If your child has cavities, the bacteria in his or her mouth are imbalanced. Standard dental advice tells us that parents give cavity-causing bacteria to their children. But an imbalanced oral microbiome is the real cause of cavities.
Our oral flora are loaded with microbiota. There are good bacteria (called “probiotics”). They help and protect us. And there are bad bacteria that can harm us. The collective term for these mouth bacteria is called the “oral microbiome.” Balancing the good and bad bacteria is the key to health. Give your kids the best dental health possible with a healthy oral microbiome.
How to prevent tooth decay with a healthy oral microbiome
The microbiome is so important that it is put into motion at birth, and maybe even before. The way each of us gets our microbiome depends on how we were born and how healthy our mothers were. If you had a natural birth, you came into contact with your mother’s vaginal bacteria.
The vaginal microbiome is designed to deliver a starter pack to your kid’s oral flora. Good “germs” can do great things for us. Those good bacteria from your mother first live in the mouth, and then your intestines. They protect you from bad bacteria. They help your immune system work well.1 They make your digestive system strong and healthy.
A vaginal birth is one of the first steps to great kid’s dental health.
How the breastfeeding microbiome helps to prevent tooth decay
The evidence shows that natural births deliver a set of microbes that kickstart your kids health.
For babies who were born with surgery, or Cesarean section, it’s a different story. These kids miss out on the good bacteria in mother’s birth canal. Research has looked into this because babies aren’t as healthy as naturally born kids. For a newborn via C-section have higher risk of asthma, allergies, celiac disease, and digestive disease).2 For example, if you were born via C-section, then your microbiome may be off balance. This can have many negative impacts for your health later in life.
Breastfeeding is the next most important way that a baby receives friendly bacteria from his or her mother. Breastmilk is full of good bacteria. In a mind-boggling trick of science and nature, immune cells carry the mother’s bacteria from her gut to her breastmilk. You’re your baby drinks the breastmilk, it passes along your good bacteria to the baby’s mouth and GI tract.
The mouth-body connection
I often call the mouth the “little brother” of the gut. Everything that happens in the mouth is swallowed and sent to the digestive system too. The reason that this is so important is because gut health is vital to overall health. The bacteria in the mouth and the gut are one in the same, so a problem in one place is a sign there is trouble elsewhere too.
The mouth and gut are so closely connected that I think of them as siblings. As a dentist, I see examples every day of the oral-systemic link. If there is disease anywhere in the body, there are usually signs in the mouth first. If there are problems in the mouth, then problems in the body will often crop up. This is called the mouth-body connection. It isn’t just something that dentists see, there is a lot of research to explain why.
In the first weeks and months of life, bacteria from your mother will set up in your mouth and GI tract. And this microbiome will stay with you for life- it’s that important. At the beginning, the bacteria in the mouth and the gut are the same. After a few weeks, the bacteria in the mouth starts to change.
But even as an adult, there is about a 45% overlap in the bacteria found in the mouth and the gut. That makes them like siblings. The gut eventually has much more, different bacteria than the mouth. But over a person’s lifetime, there is always a constant mouth-gut axis connection.
Tooth Decay is a lack of probiotic oral flora
If you have cavities or bleeding gums, then your microbiome is in distress. If you are sick, chances are your microbiome is out of balance. If your kid is sick or has tooth decay, it is likely that he or she has an unhealthy microbiome. If you don’t improve your microbiome, then it is passed to your daughter or son. One of the best things you can do for your kid’s dental health is breastfeed. But that works best if you are healthy. If you suspect that your microbiome is sick, it’s time to get to the root cause of your imbalance.
Dental advice often say that bacteria cause childhood cavities. It advises not to kiss kids for fear that they will share cavity-causing bacteria. This extends to kitchen utensils. It’s advised not to share a spoon at the dinner table because bad bacteria from the mother’s mouth could infect the child.
This advice fails to see how important a mother’s microbiome is in establishing the child microbiome.
The real problem is when the baby does not get probiotic bacteria. This should begin from at birth and crucially during its first months of life. An imbalanced oral microbiome, together with a poor diet is what actually causes cavities and bleeding gums. If a child is eating sugar, white flour, and vegetable oils, this feeds bad bacteria and creates disease in the mouth.
How to nourish a healthy kid’s oral and gut microbiome for life
The number 1 way to better kids dental health and gut health is through breastfeeding and dental nutrition. Breastfeeding sends the mother’s probiotic gut bacteria to the baby.3 It also gives the baby a head start in developing its immune system. When the baby gets good bacteria at birth and again when breastfeeding, it starts him or her on a track of good health for life.
Your diet sends messages to your oral and gut bacteria and that’s why we want a diet that promotes a healthy variety of bacteria. A good diet, low in sugar and processed foods, blocks cavity-causing bacteria from thriving in the mouth.
In summary, a weak microbiome, together with a poor diet is what actually causes cavities and bleeding gums. Give your child a healthy microbiome by starting out with a vaginal birth, breastfeeding, and Mom’s Guide To Healthy Teeth. This will also give your little one a head start to a healthy immune system, a healthy gut, and overall health later in life.
Want to get started? Download my FREE EBook, Mom’s Guide to Straighter, Stronger, Whiter Teeth today!
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Want to know more? Dr Steven Lin’s book, The Dental Diet, is available to order today. An exploration of ancestral medicine, the human microbiome and epigenetics it’s a complete guide to the mouth-body connection. Take the journey and the 40-day delicious food program for life-changing oral and whole health.
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- Belkaid Y, Hand TW. Role of the microbiota in immunity and inflammation. Cell. 2014;157(1):121-141.
- Neu J, Rushing J. Cesarean versus vaginal delivery: long-term infant outcomes and the hygiene hypothesis. Clin Perinatol. 2011;38(2):321-331.
- Mueller NT, Bakacs E, Combellick J, Grigoryan Z, Dominguez-Bello MG. The infant microbiome development: mom matters. Trends Mol Med. 2015;21(2):109-117.