I listened to a podcast featuring Dr. Mark Burhenne, a functional dentist and author of the book 8-Hour Sleep Paradox – about sleep apnea. He is the host of the resource site called “Ask the Dentist” where you can find a functional dentist near you and also get information on good dental health.
In the podcast, Dr. Burhenne discusses the importance of good oral health for chronic disease prevention and simple tips for charging up your oral microbiome.
Here are highlights from the podcast:
- Dr. Burhenne states that oral health is tied to longevity! High BP, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s are all tied to oral health.
- 70% of people over 40 have gum disease and this can lead to Alzheimer’s. Dr. Burhenne states that amyloid plaque is not the problem when it comes to Alzheimer’s – the oral microbiome is a causative factor.
- Studies done at UCSF identified a protease formed by the presence of the oral bacteria, P. Gingivalis (which modern humans have TOO much of). This bacteria goes into the blood stream from our mouths and can cause mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, psychiatric disorders and Alzheimer’s.
- Researchers found oral plaque in heart disease and also in cancer cells (scary!)
- Dr. Burhenne says that we can cure gum recession. Oral microbiome testing is now available. Bristle is an oral microbiome test costing around $130 and involves a high resolution metagenomic panel to give you a score for things like halitosis, nitric oxide, and Alzheimer’s. If your dental health is not great (or you simply want to know), this may be a worthwhile investment.
Dr Burhenne’s recommendations:
- STOP using mouthwash – this kills blood flow to the area and kills off good bacteria.
- Even so-called natural mouthwashes are bacteriocidals as they are designed to kill off good bacteria. Do NOT use mouthwashes made with essential oils either (they alter pH) as they have a similar bacteriocidal effect.
- Properly brush, floss and do daily tongue scraping for first-level gingivitis prevention.
- Flossing is a modern need because of our modern diet. Our ancestors did not have the need to floss like we do now. All the toxins and processed foods we consume have effectively altered our gut and oral microbiome.
- Flossing disrupts biofilm that is formed from easily fermentable carbs like junk food. Bacteria in our mouth generates the biofilm and changes the pH in response to our modern diet. Flossing helps restore the oral microbiome – it breaks up the biofilm so it can go back to its natural state.
- You only need to floss once a day as long as it’s done properly. Dr. Burhenne likes silk floss as it doesn’t contain PFAs (forever chemicals). Products like Radius are optimal as plastic floss can release microplastics in your mouth.
- Smart floss also offers a PFA free product.
- If you don’t want to spend more on the silk and non-PFA options, no need to be concerned. PFAs are mostly coming from your water and from ultra-processed foods. Flossing with plastic floss is still better than not flossing at all!
- In Ayurvedic medicine, the color and coating of the tongue depicts the level of human health. Tongue scraping is about the oral microbiome. Dysbiotic tongue is a beige liquid that comes off when you scrape your tongue. Scrape until clear and do this once a day. Most bad breath comes from the back of your tongue and tongue scraping will take care of the ammonia and sulfur that gets produced back there. Here’s one that I bought.
- Most people over brush and/or brush too hard causing more damage. Brushing is more about massaging the gums and aiming for the gumline. A fascinating study in Japan has shown that lymph channels exist in our gums and teeth. Lymph is a secondary way of clearing toxins (primary is via blood vessels). So, massaging the gums is a great way of clearing toxins. And use a soft brush to massage and brush your teeth.
- The Biomechanics of brushing are important. Rough brushing with nylon bristles is damaging. If you need a reminder, switch to an electric toothbrush that warns you if you press down too hard. And they come with a timer so you don’t have to think about how long to brush!
- Dr. Burhenne claims that most toothpastes on the market are no good – they contain chemicals (triclosan, fluoride), emulsifiers and surfactants (propylene glycate) and your oral mucosa suffers from it. He recommends nano hydroxyapatite toothpaste for re-mineralizing and treating sensitive gums.
- A world-ranked women’s tennis player turned heads when she trained with a tape over her mouth. The purpose of this was to improve endurance because it’s harder to breathe only through the nose. We’re designed to breathe through our nose. If we breathe through our mouth, we expel too much carbon dioxide (CO2) and it affects the uptake and release of oxygen to muscles when needed.
- Mouth taping has been shown to improve sleep. You may not notice it until you stop the practice. Try it out – there’s a lot of science behind this.
- Dr. Burhenne states that if you’re a mouth breather, the #1 reason why you’re getting cavities and poor gums is because you cannot adjust for proper pH if you breathe through your mouth.
- Find good dental care and go regularly. It’s important to get a good metabolic panel and some basic testing done, especially if you have poor dental health.
- Root canal does not come without risks. We should be concerned before jumping in. A poorly done root canal or one done on a tooth with fractures can cause sepsis, systemic infection, etc. If not done properly, the oral bacteria will change and get into your blood stream which will then require antibiotic use.
- If you think you need a root canal, get a second opinion. Go to an endodontist and get a 3D image before moving forward.
To listen to the podcast: