The oral microbiome

By Professor David Russell and Charlotte Harbour, registered nutritional therapist

When we think of the microbiome, we often go straight to the gut – and rightly so, as we have over 100 trillion bacterial cells within our gastrointestinal tract and plenty of research supporting the beneficial role gut flora play in health and wellness.

A lesser known microbiome is the mouth, or oral microbiome, where it is estimated you can find over 700 species of bacteria and various other microorganisms which include bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. Now, that might sound unappetising, to say the least, but we want to share that this oral diversity is exceptionally important for our systematic health.

The mouth is, to date, the most extensively studied microbiome in the human body. This is because it is relatively simple to gather samples from (in contrast to its gastrointestinal cousin). The mouth is an exceptionally complex habitat where microbes colonise on the hard surfaces of the teeth and the soft tissues of the oral ‘skin’ to form a biofilm – a thin but strong gel-like substance.

Naturally, the oral microbiome is crucial for dental health – especially in relation to oral diseases, plaque and dental caries. However, there is interesting research demonstrating that mouth-dwelling bacteria can go beyond dental support. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that there may be immune-supportive aspects via bacteria stimulating the release of specific immune system fighters.

The oral microbiome is very receptive to the environment, meaning what you eat has an immediate effect on the oral microbiome. So, to look after your oral microbiome we recommend enjoying plenty of vegetables, quality meat and fish, plant proteins, low-sugar fruits, nuts and seeds and avoid high-sugar drinks, smoking, alcohol and astringent mouthwash. You can also consider a probiotic toothpaste or oral probiotics.

Have you ever heard of the oral microbiome? Let us know on LinkedIn at Russell Partnership Collection.

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