Clinician Spotlight: Mary Ellen Chalmers, DMD, on Functional Medicine–Based Dentistry

                          Read time: 2 minutes

After the gut, the second largest and most diverse microbiome in the body is located in the mouth.1 The oral microbiome is shaped by exposure to environmental factors, including diet and eating habits, temperature, oral hygiene practices, and the use of antibiotics.2,3 Much like the gut, the oral microbiome also experiences states of dysbiosis, which can lead to oral disorders like periodontal disease and dental caries as well as systemic illnesses such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, and other related circulatory diseases.2

Oral hygiene is an important consideration for a patient’s wellness plan, and maintaining balance in the oral microbiome may reduce the inflammatory burden on the body. Chronic ingestion of pathogenic, oral bacteria may influence inflammatory pathways, particularly via the gut, as certain strains of bacteria have been found to colonize in the gut and cause imbalances in the GI tract.4 The mouth is also susceptible to food allergens, like gluten, that are commonly manufactured in over-the-counter toothpastes. Similar approaches to improving gut microbial health can be applied to the oral microbiome as well, such as avoiding known food sensitivities, limiting exposure to household toxicants, and getting adequate nutrition.

Through a functional approach to dentistry, Mary Ellen Chalmers, DMD, considers the impact of nutrition, hygiene, and lifestyle on the integrity of her patients’ oral microbiomes. Like most dentists, Dr. Chalmers will fervently recommend brushing and flossing twice a day as the best preventive medicine. She says, “Nothing substitutes for manually disrupting the biofilm. No matter what oral hygiene products you use, it is going to ensure the best results.”

In the following video, Dr. Chalmers explains how Functional Medicine addresses the oral-systemic connection and offers recommendations for oral hygiene products that minimize disruption of the oral microbiome.

(Video Time: 04:00)

Dr. Chalmers received her dental degree from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in 1980 and became a board certified naturopath in 2010 by the American Naturopathic Medical Certification Board, with training from the American College of Integrative Medicine and Dentistry (IBDM). Clinically, Dr. Chalmers believes the practice of Functional Medicine–based dentistry bridges the gap between evidence-based dentistry and biological dentistry, as well as providing a critical foundation for communication between the medical and dental professions, enhancing the quality of care for patients.

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  1. Deo PN, Deshmukh R. Oral microbiome: unveiling the fundamentals. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2019;23(1):122-128. doi:4103/jomfp.JOMFP_304_18
  2. Sharma N, Bhatia S, Sodhi AS, Batra N. Oral microbiome and health. AIMS Microbiol. 2018;4(1):42-66. doi:3934/microbiol.2018.1.42
  3. Kilian M. The oral microbiome – friend or foe?Eur J Oral Sci. 2018;126(Suppl 1):5-12. doi:1111/eos.12527
  4. Olsen I, Yamazaki K. Can oral bacteria affect the microbiome of the gut? J Oral Microbiol. 2019;11(1):1586422. doi:1080/20002297.2019.1586422