Why tending your oral microbiome is the secret to a long, healthy life

cartoon image of open mouth

Your mouth is home to a host of viruses, fungi and 700 species of bacteria

Tim Alexander

The atmosphere is always the same: glossy outdated magazines, the smell of disinfectant, the inevitable fish tank. The dentist's waiting room is no fun, and it only gets worse when you're having surgery. The chair tilts back with an electric swivel, a masked face says “open”, and a series of sharp metal tools appear. It's no wonder many of us are rubbing our gums, wondering how long we can put off our next appointment.

But perhaps we need to recalibrate our relationship with oral health, as a consensus is emerging that taking care of your mouth may be an underappreciated secret to a long, healthy life.

Having pearly whites per se is not important, what is important is taking care of our oral microbiome: the viruses, fungi and over 700 species of bacteria that live in our mouths. When our oral hygiene goes awry, harmful bacteria in the mouth can spread throughout the body, causing or exacerbating problems ranging from cardiovascular disease and cancer to Alzheimer's disease and arthritis. On the other hand, keeping everything in balance prevents recession.

The good news: Now that we’re starting to understand how important the oral microbiome is, there are things we can do to keep it looking its best. This doesn't just mean brushing and flossing, but could include new vaccines for gum disease and even bathing your gums with an oral microbe replacement consisting of…

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