By Dr. Mercola
Many people do not realize how their oral health can impact their total body health. But the truth is, it's very difficult to achieve high-level physical health if your dental health isn't effectively addressed.
Dr. Gerry Curatola, founder of Rejuvenation Dentistry, has over 30 years' experience in biological dentistry.
For Dr. Curatola, dentistry was a calling since childhood, but unlike most dentists, he really wanted to be "a physician of the mouth." So, after graduating from dental school in 1983, he enrolled in the country's first master's program in holistic health.
"My desire and my focus have always been to look at the mouth as the gateway to total body wellness," he says.
"Beyond that, I became very disturbed that I was a member of a profession—its organized component, the American Dental Association—that is still saying it's okay to put mercury in teeth.
In addition to that, all of the research that was emerging about fluoridation made it very clear that this wasn't the panacea for all dental problems. As a matter of fact, it's responsible for a lot of other problems that we're dealing with today."
How Your Oral Health Impacts Your Systemic Health
Thousands of studies have linked oral disease to systemic disease. Inflammation is well-known as a "ravaging" and disease-causing force, and gum disease and other oral diseases produce chronic low-grade inflammation in your body.
"This inflammation has very, very deleterious effects on just about every major organ system – from Alzheimer's to stroke, heart disease, and diabetes," Dr. Curatola explains.
Advanced periodontal disease or gum disease can raise your risk of a fatal heart attack up to 10 times. According to Dr. Curatola, if you get a heart attack related to periodontal or gum disease, nine times out of 10, it will actually kill you.
There's also a 700 percent higher incidence of type 2 diabetes among those with gum disease, courtesy of the inflammatory effects of unbalanced microflora in your mouth. But how does the microflora in your mouth cause inflammation, you might ask?
When the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease enter into your circulatory system, it causes your liver to release C-reactive proteins, which has inflammatory effects in the entire circulatory system.
"There's a very, very close connection. As I said, the mouth is the gateway to total body wellness. That is an accurate statement that's well-accepted today," Dr. Curatola says.
Rejuvenation Dentistry, founded by Dr. Curatola in 2006, was created as a model for the future practice of dentistry. The model recognizes that dentists often see patients more frequently than most other healthcare practitioners, and can play a much more significant role in people's health than they do currently.
"[Patients] come in for regular checkups and cleanings. And we should be screening... In the mouth, we can diagnose a host of systemic problems.
There are some estimates that up to 80 percent of systemic disease have manifestations in the mouth – everything from blood problems, even leukemia, diabetes, other fungal and bacterial infections that have systemic components," he says.
The Importance of Your Oral Microbiome
Part and parcel of oral health is attending to your oral microbiome. Achieving oral health is really about promoting balance among the bacteria in your mouth. And contrary to popular belief, antimicrobial agents and alcohol mouthwashes designed to "kill bad bacteria" actually do far more harm than good.
The oral microbiome, while connected to the gut microbiome, is quite unique. Most importantly, it has a protective component that protects you from deadly viruses and bacteria in the environment. The second function of the oral microbiome is the beginning of digestion.
"When we look at the oral microbiome, it's an essential component of the salivary immune system; it aids in digestion, and it even makes vitamins. We are looking at ways to promote oral microbiome homeostasis.
When we do that, we see amazing things happen, so amazing that you might not get the flu this winter... [I]mmune competence is a very important first line of defense, and that immune competence starts in the mouth."
Interestingly, probiotics do not work in the mouth, so it's not as simple as adding more beneficial microbes. As an initial step, you need to cease killing microbes in your mouth.
"[P]athogens have been redefined since the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) in 2002. Pathogens are now being recognized as resident microbes that are out of balance," Dr. Curatola explains.
"When they're under attack, they hunker down, they flick a switch... What we're recognizing is that the same bacteria that keep us alive can have a pathogenic expression when disturbed. I have been kind of tooting the horn about getting out of the 'pesticide business.' I'm also speaking about natural pesticides.
Not just triclosan, clorhexidine, and those synthetic types, but also tea tree oil, tulsi oil, oregano oil and other antimicrobial oils that, albeit they're herbal, they have a potent disturbing effect on the oral microbiome.
In the mouth, you don't want to have a 'scorched earth policy' or nuking all the bacteria and hoping the good bugs come back.
What we found in our research is that good bugs basically have a harder chance of setting up a healthy-balanced microbiome when you disturb them, denature them, or dehydrate them with alcohol-based products."
My Personal Strategy
I recently had one of the leading experts in vitamin K2 visit me from the Netherlands and he reminded me of how important vitamin K2 is in carboxylating osteocalcin which prevents calcification of soft tissues like blood vessels and the plaque in your mouth from turning to calculus or tartar.
So I recently stopped oil pulling with coconut oil and replaced it with fermented vegetables made with our Kinetic Culture which is extraordinarily high in vitamin K2. and supplies trillions of beneficial microbes to the mouth. The amylase in saliva quickly digests the vegetables to a liquid but if you need to you could slightly chew then. I pull the fermented vegetables twice a day for ten minutes and look forward to my next dental appointment. If the preliminary results are good I may likely fund a study with Dr. Curatola with the university he is associated with.
Nutrition and Homeopathy
So what are the alternatives? Certain nutrients are very important for optimal gum health. Vitamin C is one; Coenzyme Q10 is another. CoQ10 is a critical cofactor in the Krebs cycle, which is how energy is created in your cells. Bleeding gums, for example, often exhibit a deficiency of CoQ10. There are also a number of homeopathic tissue salts that can be beneficial for oral health, including:
- Calcarea fluorica (calc fluor) or calcium fluoride
- Calcium phosphate
- Calcium carbonate
Why Fluoride Is Not Recommended for Dental Health
Calcium fluoride should not be confused with the chemical formulation of sodium fluoride, which is toxic. Sodium fluoride is the kind found in toothpaste, which carries a poison warning. This stems back to the 1980s with the introduction of a popular bubble gum flavored commercial toothpaste that led to a 280 percent increase in child fatalities from fluoride poisoning. As it turned out, there was more than enough chemical fluoride in a full-sized tube to kill a young child.
It took 10 years, but finally in 1998 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated a poison warning be placed on toothpaste, stating that children should be supervised, and to limit toothpaste to a pea-sized amount. If more than that is swallowed, you're advised to contact Poison Control Center immediately. Fluoride over-exposure from toothpaste, fluoridated water, and other sources, has led to a virtual epidemic of fluoride damage. At present, four out of 10 adolescents in the US have fluoride-damaged teeth—a condition known as dental fluorosis.
"[F]luoride was promoted because it stimulates remineralization of teeth. What they didn't look at is what type of mineral is left in that tooth—it's a mineral known as fluorapatite... Fluorapatite is very hard. It's like a porcelain plate; I can't scratch it, but if I bang it on this counter, it would break in a million pieces... [Natural] teeth and bones are made of hydroxyapatite... We now have teeth and bones that are fluorapatite," Dr. Curatola explains.
"Skeletal fluorosis has also become a big concern. We have an exponential rate of hip fractures. A lot of doctors and scientists have been pointing to the fact that teeth and bones are less flexible as fluorapatite than hydroxyapatite. This is aside from all the controversy in terms of fluoridated water lowering IQ, kidney disease, and cancer..."
The Case for Oil Pulling
Dr. Curatola's clinical and experimental experience over the last 30 years suggests that most toothpastes should be avoided. As a substitute, you need to have a good nutritional program for systemic health, along with an oral rinse that specifically nourishes your oral microbiome. He also recommends oil pulling, using coconut oil, noting that: "If you don't want to use toothpaste right now and you don't have a good nutritional that promotes oral microbiome homeostasis, coconut oil pulling is great."
Coconut oil pulling has a lipophilic effect, helping to eliminate unhealthy biofilm from your teeth. And while it has a natural detergent effect, it doesn't do the damage that chemical detergents do. Coconut oil also contains a number of valuable nutrients that help promote oral health. Another tip: If you want a healthy oral care rinse, Dr. Curatola suggests rinsing with some Himalayan salt dissolved in water, as it contains more than 85 different microminerals. As I said earlier, I personally have stopped using coconut oil and now am using fermented vegetables for pulling.
Optimizing Your Nutrition Is Key for Oral Health
It's also worth noting that while probiotics do not have a direct effect on your oral microbiome, addressing your gut flora can indeed make a big difference in your oral health. I used to be severely challenged with plaque—so much so I required very frequent visits to the dental hygienist just to keep up with it. Once I started adding fermented vegetables regularly to my diet however, the plaque buildup was dramatically reduced.
"You have to think about promoting balance," Dr. Curatola reminds us. "We've looked at organic gardening and the environment around us and even eating organic foods. I'd like everyone to think about doing 'organic gardening' in the mouth. The way you do that is through a strong, healthy, and balanced nutritional protocol. I call it triple-A nutrition – alkalizing, antioxidant-rich, and anti-inflammatory. People should know what nutritional factors are inflammatory. There are inflammatory triggers, whether it's gluten, dairy, and a number of others. They can vary for different individuals."
In addition to an alkalizing, antioxidant-rich, and anti-inflammatory diet, he recommends eliminating detergent-based products such as toothpaste and antibacterial and alcohol-based mouthwashes. Again, it's important to remember that your mouth is an organ that protects your body from dangerous infections and disease—provided it's nourished enough to do its job. You can learn more about Dr. Curatola's New York City based practice, Rejuvenation Dentistry, on his website. The following links can also help you find a mercury-free, biological dentist who can help you optimize your oral health: