You may have heard of the effect of Nitric Oxide (NO) in lowering blood pressure. NO, which is produced in the sinuses and inhaled when we breathe through the nose, has a blood pressure-lowering effect by dilating the blood vessels. When you breathe through your mouth, you are deprived of this NO. This is only one of the benefits of nasal breathing.
According to recent studies, the bacteria in our mouth also contribute to NO production and have such an effect on blood pressure. The nitrate we take with food reaches the mouth with saliva and is converted into nitrite by some bacterial groups and makes an important contribution to the NO cycle in this way (1).
For example, in one study, participants were made to use chlorhexidine mouthwash for 1 week, and at the end of this one week, it was observed that both the oral flora became less diverse and blood pressure values increased. Other similar studies were also conducted and similar results were obtained. When the use of mouthwash was stopped, the values started to decrease to the old level within a few days(2). In fact, the difference between the blood pressure values in this study does not seem very high at first glance. And chlorhexidine is a mouthwash that is only used for a short time. So the issue I want to draw attention to here is not the use of chlorhexidine.
The point I want to draw attention to is this: bacteria in the mouth are not creatures that we should normally fight and destroy. They have various tasks, just like intestinal bacteria… Some of these tasks have systemic consequences as I have shared here. Of course, in some cases it may be necessary to use antibacterial agents to get rid of pathogenic bacteria. However, the bacteria living in a healthy mouth are important for the continuity of this health. Therefore, I believe that we need to change our understanding of oral health as only oral hygiene. We should take good care of our oral bacteria just like intestinal bacteria. We should try to create an environment where the species that work in our favour are happy. We can do two things for this:
Firstly, we can avoid oral care products that contain harsh chemicals unless there is a special reason. We can create an oral care routine that is as natural and gentle as possible.
Secondly, and more importantly, if we have a dietary habit that feeds disease-causing bacteria, we can abandon it. Frequent consumption of simple carbohydrates, which create an acidic environment in the mouth, allows harmful bacteria to take control. Bacteria that work for our benefit have difficulty in this environment, while pests declare their sovereignty. When we resort to antibacterials to deal with these pests, we enter a vicious circle… The only way to break this cycle in order to benefit from the blessings of a balanced ecosystem is to welcome friendly bacteria…