Mind-Altering Microbes? How Your Oral Health May Influence Your Mental Health


We’ve all experienced it before. That feeling in your stomach when you have to make a difficult decision or when you meet the love of your life — it seems like you just know. It’s no wonder that the old saying “I’ve got a gut feeling about this” rings true to this day.






But there may be reason to trust those butterflies in your gut. That’s because your body has a
second brain — in your gut. And while it can’t help you reason through a multiple-choice exam, scientists say that its influence is far-reaching.

This second brain is formally called the enteric nervous system and consists of an intricate network
of more than 500 million neurons embedded in the walls of your gut. These neurons are responsible for far more than just digestion; research studies have shown that your second brain can influence your mental health.

So what does all of this mean? It means that your brain can talk to your gut — and your gut talks
right back at your brain. Scientists are calling this bidirectional crosstalk the gut-brain axis. And when your gut microbiome is imbalanced, it can spell trouble for your brain.


Ok, But What Does This Have To Do With Oral Health?

Your mouth is home to more than 700 species of bacteria, some of which cause painful infections.
But did you know that disease associated with periodontal disease are also associated with an
imbalance of your gut microbiome?

In a recently published study, scientists found that oral bacteria can move from the mouth to the gut
and change its microbiota. This move occurs when oral bacteria are swallowed via saliva, nutrients,
and drinks.

Specifically, the study looked at Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria that creates dysbiosis, or
imbalance, in your mouth’s microbiome. Although you might expect that bacteria wouldn’t survive
stomach acid, P. gingivalis is acid-resistant, which means it can successfully migrate to and settle
down in your colon, where it can change colonic functions.

It’s not so far-fetched then, knowing what we know about the gut-brain axis, to think that oral
bacteria can negatively affect your mental health.

In her TED talk, Dr. Giulia Enders discusses this possibility. She mentions an acquaintance who
committed suicide — the day after she noticed that he had bad breath. Although science isn’t
completely clear on the relationship yet, it could explain why so many patients with gastrointestinal
disorders experience depression. Check out her fascinating TED talk here.


So What Can You Do?

We all know that we should brush and floss our teeth every day, but that might not be enough.
Research findings indicate that you should focus on reducing the bacterial load by mechanical
procedures, such as tongue scraping.

This approach is especially important if you have a thick white coating on your tongue in the
morning, which indicates that there may be something deeper going on in your gut.

Tongue scraping can reduce the foul-smelling volatile sulfur compounds produced by P. gingivalis by
up to 75% after 1 week.



We take your mental health seriously. That’s why we want to make it super easy for you to take care
of yourself. For just $1 a month, we’ll send you a new tongue scraper in the mail so you will never
have to think about it again.