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5 Tips to level up your oral care routine

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Oral health is an underestimated area of our health that deserves some attention. We know how critical our gut microbiome is to our health but recently the oral microbiome has been linked to many chronic diseases and may play a huge role in whole body health.

Here are some tips when it comes to taking good care of your oral health:

1. Floss/Water-Pik daily

Flossing and using a water pic is a critical step if you are trying to achieve optimal oral health. Flossing can be done with a thin thread-like material to clean in-between the teeth. When you eat, food particles can get stuck in the small spaces between the teeth. When food debris sits for a long period of time, the bacteria in the mouth will begin to produce plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance that forms around the teeth that can form above or below the gums. If plaque is not properly lifted and removed this substance can harden or mineralize into what is called tartar. Tar is thought to be one of the major contributors to gum diseases such as gingivitis. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. When inflammation becomes chronic it can begin to impact the bones that support our teeth leading to tooth decay and eventually tooth loss. Another important fact to note is that, when the gums are inflamed the epithelium can become leaky. This is when your mouth can become leaky- just like leaky gut! Think about how close the mouth is to the brain and heart! When your mouth is leaky, bacteria has the potential to make its way past the gums through the cells into the bloodstream and set its roots down in other organs throughout the body. Flossing between meals or before bed is a quick and easy way to prevent plaque buildup, support a healthy oral microbiome, and prevent gum inflammation.

For an even deeper clean you can consider water-piking after you floss. A water-pik is a tool that allows you to flush water between the teeth. This allows you to remove bacteria, biofilms, and food debris traditional floss is not able to get at. Floss removes the bigger particles while a water pik can remove the finer particles and debris. Water-piking is something to consider if you have braces or permanent retainers that make using traditional floss difficult.

Both flossing and water piking are great options to keep your gums healthy.

2. Mouth tape before bed

Mouth tape is a specific form of tape designed to keep your mouth shut overnight while you sleep to encourage your body to breathe through the nose. Mouth breathing has been shown to increase your risk of or exacerbate conditions such as sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, chronic fatigue, gut dysfunction, and more. In children mouth breathing can lead to poor academic performance and inability to concentrate, crooked teeth, gummy smiles, developmental abnormalities such as facial deformities and poor growth. Mouth breathing can also create a poor oral microbiome leading to bad breathe, cavities, and infections.

How does this happen?

When you mouth breathe, you are taking in a much larger amount of air than you would with your nose. This level of air in not only stresses the nasal air pathways but it dries out the mouth. In order for your teeth and gums to stay healthy they need to be immersed in saliva. Saliva is what mineralizes and nourishes the teeth. Not only is a dry mouth problematic for our teeth and gums but it is the perfect environment for bacteria to repopulate and grow. Once bacteria begins to reproduce high amounts can lead to bio-film production. Biofilms are used to protect the bacteria and if this environment is chronic next thing you know you’re dealing with gum disease and infection.

Another downfall of mouth breathing is decreased nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is a gas produced at a higher capacity in the nose. Nitric oxide has a multitude of health benefits but the most commonly known is it's role in vasodilatation- nitric oxides allows the blood vessels to dilate so our blood can flow freely throughout the body delivering oxygen and nutrients to our organs. When you mouth breath you are decreasing nitric oxide production.

How to Mouth Tape:

Mouth taping should be easy and painless with the right kind of tape. The tape you choose to use should keep the lips sealed together but allow your lips to open without pain or injury if you need to open your mouth while sleeping. Place tape on your lips before bed. Remove in the morning. If your mouth is no longer taped in the morning this is a clue you are mouth breathing! Mouth taping can take a little while for the body to get used to so stick with it! It is important to note that if you have given mouth taping a couple weeks and you are still unable to get through the night without mouth breathing you might consider seeing and ENT to evaluate potential root causes impacting your ability to mouth breathe.

3. Oil-pulling in the morning

Let’s swap out those harsh mouthwashes and oil pull instead. Oil pulling is an Ayruvedic practice that has been around for thousands of years. The idea was to swish the oil around in the mouth for 15-20 minutes to pull heavy metals and toxins out of the body. Although, the research is lacking to support these claims it has become a widely adopted practice to balance the oral microbiome. Research has shown that oil pulling with coconut and sesame oil can help minimize plaque formation. In fact, control trials found that coconut and sesame oils were as effective at removing plaque as Chlorhexidine (the active ingredient in traditional mouthwashes). Remember that plaque formation is what can lead to inflamed gums/gingivitis. An improvement in mouth odor has also been demonstrated- as the oil pulling pulls out and removes bad bacteria from the mouth and between the teeth. A balanced and healthy oral microbiome will also help prevent cavities.

How to oil pull: I recommend using coconut oil as it has wonderful antimicrobial properties. Although sesame oil has been shown to be effective as well.

It is best to do this in the morning before eating and drinking.

You can oil pull before or after brushing your teeth. Some function dentist recommend oil pulling after brushing as the oil remnants can help remineralize the teeth. If you do not prefer the residue on your teeth you can oil pull before brushing.

  1. Add 1-2 tsp. of oil to the mouth.

  2. Swish the oil around your mouth and pull the oil through your teeth

  3. Do this for ~5 minutes.

  4. Once the oil foams and become thinner in texture spit oil out in the trash.

  5. No not spit into the sink as oil can harden and clog your pipes.

  6. Be sure not to swallow the oil. We don’t want you swallowing all the bacteria.

Oil pulling is a great option to consider to improve your oral health.

4. Tongue scrap when you wake and before bed

Tongue scraping is also a wonderful practice to consider to help maintain a healthy oral microbiome. Tongue scraping is the practice of using a metal tool to scrape and clean the tongue. This is huge for a healthy mouth because the tongue collects bacteria! If we don’t clean our tongue, bacteria, food, beverages debris can build-up on the tongue—> More bad bacteria, more plague buildup, more inflammation, see where I’m going here?

Just remember, you are swallowing the bacteria in your mouth constantly throughout the day. If you have dysbiosis of the mouth and are swallowing those bad bugs it is no wonder your oral health can impact your digestive health and the rest of the body!

How to Tongue scrape:

  1. Open you mouth wide and stick your tongue out.

  2. Hold your tongue scraper and begin scraping from the very back of your tongue forward towards the tip of your tongue. (this should be a firm but gentle scrape as we do not want to cause damage)

  3. You will notice buildup on the scrapper- rinse this off and scrape again until the fluid is clear in color.

Tongue scraping is a great way to keep away bad breathe, cavities, and growth of bad bacteria.

5. Stay away from refined carbs and high sugar foods

If you are focused on a balanced oral microbiome a diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates is essential. Bottom line is that sugar is fuel for bad bacteria growth! Research has demonstrated that a diet high in sugar significantly decreased bacteria diversity in the gut as well as the amount of bacteroidetes while increasing abundance of pathogenic bacteria. Whole foods such as fruits, veggies, root veggies, and tubers provide wonderful antioxidants helpful for fighting infection and prebiotic fibers for your good healthy bacteria.

Whole foods are also necessary for nitric oxide production! In the mouth, our body is able to make nitric oxide from nitrate found in foods such as kale, spinach, arugula, beets, celery, and fennel. But, we need certain bacteria present in our mouth to make this happen. This is why a healthy balanced and diverse oral microbiome is important for whole body health. We need whole foods and good bacteria!

*Check out my oral health must have’s in the “Resources” section for some of my favorite oral health products!


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