Oral health is an often-neglected aspect of our well-being. Here are three studies, proving why oral health should not be overlooked.

1. Can bowel disorders be cured by altering oral bacteria?

What if debilitating bowel conditions (Crohn’s disease (CD), ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome) could one day be cured by simply altering the bacteria in the mouth?

A study fresh out of Waseda University, Japan, has found that an increased amount of certain types of oral bacteria may be behind inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)1.

When researchers transferred saliva from people with IBD and CD into the guts of mice, that were altered to have completely bacteria-free intestines the sterilised mice surprisingly went on to develop gut inflammation. Curiously, the same experiment done on normal mice did not appear to have the same effect. This led researchers to believe that certain oral bacteria could adversely affect gut health, especially in situations where the normal intestinal flora was disturbed1.

Researchers finally identified Klebsiella pneumoniae as the culprit. Interestingly, Klebsiella pneumoniae is considered normal oral flora1. “It is advisable to avoid excessive, long-term use of antibiotics for this reason, even in healthy people,” points out Professor Masahira Hattori, an author of the research2.

Does this mean narrow-spectrum antibiotics could be the future of IBD treatment? Researchers have their doubts, as Klebsiella pneumoniae is notoriously resistant to many antibiotics and is difficult to eradicate2. Nevertheless, these findings pave the way for oral disinfectants as a possible treatment for IBD.

Klebsiella pneumoniae is resistant to many antibiotics, hence Professor Hattori advises that long-term use of antibiotics should be avoided. Photo credit: Waseda University
Klebsiella pneumoniae is resistant to many antibiotics, hence Professor Hattori advises that long-term use of antibiotics should be avoided. Photo credit: Waseda University

2. Oral health 101: Vitamins more important than brushing teeth

Though brushing one’s teeth has always been important, it still may not be as sufficient. Dr Steven Lin from Australia is not saying that brushing and flossing teeth are unnecessary. Instead, Dr Lin claims that an adequate intake of certain nutrients are essential in building up strong and healthy teeth3.

Insufficient dietary intake of vitamins A, K2, D and E may be responsible for poor oral health. He puts this reason down as to why tooth decay plagues some individuals despite diligently abiding their dentist’s instructions3.

Vitamin A is crucial in producing protective saliva that acts to remove harmful bacteria. Vitamin K2 and D work synergistically in ensuring that teeth get enough calcium. Lastly, vitamin E keeps the balance of oral bacteria in check3.

“I can’t emphasise this enough, you must get the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals so your teeth can continue to regenerate throughout your life. Many mistakenly believe that they can prevent cavities and periodontal disease simply with good brushing habits and the right toothpaste – but this isn’t the most important factor,” states Dr Lin3.

3. Poor oral health associated with high BP

In a unique, first-of-its-kind study presented at the 2017 American Heart Association’s (AHA) Scientific Sessions, a team of Chinese researchers demonstrated that dealing with gum disease (periodontitis) may help in controlling high blood pressure4.

A total of 107 study participants with moderate to severe gum disease and pre-hypertension were subject to regular or intense teeth cleaning. Regular interventions comprised of usual tooth brushing, flossing, and plaque removal above the gum line. Intense therapy involved invasive procedures, such as dental extractions, cleaning down to the roots and antibiotic administration if necessary4.

Interestingly, systolic blood pressure of patients who received intense treatment was found to be lowered. This effect lasted at least six months after treatment – with the largest differences in blood pressure after six months compared to values measured after one and three months4.

Raised blood pressure is an extremely common condition – and is estimated to be behind 7.5 million deaths (about 12.8%) worldwide5.

“Something as basic as periodontal care may be able to reduce the risk of future high blood pressure and cardiovascular events,” comments Richard Becker, MD, (Professor of Medicine, Director, Division of Cardiovascular Health and Diseases, Director, University of Cincinnati Heart, Lung & Vascular Institute, Cincinnati, OH), who is a spokesperson for the AHA4. MIMS

Read more:
Teeth-grinding among teens may indicate “bullying”
The tales of diet and medicine behind sick Neanderthal's teeth
Is it really necessary to extract an asymptomatic wisdom tooth?
Lower BP number revealed in new AHA guideline – are you at risk for hypertension?

1. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6361/359
2. https://www.waseda.jp/top/en-news/55087
3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5002212/Dentist-says-salami-butter-key-good-teeth.html
4. http://newsroom.heart.org/news/treating-gum-disease-may-help-lower-blood-pressure
5. http://www.who.int/gho/ncd/risk_factors/blood_pressure_prevalence_text/en/