gum disease – periodontitis. Gingivitis symptoms include irritated or red gums that may bleed when brushing or flossing.
Periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease which causes serious infection, damaging the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. However, the reduction of bone mass due to periodontal disease can cause tissue reduction and swelling of the gums. It can also cause significant health issues like Alzheimer’s disease.
In experiments on mice, studies have shown that oral P. gingivalis infection also manifested the production of amyloid beta, proteins which then create amyloid plaques, found to be the plaque at the root of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also found that toxins released by P. gingivalis (called gingipains) were present in brain cells of those with Alzheimer’s. This finding proves that Alzheimer’s may be, in part, a type of brain infection.
Your mouth/body connection is far more important than you might think. Your oral health reflects what your overall health status is now or what it may be later. It seems like a stretch to think the health of your mouth affects the health of your brain, but it’s true. Your mouth, your teeth and gum health can all have a direct effect on your brain, liver, gut health, immune system, and the rest of your body.
Every nutrient and probiotic you take into your body comes in through your mouth, and it’s also the gateway for bacterial infections, including P. gingivalis. Choosing the right diet, supplements for oral health, and daily healthy dental care are paramount to the health of your mouth, your immune system, and your body.
Over 600 species of bacteria are living in your mouth right now, making up what’s called your oral microbiome. This mouth microbiome is one of the most ecologically diverse populations in your entire body, housing a variety of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. Disruption in gum bacterial balance can be detrimental to overall periodontal health and therefore, the health of our entire body. Gingivitis, if treated early, can prevent the onset of far more serious periodontal infections that can be linked to Alzheimer’s.
Simple Strategies to Prevent Periodontal Infections
Dr. Paul H. Keyes, a pioneer researcher and educator who specialized in periodontal disease, was noted in 1946 for first documenting the connection between dental plaque and gingivitis to the onset of periodontitis. He gained national attention for developing a simple, yet effective nonsurgical therapy for gum disease. The “salt and soda” method, popularly known as the Keyes technique – uses traditional methods of deep root scaling and plaque control supplemented with deep pocket irrigation with baking soda or Epsom salt and hydrogen peroxide.
He was among the first to use natural antibiotic agents for periodontal therapy including home irrigation with baking soda or salt solutions and brushing with a mix of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Dr. Keyes is largely responsible for the widespread use of baking soda in toothpastes and in the home oral hygiene regimens used today.
While regular visits to a dentist are an essential part of maintaining good oral health, The Keyes Method, as it is widely known, is fairly simple, yet extremely effective for keeping your oral hygiene and your health at its best.
- Mix two tablespoons of baking soda (or Epsom salts) with a small amount of three-percent hydrogen peroxide and stir until it forms a thin paste.
- Using your toothbrush, apply the paste to your gums. Massage into the gum line, adding more paste as necessary to fully incorporate the paste into the gum line throughout your mouth.
- Rinse and clean with oral irrigator: After massaging your gums with your toothbrush, rinse out the paste with warm water and use an oral irrigator filled with warm water to provide a final, deep cleaning of the gum line and spaces between the teeth.
Your Mouth is the Gateway to Health
- Schedule regular dental checkups.
- Support your mouth microbiome by choosing the foods that your mouth microbiome loves and choose a probiotic that keeps your microbiome healthy. My probiotic of choice is UNI KEY Health’s Flora-Key, which contains Lactobacillus reuteri, a healthy bacteria shown in studies to fight the harmful strains that cause tooth decay and bad breath. When it comes to choosing probiotics, the magic number is 10 billion CFUs (Colony Forming Units); any more than this can interfere with immune function, so more is not necessarily better in this case. I enjoy the light sweetness of Flora-Key and sprinkle it on my food, which is a great way to bathe the mouth in these healthy bacteria.
- Practice healthy dental habits by following The Keyes Method. If you haven’t done so yet, invest in a water irrigation tool like Water Pik. Keep your teeth and gums healthy and you will most likely keep your brain healthy and infection free. Pay attention to your oral health – it really could change your life!