Within the past 10 years, resistance to antibiotics has become an increasingly widespread problem worldwide. Overuse and misuse of medications are one reason for the spike. A slowdown in new drug development amid shrinking financial incentives is another. Growing resistance to antibiotics has a destructive impact on our health. One wellness expert, Nadine Artemis, believes that botanical medicine might be a solution.
Artemis is the founder of Living Libations, a natural beauty brand, and the author of the 2013 book, Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums. In a wide-ranging conversation with Terra, Artemis shared some of the history of the science and beliefs about oral health; why antibiotic resistance is impacting all of us; and how swapping our Crest toothpaste for something more natural might help our health overall.
What follows are her views and guidance, excerpted from our discussion. Her quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity:
The origins of modern oral care
Nadine Artemis: “Not so long ago, the standard teaching in medicine was that the stomach was sterile and no bacteria grew there because of gastric juices. That was the prevailing belief until 1981, when Australian researchers Robin Warren and Barry Marshall discovered H. pylori bacteria, which cause ulcers in the digestive tract, proving that the stomach is not sterile.
“Oral hygiene products were developed with this original theory in mind. This is a key with dentistry, because our mouths are inextricably connected to our guts. The oral microbiome is completely connected to the gut and stomach microbiome.
“Similar to the North American agricultural practices, doctors’ previous thinking and approach to health is becoming outdated. We have to rethink our approach and be more mindful as we are learning how much our habits affect the oral microbiome. There was this germ warfare theory, that all bacteria are bad. And many of the dental practices and procedures didn’t take into account the oral microbiome. So many of our modern medications, many of our modern habits, like day-to-day solutions for oral care like a fluoride toothpaste or an alcohol containing mouthwash, are disrupting the balance of the microbiome and mutating microbes.
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With more research, a new perspective on bacteria
“As we gain the understanding of the importance of maintaining a balanced oral microbiome, we’re now able to question a little bit more about how we have been taking care of our mouths.
“We are hosts to a bacterial banquet. I like to think of it like the 80/20 rule: generally, we want about 80% beneficial bacteria in the body. And then hopefully, only a smaller percentage is pathogenic. We want a very good, robust [level of] bacteria to keep the pathogenic bacteria in check.
Botanicals as a solution to antibiotic resistance
“Botanicals have been used for thousands of years. Modern science can now offer insights as to why. One of the biggest things to come out of modern research is understanding something called quorum sensing inhibitors, QSI for short. This term describes the gene expression of pathogens.
“Normally when pathogens are in the body, they’re essentially floating around like phytoplankton, by themselves. But if the environment changes, those pathogens can gain traction through QSI to express their genes, get stronger and more robust. They will gain traction and form dangerous biofilms, communities of microbes on a surface in various areas of the body, including the mouth, that are encased in a polymer coating.
“A growing level of antibiotic resistance among Americans is making biofilms that much more dangerous. There are potent natural ingredients available that have been used for centuries in oral care. Clove, cinnamon, tea tree, frankincense, myrrh, peppermint, cardamon and so on. They are referred to as botanical biotics. These are very effective against quorum sensing.
“Botanical biotics, coming with the intelligence of the natural remedies, penetrate biofilms and tidy-up pathogens, while working with the beneficial bacteria, instead of wiping them all out.
“Ultimately, if you just use baking soda to clean your mouth for the rest of your life, you would be far, far better off than buying anything from the drugstore.”