Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS • Nutritional Periodontist
June 5, 2017
New research is revolutionizing the way physicians and dentists will appreciate the beneficial role of healthy mouth bacteria. There is a relationship between killing good bacteria in the mouth and increasing the risk of elevated blood pressure. Medical and dental professions should help educate their patients to the dangers of killing good bacteria in the mouth.
Good Mouth Bacteria
I wrote an article in 2016 about the balance of bacteria in the mouth. In early 2017, I posted a blog titled, Want Healthy Gums? In this article I explained the importance about good mouth bacteria and a critical biological process where these bacteria help create necessary nitric oxide for the body. New medical research is proving there are harmful consequences to our blood pressure and heart health if these healthy mouth bacteria are destroyed indiscriminately.
“Nitrate to Nitrite to Nitric-Oxide” Pathway
Specific and naturally occurring anaerobic bacteria on the top surface of your tongue play a necessary role in overall health. These bacteria eventually initiate the development of a large percentage of nitric oxide throughout the body.
Here’s how it happens:
After you eat leafy greens that contain natural nitrates, your body absorbs these nitrates through your upper GI tract. About 25% of these nitrates are concentrated into your saliva. The normal anaerobic bacteria on your tongue change the nitrates in the saliva into nitrites. Then, you swallow the nitrites. Nitrites then move throughout your body and are further changed into nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is critical for overall health.
Some of the functions of nitric oxide are to reduce blood pressure, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve athletic performance, and improve gum health.
Review of Blood Pressure Research
In 2017, Nathan S. Bryan and coauthors reviewed the current research describing the importance of oral bacteria on the nitrate/nitrite/nitric-oxide pathway. The authors concluded,
With the loss of NO 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.
The authors further stated at the end of their article:
- Disruption of nitrite and NO 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 NO production and overcome conditions of NO insufficiency may “be targeted to” specific oral nitrate-reducing bacterial communities and increasing the consumption of nitrite and nitrate enriched foods and vegetables.
- Because NO signaling affects all organ systems and almost all disease processes described to date, this novel approach to NO regulation has the potential to affect the study and treatment of many diseases across all organ systems.
Take Away Points
- Don’t use antimicrobial mouthwashes on a regular basis.
- Eat organic leafy greens daily that are high in naturally occurring nitrates (examples: Arugula, Spinach, Butter Leaf and Oak Leaf Lettuces, Swish Chard, and Beet Greens).