It may seem like a bit of a stretch to think about, but the “healthiness” of our mouth can have a huge impact on the way our skin performs, both in terms of its appearance and in its function as a barrier defense to incoming pathogens. What? you may be thinking, why on earth would my mouth have anything to do with my skin?
Our mouths are homes to our oral micro biome, bacteria that live there just like they do in the rest of our digestive tract. We are swallowing a trillion bacteria every single day and this then puts bacteria into the gut. The micro biome of the mouth, similar to the one in our guts, needs to be balanced. Unfortunately, a lot of the modern teeth-cleaning and breath freshening products are advertised as being able to “wipe out 99% of germs” or like claims. We might think that wiping out germs is a good thing and desirable, but this is actually not the case. Antibacterial oral hygiene products should be used with utmost caution because they kill “good” bugs along with “bad” ones. Similar to the way that one needs to be cautious with using antibiotics because of the way they can alter the longterm intestinal flora balance, we should be concerned about the same thing with our oral flora balance.
As Cass Nelson-Dooley, MS, an ethnopharmacologist who has researched the oral micro biome, says; “We are keenly aware of the disease-producing effects of a damaged intestinal barrier (intestinal permeability) because it triggers the immune system, inflammation, and allows harmful proteins and organisms into the bloodstream. The mucosa (mucous membrane) of the mouth is very porous, even in a healthy person. But when inflammation and infection sets up in the mouth, it could damage the barrier between the oral mucosa and the bloodstream, triggering systemic disease and immune system dysfunction.”
She also found in her research that there was a 45% overlap of the same bacteria in both the mouth and the colon. This means that the oral micro biome has quite an impact on the GI micro biome, which then means by extension that it has an impact on things like our immunity, hormonal balance, brain health and skin health.
Our skin’s main job is to keep pathogens out and act as a barrier against things that might hurt our internal systems. In recent studies it has been shown that gut inflammation and intestinal permeability (leaky gut) can lead to the skin becoming less functional, and it creating less antimicrobial peptides. When this happens, skin inflammation occurs and it is visibly evident (rashes, eczema, acne, dermatitis, rosacea, etc..) This has been termed, “leaky skin”. Seeing as our skin is one of our most used elimination pathways, it acts out when “foreign invaders” enter the bloodstream as in the case of leaky gut and autoimmune conditions. So, as crazy as it may seem to wrap your head around, a “leaky” mouth, can lead to a leaky gut, which can lead to leaky skin.
A lot of health conscious people are aware of the problem of intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and its links to their skin issues and are proactively trying to lessen the effects of it via nutrient-dense diet, supplementation with things like L-Glutamine and protocols like the AIP diet. This is great, but I would caution you not to forget the oral micro biome as well. There are companies like Primal Life Organics that make re-mineralizing tooth powders and other oral hygiene alternatives that will not compromise the flora balance in your mouth. Eating a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet and limiting sugar can also help in this arena.