3 Strategies to Improve the Oral Microbiome

Oral Microbiome

In last month’s blog, What if the Real Cause of Cavities and Gum Disease is Incorrect, I introduced my belief in the necessity of exploring and acknowledging the oral microbiome as a key to really understanding and treating oral disease.  As I continue to research and learn, I have developed 3 key strategies to help my patients improve their oral microbiome:

  1. Don’t routinely use mouthwash
  2. Eat a minimum of grains and processed carbohydrates
  3. Consider oral Probiotic supplementation

1. Don’t Routinely Use Mouthwash

I have expressed my concerns about the use of mouthwash in previous blogs and suffice to say that I do not agree with the practice of using a product that kills 99.9% of germs.  Common sense dictates that we need good bacteria and we need them to specifically help with:

  • Synthesizing and excreting vitamins
  • Preventing colonization by pathogens (“bad bugs”)
  • Inhibiting or destroying pathogens
  • Stimulating tissue and antibody development

Certainly, there are instances where a mouthwash might be a necessity, but the need should be client-centered and temporary while the underlying causes of the specific problem are determined and healed.  It makes no sense to me to go in and bomb everything to kill the bad guys and then have to deal with the collateral damage!  Instead, would it not make more sense to provide an environment that supports the good bacteria so they dominate and push out the bad?

2. Eat a Minimum of Grains and Processed Carbohydrates

Continuing with the concept of a healthy environment to support healthy bacteria we need to address grains.  Grains are sugars, pure and simple!  I tell my patients that I often worry more about bread, pasta and cereals than I do actual sugar as an underlying cause of oral/sytemic disease.  Most of us know now just how bad sugar is, but how many of us recognize how dangerous all that “white stuff” is?

Last month’s blog pointed to the 2013 study by the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA that as our diets changed to mainly high-carbohydrate and processed foods, so did the composition of the bacteria in our mouths, and with it an associated increase in oral disease.

3. Consider Oral Probiotic Supplementation

The probiotic supplementation field is exploding as we begin to recognize from scientific study that we have messed sorely with Mother Nature.  We have not only depleted our microbe diversity but it is believed that their sheer numbers may be about ½ of what our ancestors enjoyed some 200 years ago.  Unfortunately, we still do not know and understand the full implications of this trend.

In a recent study by Stanford University School of Medicine, when mice with gut bacteria from a human were put on a low-fiber diet (aka processed), the diversity of their intestinal inhabitants plummeted. Four generations on a low-fiber diet caused irreversible losses….that is, they became extinct!

In an attempt to help my patients repopulate their oral microbiome with healthy oral bacteria I now carry Pro-Dental by Hyperbiotics; a probiotic formula designed for oral health.  The targeted oral probiotic strains include: S. salivarius K12, S. salivarius M18, L. reuteri and L. paracasei to effectively counter the indiscriminate effects of antibacterials and other lifestyle choices that can deplete the oral microbiome.

In fact, I now ask all of my patients to chew one of these probiotic tablets at the end of their continuing-care appointment to help repopulate the oral environment with good bacteria!

What steps to you take to improve your oral microbiome?

I welcome your feedback. You can connect with me via email or telephone, leave a comment right here on the site or join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time,


What If the Real Cause of Cavities and Gum Disease is Incorrect?

Dental Hygiene

My husband and I recently had dinner with friends of ours and the after-dinner discussion touched on the “apparent” fact that our ancestors had more oral disease and probably lost many of their teeth at an early age.  Obviously, they did not have the benefit of modern oral health practices such as brushing, flossing, fluoridated toothpaste and fluoridated water.

However, I had read recently that current research suggests that this may not necessarily be true.  I decided to do some research of my own to see if I could find the real cause of cavities and gum disease.

In a very recent study published online in Nature Genetics in February 2013, Alan Cooper, the director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA and one of the authors of the paper says:

“Hunter-gatherers had really good teeth, [but] as soon as you get to farming populations, you see this massive change.  Huge amounts of gum disease and cavities start cropping up.”

Cooper and his research team looked at the calcified plaque, also known as tartar or calculus, found on ancient teeth from 34 prehistoric skeletons.  Finding that as our diets changed over time — shifting from meat, vegetables and nuts to carbohydrates and sugar – so did the composition of the bacteria in our mouths.

Apparently, the composition of oral microbiota remained “unexpectedly constant” between the Neolithic and medieval times and then experienced a huge change during the Industrial Revolution – dominated now by (the now ubiquitous) cariogenic bacteria and a much less diverse microbiotic ecosystem.

In laymen’s terms:  Switching from a paleo diet to a high-carbohydrate and processed diet appears to have contributed to an increase in oral disease.

As the importance of commensal microbes for human health is increasingly recognized, the evolutionary impacts of changes in human diet and culture on these microbes remains relatively unknown.  This, I believe, is poised to change with the knowledge being obtained from the Human Microbiome Project and the acceptance of the fact that we appear to be more microbe than human!

We now know that the bacteria in our bodies outnumber our human cells 10:1 and that their DNA outnumbers our own human DNA 150:1.  We have ignored our symbiotic relationship with our microbes to our own peril!

According to Cooper:

“We brush our teeth and we floss, and we think that we’ve got good oral hygiene.  But [we’re] completely failing to deal with the underlying problem.  Ten years from now, I think we’re going to find that the whole microbiome is a key part of what you get monitored for and treated for.”

I could not agree more!  Dealing with only the oral manifestation of disease is not getting to the root cause of the problem.

Stay tuned next month when I will reveal some of the strategies that I have developed here at Woodland Dental Hygiene to help my patients deal with improving their own Oral Microbiome.

I welcome your feedback. You can connect with me via email or telephone, leave a comment right here on the site or join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time,




My third intention word for 2016 is LAUGHTER.

For those of you who know me personally, you may know that I am a rather serious person and am not given to an easy-going approach to life in general.  I am passionate about everything I do, and while this can be a wonderful personality trait, sometimes I know that I just need to lighten up and laugh a little!

In researching laughter I have found a multitude of studies that generally come to the same basic conclusions about the benefits of laughter:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces stress hormone levels
  • Fun abdominal workout
  • Improves cardiac health
  • Boosts T cells
  • Triggers the release of endorphins
  • Produces a general sense of well-being

Continue reading


finger on her lips. silence gesture

My second Intention Word for 2016 is SILENCE!

I did not realize how noisy this world was until I quit my job in mainstream dentistry some eight years ago and began to focus on creating silence in my life as part of my healing.

I had worked in an open-concept dental office for roughly eighteen years where the sounds of high-speed drills, ultrasonic scalers, televisions, telephones, doorbells and people talking bombarded and permeated the race-against-the-clock practice of modern dentistry were common every day noise. Continue reading

My 3 Intention Words for 2016

Enough is enough text on blackboard

I want to thank my good friend Karen Armstrong at Inside Out for sharing her New Year’s tradition of picking three words that reflect the energy that the New Year is bringing forth for her and making these her Intention Words for the coming year.

I have decided to adopt Karen’s idea for myself this year because of its simplicity, and the fact that it does not necessitate setting goals or making resolutions.  I am a very goal-oriented person both personally and professionally and while this has helped greatly in the past to keep me on track with my vision of success, I know it is time to take a break in 2016 and coast for awhile.  For those of you who know me, coasting is not in my vocabulary so this is really going to be a challenge.  However, I am turning 60 this year, and as I enter into this next chapter of my life the universe is gently prodding me to take a break, to rest a bit and just be.

So here are my Intention Words for 2016: Continue reading

Dental Bone Cavitations; a Surgical Intervention

Cavitations - surgical intervention

In my November blog I left off with the announcement that I had the privilege of attending an actual dental bone cavitation surgical appointment with my patient on November 9th in Toronto. I neglected to mention the very important fact that there was a diagnostic appointment prior to booking that surgery. At this appointment a manual exploration of all four wisdom tooth extraction sites was performed and three of the four areas in question revealed some sponginess to the bone when pressed with the patient noting some sensitivity in these areas as well! The most sensitive area being the bottom left. Continue reading

Dental Bone Cavitations – Exploring 3 Important Questions

dental cavitations

Last month’s blog post left off with 3 very important questions that I had about Jaw Cavitations:

• How many of the patients that I see in my clinic have these silent areas of infection?
• How can I help them find out if they have one?
• What is the potential risk to the rest of the body from not addressing these pockets of diseased bone? Continue reading

Holistic Oral Health Summit – Diagnosis & Treatment of Cavitations

dental hygienist King City

In my spare time last week I endeavored to watch as many featured speakers as possible on the Holistic Oral Health Summit.  While I have heard a number of these experts speak in the past, some of the information was familiar but there was a lot of new information that has left my mind reeling. I think the area that most intrigued me concerned the diagnosis and treatment of Cavitations.

What is a Cavitation? Continue reading

Do You Really Need to Have Your Teeth Professionally Cleaned?

Independent dental hygienist King City

I have been asking myself over and over during the last year: “Do people really need to have their teeth professionally cleaned”?  I have begun to ask this question because I have had a couple of clients over the last year that did not, in my professional opinion, need to have their teeth cleaned at their continuing care appointment. After completing my assessment, I discussed my findings with these clients and then left it up to them to decide whether to proceed or not. Continue reading

Functional Oral Health

institute for functional medicine

I recently completed introductory courses in Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition through the Institute for Functional Medicine. Through the knowledge that I have gained, I truly believe that this is the approach that we need to adopt when approaching Oral Health as well. I plan on beginning training in the near future to become an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner  so that I can begin practicing Functional Oral Health as a branch of Functional Medicine. Continue reading