By Alvin Danenberg, DDS, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

February 7, 2018 -- My recent column on the use of essential oils has led to many positive conversations with DrBicuspid.com readers. I wanted to continue this discussion by looking at some of the new research that is revolutionizing the way physicians and dentists appreciate the beneficial role of healthy mouth bacteria.

As an example, there is a relationship between killing good bacteria in the mouth and an increased risk of elevated blood pressure.

Good mouth bacteria

New medical research is proving there are harmful consequences to our blood pressure and heart health if these healthy mouth bacteria are destroyed indiscriminately.

Alvin Danenberg, DDS
Alvin Danenberg, DDS.

I talk to my patients, and my friends who are physicians, about the specific and naturally occurring anaerobic bacteria on the top surface of the tongue and the role these bacteria play for overall health. These bacteria eventually initiate the development of a large percentage of nitric oxide throughout the body.

Some of nitric oxide's functions are to reduce blood pressure, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve athletic performance, and improve gum health.

In 2017, a study in Current Hypertension Reports (April 2017, Vol. 19:4, p. 33) reviewed the current research describing the importance of oral bacteria on the nitrate/nitrite/nitric-oxide pathway. The maintenance of nitric oxide is crucial for cardiovascular health, the study authors concluded.

"With the loss of [nitric oxide] signaling and homeostasis being one of the earliest events in the onset and progression of cardiovascular disease, targeting microbial communities early in the process may lead to better preventative interventions in cardiovascular medicine," they wrote.

They emphasized four points about nitric oxide and the mouth:

“It may be time to discourage the use of antiseptic mouthwash.”
  • Disruption of nitrite and nitric oxide production in the oral cavity may contribute to the oral-systemic link between oral hygiene and cardiovascular risk and disease.
  • It may be time to discourage the use of antiseptic mouthwash.
  • Therapeutically, then, perhaps an effective strategy to promote nitric oxide production and overcome conditions of nitric oxide insufficiency may "be targeted to" specific oral nitrate-reducing bacterial communities and increasing the consumption of nitrite and nitrate enriched foods and vegetables.
  • Because nitric oxide signaling affects all organ systems and almost all disease processes described to date, this novel approach to nitric oxide regulation has the potential to affect the study and treatment of many diseases across all organ systems.

Talking with patients

This conversation with my patients generally concludes with them asking me what they should do. I offer them these take-away points:

  • Don't use antimicrobial mouthwashes on a regular basis.
  • Eat organic leafy greens daily that are high in naturally occurring nitrates, such as arugula, spinach, butter leaf and oak leaf lettuces, Swiss chard, and beet greens.

A version of this column first ran on Dr. Danenberg's blog. DrBicuspid.com appreciates the opportunity to reprint it. His book Crazy-Good Living from Elektra Press is available here.

Alvin Danenberg, DDS, practices at the Bluffton Center for Dentistry in Bluffton, SC. He is also on the faculty of the College of Integrative Medicine and created its integrative periodontal teaching module. He also spent two years as chief of periodontics at Charleston Air Force Base earlier in his career. His website is drdanenberg.com.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


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