Flower Power: A Less Aggressive Approach

When OralDNA® testing indicates worrisome levels of periodontal pathogens, we may want to consider a dentally counter-cultural idea that can help avoid the need for aggressive antibiotics and antiseptics. Most dental professionals believe periodontal disease cannot be cured, yet a more holistic approach has been shown to overcome periodontal pathogens and may offer a way to avoid the continuous cycles of treatment to control re-infection. Our understanding of human bacteria changed as the Human Microbiome Project1 discovered our bodies house legions of useful bacteria, and many defend us from harmful ones.

Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria, but the repeated and prolonged use of antibiotics can damage healthy digestive bacteria and upset the body’s immune system. Today, doctors limit antibiotic use and often suggest healthy probiotic bacteria to kick-start or improve health. Healthy mouths are populated with hundreds of species of helpful bacteria that contribute to mouth health, so we should consider these important bacteria, not ignore them or kill them indiscriminately.

The 1960s “flower power” symbol represented a counter-culture that promoted non-violent ideology. I’d like to use a flower analogy to illustrate the benefits of less aggressive techniques to control periodontal pathogens. Let’s imagine for example, periodontal pathogens as weeds in the mouth, and helpful bacteria are flowers and grasses. If your backyard sprouts a few weeds, I doubt you’ll spray a non-selective weed killer to eradicate every plant on your property. This could solve the weed problem, but the first returning intruders to a barren landscape will be the most resilient weeds. An effective strategy is to work selectively on the weeds, while preserving the lawn and plant barrier to block the return of future weeds.

Oral antibiotics and strong antiseptics (including chlorhexidine, sodium hypochlorite, and hydrogen peroxide) cause indiscriminate killing of oral bacteria. There are non-aggressive strategies that can effectively control periodontal pathogens, while nurturing healthy oral bacteria, to achieve great results. This is not a new concept and many countries employ childhood programs to nurture a healthy oral microbiome early in life2,3. Japanese studies show healthy bacteria colonize teeth when they erupt into a balanced oral ecology4. The goal is never to eliminate the mouth’s bacteria – but to develop a healthy diversity as a defense against caries, possibly for life5. In Finland, a 50-year-old public health program improves the oral ecology of preschoolers, prior to the eruption of adult molars6.

Some suggest we eradicate the oral biome and “replant” using a probiotic supplement. An oral probiotic is not the counterpart of an antibiotic, and this idea undervalues the unique richness of an individual’s natural bacterial diversity developed through generational contact.

Motivated patients routinely control oral pathogens without antibiotics or damaging antiseptics in 12-24 weeks using my “Four Keys to Oral Health”:

  • Ideal Oral Care Products will strengthen teeth while nurturing the mouth’s overall ecosystem for total mouth health. Many oral care products target plaque bacteria, but damage healthy oral bacteria and upset the mouth’s ecology.
  • Diet and Digestive Health impacts the quality of our saliva, and the quality of saliva influences oral health. A plant-diverse diet affects the composition of saliva. The use of digestive probiotics may improve the uptake of minerals from the foods we eat, for improved oral health.
  • Immune System Health plays a vital role in the repair and support of our gums and teeth. Lymphatic circulation carries disease-fighting immune cells throughout our body, and we must ensure that immune cells reach the mouth to heal and fight gum and dental disease. Suggestions include a nutritious diet, vitamin supplementation, body movement, and the use of a toothbrush to stimulate lymphatic flow in the tissues around teeth.
  • Lifestyle impacts mouth health on a minute-by-minute basis, as mouth health is dynamic. Daily habits create conditions that either improve or damage the health of our teeth and gums. We must critically evaluate the length of time the mouth experiences damage from acidity, versus the time we allow for repair through direct contact with saliva, the mouth’s healing liquid. An imbalance will create oral problems. We can improve mouth health by fasting between meals (even water dilutes saliva’s healing capacity). Xylitol at the end of meals will limit acidic damage, stimulate saliva flow, and promote a healthier oral ecology.

For an example, see image below. This is a MyPerioPath® pre & post measurement of a patient using a 12 week strategy designed to nurture a healthy diversity of oral bacteria. During this program, no antibiotics, no antiseptics, and no dental interventions were used. Developing a healthy ecology takes several months, and OralDNA® testing can confirm a sustainable outcome. For more visit: www.DrEllie.com.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5960472/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4448707/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19581542/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19948944
  5. https://aem.asm.org/content/81/1/332
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037192

**To learn more about becoming an OralDNA Provider: Text “OralDNA” to 31996**

Ellie Phillips DDS

Ellie Phillips DDS

Ellie Phillips DDS worked in clinical dentistry in Switzerland, the UK, and the US.She received AEGD and Pediatric Specialties at the University of Rochester and was Faculty and Pediatric Clinic Director at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, helping to create a Multi-Disciplinary University Dental Practice.

She has taught medical and dental students, health professionals, and the public about the biochemistry of dental disease through seminars, articles and online video courses. Her passion is to explain how to prevent and reverse cavities and periodontal disease, which is illustrated in her books Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye and Mouth Care Comes Clean. Her strategies offer practical and cost-effective solutions to anyone who applies her new thinking to their daily home care routines, and the results are amazing. She believes oral health is a vital contributor to general health and was a Founding Member of the American Academy For Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH).
For more visit www.DrEllie.com.
Ellie Phillips DDS

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2 thoughts on “Flower Power: A Less Aggressive Approach

  1. Dear Dr. Phillips,
    I would like to know more about the specifics of your 12 week program. Are you willing to share that? Is this patient an srp patient? When you say no dental interventions does that mean that the patient did not receive srp or adult prophy (whichever may have been indicated)?
    Thank you!
    Jennifer Rankin, DDS

    1. Diane Larson RDH, BSDH says:

      Per Dr Ellie Phillips
      Hi Jennifer- My program uses well-known, over-the-counter products that work synergistically with xylitol products – often achieving dramatic results. In practice, I normally began my patients on this home care program along with habit and nutritional counseling for a period of 2-3 months before periodontal therapy. The result shown in the blog post reflect no dental interventions.
      You will find the needs substantially reduced in many cases, but also the long term sustainability of the case is improved because we have adjusted and improved the ecosystem of the mouth – not eliminated it.
      More about my strategies and system can be found on my website http://www.DrEllie.com and I offer webinars for dental offices.
      I will soon be launching an online video teaching program and you could refer patients to learn more – if you do not have time to cover all of this teaching in your office. Please feel free to email me at ellie@drellie.com for more about this and any other questions!

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