Dental Health Issues and Adrenal Fatigue
Everyone has heard dentists say that brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily will keep your teeth and gums healthy. But not everyone knows dental health issues can be a major contributor to all kinds of health problems, including Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).
It’s important to understand how the health of your mouth affects the health of your body. For instance, did you know your mouth is a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria? Most of them are harmless or beneficial, but there are instances when harmful bacteria gain a significant foothold in your mouth and are able to cause some serious health problems.
Good oral hygiene typically keeps these harmful bacteria at bay. Also, saliva washes away food particles and the acid that harmful bacteria produce, keeping your mouth healthy.
But failing to brush or floss allows bacteria to grow and proliferate and gum disease and tooth decay to take hold. Some common medications will decrease the amount of saliva in your mouth, leading to a higher possibility of infections and diseases developing.
Some research evidence that suggests the inflammation and bacteria associated with periodontitis, a significant gum disease, can lead to serious illness conditions in other parts of your body. And some illness conditions, such as HIV/AIDS and diabetes, may reduce your body’s ability to fight infections, leading to more severe dental health issues.
Researchers at the North Carolina School of Dentistry studied links between gum disease and several serious health conditions such as heart disease, respiratory illness, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and osteoporosis. This research found that those with gum health conditions were two times more likely to die from heart attacks and three times more likely to suffer strokes.
Why does this common the dental health issue – inflammation of the gums – lead to such serious problems? Because the inflammation in your mouth allows bacteria to get into your bloodstream and spread to other parts of your body relatively easily.
Impact of Dental Health Issues on the Adrenals
With dental health issues impacting the rest of your body, they also impact your adrenals. Unresolved, unaddressed dental health issues become sources of stress for your body. And your body reacts to stress from any source in the same way.
Once stress is introduced into your body, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is activated. This begins the cascade of hormones and other biological chemicals that make up the stress response. At the end of this cascade are the adrenal glands. Their primary responsibility in the face of stress is to release cortisol, the stress fighting hormone, to deal with the effects of stress on your body. When stress continues, the adrenals can become fatigued, not able to release sufficient cortisol. This leads to the set of symptoms known as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). AFS is a major, under assessed, chronic illness.
The sources of stress from dental health issues that affect the adrenals include abscessed teeth, cracked or decayed teeth, subacute infections in root canals, improper removal of teeth that leaves a subacute infection where the teeth were, mercury fillings that leak into the body, and materials used in dental procedures that bring on sensitivities. One of the major sources of this kind of stress is gingivitis.
Mercury toxicity is a primary source of direct stress on the adrenals. It actively suppresses hormone output in the adrenals. This is a source of contention in the dental profession, with both advocates of the possibility that mercury fillings leach into the body and those who argue they are safe both very vocal about their beliefs.
The dental health issues, if unaddressed, lead to a dramatic increase in bacterial growth in the mouth. This overgrowth then can spread throughout the body, leading to increasing toxic load in the entire system. These toxins interfere with the functioning of the adrenal glands, as well as other gland systems in the body.
Research indicates more than 400 types of bacteria can be found in an unhealthy mouth. The toxins produced by these bacteria cause irritation of the gums and stimulate an inflammatory response. Inflammation is a stressor to your body and stimulates the adrenals to secrete cortisol to address the stress. Of course, this stress is added to the stress from various other sources that impinge on your body on a regular basis and adds to the burden placed on your adrenals, increasing the likelihood of developing AFS.
Dental Health Issues: Toxins
Toxins in the body make up one of the major sources of stress that affects the adrenal glands and often lead to AFS. An often overlooked source of toxins, and one that is shrouded in controversy, is the mercury found in common dental fillings.
Mercury was used in thermometers for quite a while until its toxicity became a problem. It’s a toxic heavy metal, found in nature, that is highly volatile. When exposed to air, it quickly becomes a vapor. If these vapors are inhaled, they invade body tissues very fast. Too much of the vapors can be deadly. The vapors kill cells outright, not merely damaging them.
Mercury has been used in dental fillings for years. Even the so-called “silver” fillings frequently used by dentists because of its malleability contain mercury. In fact, this type of filling is typically fifty percent mercury, thirty-five percent silver, fifteen percent tin, and some copper and zinc.
Some dentists believe there is no mercury vapor released by these fillings. However, research has since shown mercury vapor is released through sublimation. In this process, mercury goes from solid form to vapor. If you have these kinds of fillings, you may be breathing mercury vapor. This takes the mercury vapor into the lungs where it is absorbed into the blood. It then is transported to the liver where it is methylated. In this form, it goes to the brain and spinal cord and is stored in the cells. This entire process only takes a few hours to complete.
Interestingly, when these fillings are removed from your mouth, they are considered hazardous material and have to be handled according to federal guidelines. The other metals included in fillings like these are also considered toxic to a certain degree.
Some of the most frequent results of the leaching of these toxins from your tooth fillings include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Inflammatory conditions such as phlebitis, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome
- Low pain threshold
- Some chronic neurological conditions
Microflora of the Mouth and Infections
One of the ways dental health issues affect the health of the rest of your body is through the transmission of infections from your mouth to other parts of your body. Poor dental hygiene leads to tooth decay which then sets in motion the process of infection and inflammation.
The close proximity of the mouth to anatomical structures of the brain, spinal cord, and the bloodstream serves as a highway for infections of the mouth to cross into other parts of the body.
Microbes that live on the teeth migrate to the proteins and carbohydrates that form when saliva contacts clean teeth. A biofilm called plaque is formed from these microbes on the teeth. A number of sugars are formed in the mouth that form the foundation of the plaque. Sucrose is broken down by mouth bacteria to form glucose and fructose. From the glucose, dextran is produced, making up the matrix of the plaque. Fructose is fermented, producing lactic acid, among others.
These acids begin working on tooth enamel and other minerals, including dentin. Dentin is the major substance in teeth and covers the pulp under the enamel. It is less hard than enamel and can quickly become the location of dental caries, or cavities. These cavities become the site of infections and later inflammation. Surrounding oral structures also become infected once the infections take hold in cavities.
As plaque continues accumulating on the teeth, bacterial growth increases dramatically. A large number of microbes begin colonizing, including Porphyromonas, Streptococcus, and Actinomyces. These bacteria produce other substances such as lipopolysaccharides, proteases, lipoteichoic acids that cause inflammation and gum damage. This inflammation can then spread to other parts of the body, causing even more health problems.
Given enough time, chronic gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, one of the more serious dental health issues. In this condition, gums recede, exposing more of the tooth parts below the crown. Not only will more dental caries develop, but the cementum also can be eroded, possibly leading to loss of teeth. With the spread of the infection in the cementum, the bones of the jaw can also become infected.
Some other infections of the mouth that are frequently seen include oral herpes, seen as cold sores on lips, mouth, or gums. The oral herpes virus can also lead to gingivostomatitis, an infection that brings ulcers on the mucous membranes of the mouth.
Candida is a yeast that lives in your digestive system, including possibly your mouth as well. However, if an overgrowth occurs, infections in several parts of the body can result. In the mouth, a Candida infection is called thrush. A normal immune system keeps Candida in check. However, compromised immune systems may not be able to control Candida, resulting in infections. AFS often results in immune systems that do not work effectively.
Inflammation and NEM Stress Response
The inflammation that results from dental health issues also spreads to other parts of the body and causes multiple health conditions. Inflammation is caused by stress from multiple sources other than dental health issues, as well. One of those sources is AFS, which results in what is called leaky gut syndrome.
In this condition, the normally tight joints between the cells lining the gut become loose, allowing food particles, bacteria, viruses, and other organisms to pass through into the larger body system. The immune system then views these particles and organisms to be invaders and sets in motion the process to fight them. This leads to more inflammation.
Often, traditionally trained physicians approach remediation of this inflammation as well as other symptoms of AFS from a symptom specific, or organ specific, viewpoint. A more comprehensive approach to assessing and remediating AFS is the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response. This viewpoint looks at the inter-related organ systems of the body and how each of them is affected by stress. When one of these six systems is affected, others also are affected. This approach allows more effective remediation of AFS root causes. Inflammation is a major component of the root cause of AFS, regardless of the source of the inflammation.
Adrenal Crashes and Dental Health
As important as good dental health is, your visit to the dentist can become the source of an adrenal crash. When your adrenal glands are depleted, a certain level of immune function is compromised. With this decreased ability of your immune system to function optimally, the stage is set for harmful microbes in your mouth to have a greater impact. This can be seen when you have a sudden onset adrenal crash a few days after a dental procedure. Such a procedure can release a large amount of bacterial toxins into your system.
If you have significant dental health issues, more of these toxins can be released into your system. This can make the likelihood of an adrenal crash increase. Thus, if you have serious dental issues and AFS, try to give your body time to heal and rest adequately before undergoing a lot of dental work.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
One way to remediate and prevent dental health issues is by using an old technique called oil pulling. This ancient Ayurvedic practice involves swishing oil around in your mouth. The oil essentially “pulls” bacteria and toxins from your teeth and gums. Research has shown this practice to be beneficial to overall dental health.
Some of the beneficial effects of oil pulling include:
Reducing Plaque. Research with adolescents has shown oil pulling to be as effective as mouthwash in reducing plaque and bacteria in the mouth. It has been shown to decrease the levels of Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria that causes dental caries.
Tooth Whitening. Some people who engage in oil pulling also reported having whiter teeth. The mechanical action of swishing the oil around in the mouth increases the scrubbing action of the oil. This aids in removing stains from your teeth.
Alleviates Bad Breath. Removing bacteria through oil pulling will help alleviate bad breath. One study showed fourteen days of oil pulling to be as effective as mouthwash in reducing bad breath.
Toxin Removal. Toxins such as mercury have been shown to leach out of dental fillings. Oil pulling can remove these toxins from your mouth. Using coconut or sesame oil with their antibacterial and antifungal properties helps remove toxins effectively.
Oil pulling is not for everyone. You may have to ease your way into the process. Although simple, it does take some time.
The first step is to take about a tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil into your mouth. If this is too much at first, start with a teaspoon and work up. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you can chew it until it liquefies.
Step two is to swish the oil around in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes. Be sure to get it all around your teeth and gums. Don’t let it touch the back of your mouth and don’t gargle it.
After the 20 minutes of swishing, spit the oil out in the trash can. Not in the sink! Oil can cause clogs in your drains.
Finally, rinse your mouth with warm water and brush as normal.
It’s best to oil pull several times every week. If you can do it daily, it is more effective in the long run. Oil pulling is not a cure-all and does not take the place of professional dental care.
Oil pulling works best if done first thing in the morning before you’ve eaten or drunk anything. Spit it out after 20 minutes so the toxins and bacteria don’t have the opportunity to re-absorb into your system.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
How do dental health issues affect the adrenal glands?
Dental health issues become sources of stress for the rest of the body. Since the body responds to stress from any source through the HPA axis, the adrenals can bear the brunt of this stress. When this stress is added to other stresses, the adrenals can quickly become fatigued.