Have you ever stopped to think how amazing your mouth is?
Aside from helping you to communicate your thoughts and feelings, your mouth enables you to sense the flavour, freshness and nutritional value of the food you eat. It’s the place where the process of digestion and nutrient absorption starts when you chew your food, and it’s where a large part of your immune function begins.
In short, your mouth is your body’s front door for nutrition.
Living in a state of wellbeing and balance means being attentive to our whole health and our whole body—and taking care of your oral health is a much bigger part of that process than you might think.
Why is your mouth so important for your wellbeing?
Your mouth is the beginning of your digestive tract—the place where up to 80% of your immune system is located. Just like the gut, your mouth is populated by billions of bacteria. And, like the gut, these bacteria are powerful agents in promoting good health, or harming it.
The beneficial bacteria that set up home in our mouths have protective functions, and are the champions of pre-digestion, helping to break down our food and shield our teeth and gums from harmful bacteria. On the other hand, an overgrowth of damaging oral bacteria can lead to disease and infection—not just in your teeth and gums, but throughout your whole body.
Diet, toxins and oral hygiene all affect the balance of our oral bacteria. A low nutrient diet, poor oral health habits or exposure to toxins can cause an overgrowth of damaging bacteria in the mouth—and that can lead to a host of health issues, from plaque, bad breath, tooth decay and cavities to gum inflammation, gum disease (gingivitis) and periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss.
But beyond this, unchecked bacterial overgrowth and infection in the mouth can spread further into your body, causing serious illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Maintaining the right balance of oral bacteria is as essential to your wellbeing as healthy gut bacteria.
So what can you do to maintain good oral health, and create balance and wellbeing for your entire body?
Healthy mouth, healthy human
A good oral hygiene routine is a fundamental part of maintaining your oral and whole-body health. We all understand the importance of brushing to keep teeth strong and prevent cavities. But true oral health is achieved with a little more than a quick scrub with toothpaste twice a day.
Polish up that smile
Your mouth is lined with highly absorbent mucous membranes, which begin to absorb nutrients from the moment you begin chewing your food. And this means that whatever you put in your mouth has an open invitation to the rest of your body.
A quick glance at the label of most commercial toothpastes will reveal that this innocent-looking, minty substance is laden with chemicals—like fluoride, sodium lauryl (which makes your toothpaste foam), sodium hydroxide (otherwise known as caustic soda), and the synthetic antibacterial, triclosan. These substances have been linked to a range of serious health effects, from skin irritation and bone disorders to hormone imbalance and cancer. And, even though you don't swallow toothpaste, a proportion of these chemicals still end up in your bloodstream and organs, via your mouth’s mucous membranes.
Happily, there are alternative products available that can give you a bright smile without the toxins.
Earthpaste is a toxin-free toothpaste that comes in cinnamon, lemon, spearmint, peppermint and wintergreen flavours, while Jack and Jill Natural Organic Toothpaste is a great option for children, available in unflavoured or strawberry varieties.
Permission granted to poke your tongue out
Have you ever wondered what causes that furry mouth feeling that happens some mornings (and the accompanying, not-very-charming morning breath)?
That unpleasant coated tongue is a result of a mucous build up, caused by the body ridding itself of toxins and bacteria while you sleep. This excreted waste sits on your tongue, and if you don't get rid of it, your body will go right back to absorbing it all over again.
Tongue scraping is a process used in Ayurvedic medicine to remove toxins from the tongue. This simple technique uses a metal, u-shaped tool to gently scrape the surface of the tongue and collect the toxins that are gathered there.
Tongue scraping is one of the most effective measures you can take against bad breath (halitosis), and can also help improve your sense of taste and slow the growth of plaque.
Tongue scrapers are simple, inexpensive and easy to use. Try the stainless steel Dr Tung’s Tongue Cleaner (even for the sole reason that the name is awesome!).
Wash your mouth out (for good)
Oil pulling is another ancient Ayurvedic practice that some people continue to find useful as part of their oral hygiene routine.
This traditional mouth washing technique involves swishing oil inside the mouth for several minutes before brushing your teeth. Oil pulling is thought to stimulate saliva secretion in the mouth and draw oil-soluble toxins and bacteria into the oil, which is then discarded.
While pure sesame, sunflower olive or coconut oil can all be used for oil pulling, another alternative is Dr Tung's Oil Pulling Concentrate which is a time-tested remedy of selected plants and botanicals chosen for their treatment qualities and carefully prepared in organic sesame oil.
Oil pulling, while popular as a traditional Ayurvedic technique, is not part of the mainstream recommendations for oral health treatment, so it’s important to decide for yourself if this is a helpful practice for you. While we cannot provide individual advice, if you have concerns about oil pulling, or experience any unpleasant side effects, we recommend that you discuss these with your health professional.
Eat for your mouth, as well as your body
One of the best things you can do for your oral health is to nourish yourself with a diet that is rich in nutritious wholefoods and free from highly processed, nutrient-poor foods. For oral health, make sure your diet includes the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, which are essential for promoting strong bones and teeth, and for preventing tooth decay.
Organ meats and high vitamin grass-fed dairy fats are among the richest sources of these fat-soluble vitamins. Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil, Fermented Skate Liver Oil and Green Pastures X-Factor Gold High Vitamin Butter Oil are all excellent—and convenient—options for including vitamins A and D and Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
Maintaining a good oral hygiene routine, eating a healthy wholefoods diet and avoiding exposure to toxins are the three keys to improving the health of your mouth, teeth and gums, thereby maintaining a healthy bacterial balance, improving your immunity, and enhancing your overall wellbeing.
I hope this article inspires you to take some simple, effective steps towards creating better oral and whole body health.
If you have any questions, or would like to get in touch, you can email us here.
Until next time, stay well.