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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

The Secret to Better Immunity May Be In the Mouth

Dec 01, 2021 12:00AM ● By Supriya Shetty
As the cold and flu season kicks into gear, people are trying to be healthier, boost immunity and fight inflammation. It’s important to pay attention to diet, supplements, and getting enough exercise, but there’s one area that many people overlook when it comes to fighting inflammation and disease: their mouths.

One of the Body’s Most Important Microbiomes

The mouth is the gateway to the body, and it contains a very important microbiome. Oral bacteria can either promote good health or destroy it. People don’t get to choose their oral bacteria; most receive their colonies from their mother or other family members during the early years of childhood. These bacteria can chart their dental health futures.

If someone has a good mix of bacteria, their teeth and gums will be fairly healthy for their whole life. As long as they eat healthy food, brush and floss, and see a dentist regularly, their teeth will be free of decay and their gums will be healthy. If, on the other hand, someone inherited unhealthy bacterial cultures, their oral healthcare will be more of a struggle. Without treatment that addresses the underlying bacterial issues, they’ll struggle with decay and gum disease even when they do everything right. These people don’t have “bad teeth”. They have a bad oral microbiome.

Beyond Teeth and Gums

A bad oral microbiome doesn’t just affect teeth and gums, though they’re its most noticeable victims. What’s happening in the mouth has big effects on the entire body. If the gums are inflamed, the bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause infection and inflammation throughout the body. The inflammation from these roving bacteria can cause diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer and even death.

According to a 2019 article in the Journal of Microbiology by researchers from the University of Oslo, in Norway, and Niigata University, in Japan, a growing body of evidence suggests that P. gingivalis—one of the bacteria that causes gum disease—can also survive in the stomach, travel into the intestines and disrupt the gut biome. This, in turn, can change how the body absorbs nutrition and can lead to obesity and Type 2 diabetes. To keep the immune system in tip-top shape this winter, it’s important to begin with oral health.

How to Support Immune Function With a Bad Oral Microbiome

There are many different ways to correct, or limit the damage from, a harmful oral microbiome. First of all, the bacteria in the mouth feed on the remains of food and drink. They prefer simple sugars. In a study published in a 2019 article on, Australian researchers found that the type of diet consumed changes the oral microbiome. Correcting the diet can starve bad bacteria of nutrition and allow good bacteria to gain a foothold. To improve oral culture, it is important to avoid refined sugar. Instead, people should focus on foods containing:

  • Omega-3 fatty acidsCalcium, potassium and magnesium
  • Folate
  • Vitamin D (for those that don’t get enough sunlight)
  • Fiber
In other words, the mouth is part of the body. Eating the foods that human bodies are intended to eat encourages a healthy oral microbiome. People should consume plenty of leafy greens, fermented food, fruits and vegetables, legumes, healthy fish (such as salmon), whole grains and water.

Drinking water with meals can also reduce the impact of harmful oral bacteria. Dangerous oral bacteria thrive in the acidic conditions that exist after a meal, and drinking water raises the pH of the mouth and inhibits bacterial growth.

When gums are swollen, bleeding or sore, the oral bacteria have begun the disease process. This is very dangerous since it means that the bacteria are reproducing quickly and entering the bloodstream and the gut. People who are showing signs of gum disease should contact their dentist immediately. Deep dental cleanings can slow or reverse the disease process. Fighting gum disease doesn’t have to mean antibiotics. Non-pharmaceutical methods like ozone therapy and lasers can correct the oral microbiome while avoiding drugs that will disrupt the gut microbiome.

Creating healthy oral and gut microbiomes fights inflammation, strengthens the immune system and keeps the body healthy year-round, even during cold and flu season. So this year, pay attention to the mouth. It’s essential to good health.

Dr. Supriya Shetty, a holistic dentist at Integrative Dental Solutions, is a graduate of New York University School of Dentistry and a member of the Huggins Alliance, the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and the International Association for Orthodontics. Holistic dentistry considers whole-body health and seeks natural solutions. For more information, call 262-421-4389 or visit