Dentist: You’ve got elevated levels of harmful bacteria in your mouth.
Me: Really? How is that possible? I’ve never had dental problems in my life, not even a cavity.
Dentist: Well, you do now.
This conversation happened a few years ago, after many months of dealing with what I thought were minor dental issues. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a year-long journey into the land of holistic dentistry and the discovery that dental health is connected to hormonal health. In fact, women are more susceptible to oral health problems than men because of our unique hormonal makeup.
How our hormones can affect our dental health:
According to this study and this study, the increase in progesterone in the second half of your menstrual cycle can lead to swollen, bleeding gums and canker sores. This also applies to women who are pregnant (high levels of progesterone) and women who take certain progesterone-only birth control pills. Here’s another study about OCPs and how they increase the risk for gum disease. Additionally, some women experience these symptoms at ovulation time as well due to increases in estrogen. This is why it is so important for women to be on top of their dental care.
<— This picture is just to let you know that the story ends well!
As I said, the first thing the dentist found was this elevated level of harmful bacteria in my mouth. This indicated to him that my immune system wasn’t fighting off this bacteria and they were growing out of control. (Gross, I know). This was causing severe gum disease – my gums were receding at an alarming rate along with jaw bone loss – apparently when your gums recede your bone goes with it. Not cool…once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. So if you’ve got great gums now, make sure you take fabulous care of them girlfriend.
I also had pretty deep pockets – basically my gums were pulling away from my teeth – a wonderful breeding ground for more bacteria. And these pockets would only continue to get worse if I didn’t do something about it asap. “Something” meaning a very expensive series of treatments.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the dentist also noticed a cavity – eeek, up until that point I’d been rather proud of my cavity-free mouth and now with all these dental issues I was just like everybody else! Haha, I kid.
The treatment involved numerous visits to the dentist where they would perform super deep cleaning, ozone therapy and laser treatments on my gums. Pretty rad that we can use ozone and lasers to fix gum problems these days huh? Of course it also involved lots of homework for me!
Here’s the exact dental protocol that I used to address my bacterial problem and heal my cavity:
1. I bought one of those fancy electric toothbrushes.
I switched to a Philips Sonicare brand electric toothbrush, and it was somewhat life changing. I know, who says stuff like that right? Someone who is now deeply in touch with her tooth health. One of the symptoms of harmful bacteria residing in your mouth is plaque and I couldn’t keep the stuff at bay before this toothbrush came into my life. I’d have plaque buildup within a day or two of visiting a dentist – yeah, bad!
2. I also bought a dental irrigator aka a water flosser.
Pre-dental irrigator I flossed (with dental floss) daily but my holistic dentist doesn’t believe in flossing unless something is really stuck in your teeth. He says that oral irrigation is a far more effective method for removing debris from your gums and in between your teeth. I bought the Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser and never looked back. I use warm water and a splash of hydrogen peroxide every night after brushing. Amazingness!
3. I changed my toothpaste (I wasn’t using Crest or anything so don’t freak out lol).
The dentist recommended I switch from my current toothpaste to Weleda Natural Salt Toothpaste because it’s the “best”. I didn’t get much more of an explanation but I really loved using it. Currently I’m using and loving wellnesse by Katie Wells. I’ve also experimented with plain old baking soda (which there is a lot of debate about) but for me personally has worked just as well as the $8 tubes of fancy toothpaste. I also became obsessed with Living Libations dental health products. They cost a small fortune but I had good results using the Healthy Gum Drops, the Ozone Gel and the Neem Enamelizer. I wish I could have afforded to continue with their products but I was spending way too much on them!
4. I began rinsing my mouth with salt water.
My dentist told me this is supposed to strengthen your gums. I don’t do it every single day but about 2-3 times a week. I simply add a teaspoon of sea salt to warm water and swish it around for 2-3 minutes. Easy peasy.
5. I was given an oral probiotic by the dentist.
The product was Evora Pro Oral Probiotic Mints and it’s only available through dentists, however you can purchase their consumer product here. I’m not sure how effective this product was but I used it faithfully for the first eight months of my treatment, then I ran out and didn’t get anymore. There are a couple of studies on their website that corroborate what they claim the product does and my dentist seemed to really believe in them so I’m sure they work when combined with everything else.
6. I finally started oil pulling.
I did this a number of years ago but didn’t stay consistent with it, likely because I was not facing $1000’s in dental bills and a receding gum line back then! Anyways, I got serious about it and began oil pulling with sesame seed oil for 15-20 minutes in the morning and evening. Whoa, I gotta say I really didn’t believe the hype but I started oil pulling between my second and third dentist visits and on my third visit my cavity no longer needed filling. Wooo!! For those who don’t know….oil pulling is an ancient Indian cleansing practice in which you swish 1-3 teaspoons of oil (sesame or olive) around in your mouth for 20 minutes a day. Check out Wellness Mama or Well Wisdom for more details on how to do it. I tried all three and love the sesame seed oil the best.
7. I got serious about my MTHFR gene mutation.
I discovered I am homozygous for 677T in early 2013 and didn’t do much about it – read my blog post about this if you’re totally confused by what I mean! 🙂 Having an MTHFR mutation can cause a lot of issues for people, especially women of childbearing age. A mutated MTHFR gene means that your body doesn’t detoxify efficiently, which leads to a taxed immune system and the decreased ability to get rid of harmful pathogens and toxins (think heavy metals, excess hormones, chemicals etc). My theory is this applies to any kind of bad bacteria, including the ones in my mouth. I talked with the dentist and he confirmed that the MTHFR gene has come up in his research and this could be part of the problem. Unfortunately I haven’t found any conclusive evidence online but it makes a lot of sense.
Women with this gene mutation have a higher risk of infertility, multiple miscarriages, hormonal imbalances, PMS, anxiety and depression amongst others. This can be attributed to a number of things but I’d say the main cause is the fact that your liver just doesn’t function as well when you’ve got this mutation. See my post on liver function here and how it connects to your hormones.
If you experience any of the above issues, I highly recommend getting tested so you can take steps to mitigate any negative effects the mutation is having on your health. I take a double dose of Thorne Research Basic B Complex every day as part of my MTHFR-battling protocol and do my best to help my body detoxify every chance I get – more detoxification ideas in the MTHFR post I mentioned above, as well as this one.
8. I upped my vitamin and mineral intake in a big way.
Vitamins and minerals are essential to healthy teeth and gums so I figured I may as well try out a little dental health protocol on myself and see what happens. In addition to adding in more of my fave sea vegetables like Kombu and Wakame, I also included these supplements:
I began this process last year October and a year later I’m excited by my success. There has been a lot of trial and error but I think I’ve finally got this beast under control. The bacteria is back at normal levels and my teeth have never felt better.
I just want to reiterate that your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body and as a result your dental health is connected to your overall health in numerous ways. Inflammation in your gums is the same as inflammation in any part of your body and it needs to be addressed as part of a whole health healing protocol. Numerous studies show the correlation between gum disease and these conditions:
- Diabetes – do you know that diabetes sufferers have a higher likelihood of gum disease
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis –
- Lung conditions
- Cognitive issues like memory loss
- Babies born prematurely and at low birth weight – some evidence suggests gum disease triggers preterm deliveries and low birth weight (women who are of child-bearing age, I’m looking at you!)
I wish I had done all of this 5 years ago but there is no point dwelling on that. Thankfully I caught all of this before I needed to have teeth extracted and hopefully this post helps you if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms I was experiencing. If you’ve got healthy teeth and gums, please don’t take them for granted. Take good care of them and yourself. xoxo
American Academy of Periodontology.
American Dental Association: “Healthy mouth, healthy body.”
National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.
American Academy of Periodontology: “Gum Disease and Diabetes.”
Noble, J. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, May 5, 2009, online.