by Christian Lawson June 10, 2024 4 min read

When we think about health, our minds often wander to diet, exercise, and mental wellbeing - with one key element, however, often going unnoticed. The oral microbiome is an intricate ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms in our mouths, playing a vital role in maintaining not just our oral health, but our overall health as well.

Understanding the oral microbiome

The oral microbiome is a diverse community of over 700 species of microorganisms and constitutes the largest microbial community in the body after the gut! These tiny inhabitants are essential for various functions, including the initial stages of digestion, maintaining oral pH balance, and protecting against harmful pathogens. A balanced oral microbiome contributes to healthy teeth and gums, reducing the risk of cavities and periodontal (gum) disease.

The connection between oral health and overall health

Studies have suggested that there is a profound connection between our oral health and our overall health. Scientists have summarized this connection as an ‘oral-gut axis’, a term that refers to the continuous physical and chemical pathway that joins the oral microbiome to gut microbiota.

With the mouth being the gateway to the rest of the body, an imbalance in the oral microbiome (known as dysbiosis), can lead to oral health issues that may have far-reaching consequences in the body. Dysbiosis occurs when an overgrowth in harmful microbes overpower the population of beneficial bacteria. Harmful bacteria from oral infections can enter the bloodstream, potentially leading to inflammation and other health issues in distant parts of the body. For instance, periodontal disease has been linked to systemic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections.

Immune system regulation

The oral microbiome plays a crucial role in the immune system as it helps build resistance to harmful microbes. Healthy oral bacteria release antimicrobial peptides, which help maintain the immune system's balance by eradicating harmful pathogens before the immune response is needed. This reduces the risk of chronic inflammation, a gut-health issue that can lead to conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Inflammation and infection 

Oral bacteria produce various metabolites, which can have anti-inflammatory effects that support your gut lining. However, increased production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) produced by oral bacteria has been linked with an imbalanced microbiome and systemic health issues. 

Poor oral health, such as gum disease, can lead to systemic inflammation. Inflammatory molecules and pathogens from conditions such as gum disease, can enter the bloodstream from the oral cavity and travel to other organs and systems including the gut and the heart. Chronic inflammation is a known risk factor for various gastrointestinal disorders and cardiovascular conditions.

How do oral appliances impact my microbiome? 

Using an oral appliance can make it more difficult to regulate a healthy balance in your oral microbiome. Oral appliances disrupt the flow of saliva, accelerate the growth of biofilms and can introduce harmful pathogenic bacteria to your body, when not cleaned properly.

Saliva plays an important role in supporting a healthy and viable biome by washing away bacteria and food particles around your teeth. Containing essential nutrients and enzymes, saliva also breaks down food in preparation for the next stages of the digestive system. Saliva flow naturally reduces at night, washing away and breaking down fewer particles. However, wearing an oral appliance traps food between your teeth and further disrupts saliva's natural cleaning process, heightening the risk of imbalance. 

Maintaining a healthy oral microbiome

Regularly cleaning your oral appliance helps maintain your microbiome’s protective function, reducing the risk of infection, inflammation and systemic health conditions. Just as it is important to brush your teeth and floss thoroughly before bed, the same goes for your oral appliance! Here are some tips to help ensure you keep your oral health (and overall health) in good shape:

Regular cleaning

Brushing and flossing are fundamental to removing food particles, plaque build up and biofilms that can harbor harmful bacteria. The same goes for your oral appliance, which needs to be thoroughly cleaned before wearing. 

The Dental Pod uses ultrasonic cleaning technology to remove debris and bacteria from your oral appliance. In a process called ‘cavitation’, millions of tiny bubbles are created, which then vibrate rapidly against the surface of your appliance - lifting and dislodging particles. 

We recommend using a sterilizing tablet with the Dental pod every time you wear your oral appliance for 6 hours or more, as bacterial biofilms develop over this time. It is essential to remove these biofilms, as they are environments of bacteria responsible for infections that can be spread to the rest of your body. Regular cleaning with a Zima Sterilizing Tablet eliminates 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and pathogens - disrupting biofilm formation and promoting a healthier oral environment.

The Zima Go portable carry case with in-built UV sterilization technology is a convenient and effective way to keep your oral appliances sanitized, no matter where you are. 

 

The oral microbiome plays an important role in influencing the state of overall health. By practicing good oral hygiene, following a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and utilizing advanced cleaning tools like the Dental Pod for your oral appliances, you can ensure your oral microbiome remains balanced and healthy. Taking good care of your oral health and its intricate balance of microorganisms, not only minimizes your risk of oral diseases, but also works to support overall health and well-being.


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