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Healthy Mouth, Healthy Gut

Jun 30, 2020 08:00AM ● By Ingo Mahn rostislavsedlacek

When we think about the health of our gut, we don’t often consider what is going on in the mouth. Yet, there is a condition that affects 75% of us, which starts in the mouth and ends in the gut. I am talking about periodontal (gum) disease and the bacteria with which it is associated.

Under healthy circumstances, the makeup of the microbial ecosystem of the mouth consists mainly of “friendly” bacteria that contribute to proper immune function, assist in digestion, and prevent the overgrowth of pathogenic harmful organisms. Similar to the terrain in the gut, conditions can quickly worsen depending on a person’s habits. Things like a diet high in refined sugars, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking create an environment that allows pathogenic organisms to flourish.

This results not only in an increase in the rate of decay, but also the formation of gum disease. One of the main culprits involved in gum disease is an organism called Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis).

What is interesting about this particular bacteria is its ability to survive the effects of stomach acid. When you swallow (about 1 ½ quarts of saliva a day), lots of bacteria go along for the ride.  Stomach acid, which is not only critical in digestion (with a pH of 1 to 2 needed to properly digest protein), also acts as a sort of barrier between the ecosystems of the oral cavity and the gut. Contrary to what the TV commercials promoting antacid medications say, most people are actually low in stomach acid. As we age, our stomachs produce progressively less hydrochloric acid. That means we have a harder time digesting protein, which leads to bloating and reflux. Modern medicine’s answer? A little purple pill to further reduce stomach acid—the exact opposite of what should be done.

The resulting lower levels of acid in the stomach now allow not just P. gingivalis, but a host of other strains of bacteria from the oral cavity to travel through the stomach and colonize the gut.

What does that mean for your health?

Well, the presence of these foreign bacteria in the gut triggers an immune reaction that leads to an inflammatory response and dysbiosis (imbalance in the microflora). This imbalance has been shown to lead to an increase in the permeability of the lining of the colon (known as leaky gut) and to be a contributing factor in a number of illnesses. Conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers, and even Alzheimer’s disease are now being linked to gut dysbiosis.

Another major condition in the mouth, not related to gum disease, is mercury released from dental “silver” fillings. In many ways, the effects of this heavy metal mimic what happens when pathogenic bacteria travel to the gut:

·       production of inflammatory compounds

·       depletion of essential antioxidants

·       damage to the gut lining

·       dysbiosis leading to candida overgrowth

Fortunately, making an assessment for the presence of gum disease and mercury-containing fillings is very easy and should already be a part of any periodic examination done at your normal dental checkup. If you want to find out right now if you have gum disease, the presence of either bad breath or areas of bleeding when you floss are good indications. Wondering about amalgam fillings? Just look in the mirror and open wide—mercury-containing fillings are easily spotted because of their dark color.

If you think you have either of these conditions present in your mouth, your journey to optimal health should start with a qualified holistic dentist.


Dr. Ingo Mahn is a 1985 graduate of Marquette University School of Dentistry. He is an accredited member of the IAOMT (International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology) and earned a doctorate in Integrative Medicine from Capital University, in Georgetown, in 2004. He is the founder of Natural Dental Partners, a high-tech, health-centered practice in North Phoenix. To get a free copy of his book, Your Mouth, the Missing Link to Optimal Health, call 602-775-5120 or visit to learn more.