Dental health is clearly linked to PCOS and general health. In fact, the mouth is the first point that many issues start to present themselves. Bleeding gums, for instance, is one of the first signs of potential hormone and microbiome changes. Your mouth even communicates what type of vitamin deficiencies you may have. Dr. Steven Lin is on a mission to educate people about the connection between dental health and their overall wellbeing. Listen in as we discuss:
- The connection between tooth decay & gum disease and digestive, immunity, and hormone problems, as well as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- The hierarchy of nutrients that your body uses and what you may be lacking
- Vitamin D deficiency and its cascading effects
- The role of the microbiome in your dental health and vice versa
- The problem with mouthwash
- How sleep fits into your dental and overall health picture
Dr. Steven Lin is a dentist, TEDx speaker, and author of The Dental Diet. With a background in biomedical science, Dr. Lin has dedicated his career to outline the nutritional basis of dental disease. His goal is to help define crooked teeth as a nutritional deficiency and the most significant chronic health problem on the planet.
Amy Medling: Today I have an interesting guest that I invited on to the PCOS Podcast. He’s a doctor, but he’s not an endocrinologist, or a gynecologist, but actually a dentist. And Dr. Steven Lin is also a Ted X speaker and author of his brand-new book The Dental Diet. He has a background in bio-medical science and he’s dedicated his career to outline the nutritional basis of dental disease. And I just had the opportunity to read Dr. Lin’s book over the last couple of nights, and it’s a real eye opener. I just want to welcome you to the PCOS Diva Podcast.
Dr. Steven Lin: Thanks so much for having me, Amy, and all the good work you do as well because it’s so important.
Amy Medling: Oh, thank you. So, I really was excited to bring you on to the podcast because I don’t think women have any idea that their dental health is really linked to their PCOS and their PCOS symptoms and their general health. I know I’ve shared in my blog that early on when I was really suffering with PCOS symptoms in my 20’s, despite having really impeccable habits when it came to taking care of my teeth, I was really struggling with gum disease and could not figure out why in the world I would be if … you know my brushing habits were good, my flossing habits were good. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that there was a connection with my overall systemic health.
So, that’s kind of what we’re here to talk about today and shed some light on that topic.
I would love for you maybe to start with kind of explaining you know why dental health isn’t sort of on its own island. That it’s really part of our overall health of our bodies.
Dr. Steven Lin: Yeah, it’s really great to hear your story it turns out, Amy, because it’s so common. And this is a problem that I face in practice a lot is that I have many middle to elderly aged people who were up to date with their health … by any standard or means they would be considered healthy, but they did have persistent gum disease.
And my problem was that they only way that the dental industry would address this is to offer periodontal cleaning and therapies and anti-bacterials, and so it’s very kind-of, you know, silver bullet approach. And that kind of led me down the road to writing The Dental Diet because there is a deeper understanding of the disease processes here and that’s what … it’s so important the mouth is the first point that many of these issues start to … bleeding gums for instance is one of the first points that we can probably detect hormone changes and microbiome changes.
That is the cascade that sets off everything else in the body. So, I’ve … it’s been such a journey in terms of joining nutrition to the mouth, but the understanding every chronic problem that people are having has some pathway back to the mouth. You need to really understand this first. And that’s why dental nutrition is so important, because when you understand how to eat for your mouth, your whole body falls into place.
Amy Medling: Yeah, and I like what you were saying about how dentists were sort of treating the symptoms with the periodontal cleanings and the antibacterial rather than getting to the root cause. And that’s sort of what we deal with with PCOS. Doctors want to give us the birth control pill or Metformin to act as sort of a band-aid on … you know slapping a band-aid on the symptoms, but not getting to the root, which often is looking at your diet.
So, tell us more about The Dental Diet and what type of vitamin deficiencies you’re seeing and what type of diet is leading to dental issues.
Dr. Steven Lin: Yeah, the big issue that we’ve misunderstood with dental health is the way the body manages our teeth and our gums and our jaw, is very much fundamental to our structures. So, when your body doesn’t have the nutrients to maintain its teeth, or grow its jaws, it’s in deep deficiency.
And so, we’ve misunderstood this in terms of jaw development to kids. So, kids shouldn’t grow jaws that don’t house 32 teeth, that’s a huge problem.
So that all begins with a hormonal issue through development. So, it’s slow hormones, so growth hormone, testosterone, sex hormones that should be signaling jaw growth are not getting, we’re not feeding our bodies enough. And so, the key nutrient system is a fat-soluble vitamin system. And so that’s Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K2. And if we’re not really familiar with these nutrients, we don’t get enough of them.
None of my patients were getting enough of them. I didn’t understand them. That was my road to writing The Dental Diet because I had to go through all the scientific literature that shows this stuff is so fundamental to our physiological structure. Kids don’t grow jaws that fit 32 teeth, we get tooth decay, we get gum disease, and then we go down the road of digestive problems, immune problems, hormonal problems, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia.
The whole spectrum sits in this underlying issue of not eating the right nutrients for our bones and teeth. And so, the amazing connection with hormones is all of our signaling messengers throughout the body are really underlied with this fat-soluble vitamin system. And so, in terms of our stem cell … the stem cells in your bone marrow are signaled by these nutrients. And so, when we … those stem cells actually either go out to be immune cells or they go out to be bone growing cells or skeletal cells or teeth or the immune system inside your teeth.
So, when you don’t signal these things the right way, you’re off to a bad start already. So, this is what’s happening in our bodies, then down the road we get things like hormonal imbalances and digestive problems, our sleep issues. All of this fits into this spectrum of not eating the right foods.
Amy Medling: And you know I think that women with PCOS … and this was myself: being overfed and undernourished. I mean I was eating a lot of the wrong foods, but I wasn’t getting the nutrients that my body needed. I know for myself, Vitamin D was one I was extremely low in and studies have shown that up to 85% of women with PCOS are low in Vitamin D.
Can you kind of tell us a little bit more about why being low in that particular nutrient can cause a problem, and I just want to also say that I know now I take a Vitamin D with K1 and K2 to help the absorbability and you had mentioned K2 as being really important.
Dr. Steven Lin: Yeah, so, in the Dental Diet we learn that there’s a hierarchy of nutrients that your body uses and the most important thing it devotes these nutrients to are your skeletal structures. So, if your skeletal structures aren’t working properly, then that means the body it’s in starvation mode.
And so, Vitamin D we’ve known – since the Rickets epidemic since the early 1900’s – that it’s crucial to our skeletal formation. So why we haven’t seen this as being fundamental to our jaws and teeth is just beyond me. Because we know for instance to prevent tooth decay, there are cells inside your teeth called Odontoblasts that feed on Vitamin D. So instead of worrying about toothpaste or mouthwash, we should be focusing on Vitamin D, but then since about 2000 all this literature has come out about what Vitamin D does elsewhere in the body. So, our digestive system, the immune system, metabolism, the brain. The brain is filled with Vitamin D receptors. And so, if we’re not getting Vitamin D at its most basic level … I tested every single one of my patients. They’re all deficient.
All of these processes are going wrong and it starts with your teeth and then flows right throughout the body.
Amy Medling: Yeah and you mentioned testing. I really recommend that every woman gets tested because you need to know a baseline. You know 2000 units probably not going to be enough for you, you might need kind of mega-doses to get yourself optimized.
Dr. Steven Lin: Yeah what I’ve found especially with people with chronic digestive and hormone issues, that they do take time. So, Vitamin D blood levels don’t just pop up. So, in kids for instance, just the diet, so The Dental Diet really gets them corrected in terms of … because you know kids are very responsive, but if we’ve had a process of chronic disease, you need to make a strategy and monitor your Vitamin D especially if you’re not in a warm climate and can’t get sun. So, testing I recommend 4 times a year. Know your Vitamin D level, it’s the most important measure. Why not, you know, through the seasons, know where it dips, know when your stress levels and diet changes and how it fluctuates during these times.
Amy Medling: Yeah that’s great advice. Now tell us more about K2.
Dr. Steven Lin: So, K2 is a fat-soluble nutrient that actually goes alongside D. So, D actually absorbs calcium in the body, K2 actually activates proteins that helps us use calcium. So without K2, your body, you can flood your body with calcium, the studies actually show that if you have Vitamin D and Calcium supplements we actually increase the risk of heart attacks and not bone density.
So that means that you’re flooding your body with calcium. Your arteries and soft tissues are hardening up, but your bones and teeth are just looking at you. And one of the best measures of this is actually dental calculus. So that spot behind your teeth when you go to the dentist and you hate it when they scrub it away cause it’s so painful, that’s one of the most, the first places you get dental calculus buildup.
I notice this on patients. Some people would even have good oral hygiene and they get this calculus buildup. It’s that hard and thick buildup. While others would not at all. The difference is K2. K2 activates protein that carries calcium around the body. But it also has hormonal issues, so it actually activates hormones – sex hormones, the brain, the immune system, K2 and this fat-soluble vitamin system alongside A actually have this beautiful synergistic way of activating nearly every system in your body.
And so, the two types of K2. There’s the Menaquinone-4 which is the animal source K2 and the Menaquinone-7 which is actually bacterially sourced, so if you have a healthy gut, I think we produce some of this Menaquinone-7 … the studies don’t exactly elucidate how much or whether that’s adequate, but there is a bacterial source of it. You can actually eat it through fermented foods. But in the body, the liver will actually convert K1 and MK-7 to MK-4. So, your body uses MK-4 at the most actively, so it goes straight to tissues, activates all the different organs that K2 does like sex hormone pathways.
MK-7 is more for bones, so it will go to the bones sort of deeper. And it will make sure your bones are mineralizing and then K1 is the blood coagulation pathway. It’s actually a different molecule altogether, though.
Amy Medling: Yeah, it’s really fascinating. You mentioned the gut and in your book, you talk a lot about how the gut and the microbiome plays a big role you know in your dental health. Can you … and we know that the microbiome plays a huge role in PCOS, can you talk to us more about that.
Dr. Steven Lin: Yeah, so the silly thing we’ve looked at our mouths is that we try to scrub and disinfect our mouths as much as possible, but we’re swallowing thousands of bacteria every second. And so, this is the seed of the gut microbiome. And so, the mouth and the oral microbiome, see there are probiotic bacteria that live in the mouth – we learn this in The Dental Diet – and really understand how diversity in ecology of that environment actually … that’s how we garner health, not disinfecting.
Disinfecting is to get rid of disease process, for health we need diversity. That’s the same in the gut. So, we can learn so much about the mouth and if you have gut problems, you need to look at your mouth too. So, if you have gum disease, you will need to treat alongside the gut cause you’re swallowing these microbes all the time so you should never see them in isolated systems. Always address your mouth and dental health alongside the gut.
Amy Medling: So, what do you think about ladies that are listening that are using Listerine every night?
Dr. Steven Lin: I’d say Listerine is the first thing you can cut out. Absolutely cut it out because it’s like throwing a grenade into your oral microbiome. We don’t know what it does, we haven’t even identified half the species that live in the mouth.
All we know is that we’ve killed off much of the diversity that lives in our mouth through archaeological studies of dental plaque. Diversity is the key. Do not use mouthwash. It’s not the way for health.
Amy Medling: Okay, so a lot of us have IBS and problems with our gut and gum disease. Could you give us a few tips? First, you said get rid of the Listerine. What else? What else can we do?
Dr. Steven Lin: Our first point, manage your Vitamin D levels. Be absolutely on point with how you … and it’s going to take some time. If you have IBS and hormonal issues, these things, prepare yourself for a long road. That’s fine, though, because once you start edging up, you’re going to feel better and better and better as the weeks go by, and you’re going to start to understand your body much more too. So, don’t be discouraged, but with gum disease, digestive issues, and healing the mouth: Vitamin D, sleep which is really important too, so you need to understand how you breathe, and so we learn this in the book too. So, breathing exercises and breathing through your nose and calming your autonomic nervous system at night.
We know this changes your digestive bacteria and so, that’s the first sign of a sleep disorder is teeth grinding. So, when you grind your teeth at night that’s a sign that you’re not getting enough oxygen or you have what’s called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome which is on the spectrum of sleep apnea. You need to fix your breathing. You need to understand breathing. And we do that in The Dental Diet. We breathe and important for kids too ‘cause if they breathe the right way and eat the right way, they develop jaws with straight teeth.
Amy Medling: So, you mentioned sleep apnea. Women with PCOS are 30 times higher risk for sleep apnea. And I was surprised to read about those breathing exercises in your book. I mean, it’s really as simple as that?
Dr. Steven Lin: Well, you know, it’s a road. It’s about understanding that the face and the crania-facial system is there to … some people will need to go deeper into this and there’s a lot of information on my website about this, but understanding that nasal breathing is both with your nervous system and delivering oxygen by itself, so without nasal breathing you don’t mix the air with nitric oxide so it’s so, so important. And just scheduling yourself time to spend, you know yoga is very good for that too, but and how your jaw develops for instance does predispose us to the mouth breathing and poorly oxygenated air.
Amy Medling: I’ve seen some things on Facebook about mouth taping and they sell tape to tape your mouth. What’s your thoughts on that? Just curious.
Dr. Steven Lin: Well, if you can breathe nasally for a full night, you’re going to wake up in the morning feeling amazing because your brain is like, “Wow, I’ve just got all this oxygen through the night”. Now, the people that have hormonal and long-standing sleep issues, mouth taping is difficult to start with, but what I kind of suggest, is start with the exercises and begin to prime yourself into sealing your mouth. So, you can use tape or you can use like a head strap. Nose cones are great too. You can get them online or from a pharmacy. They kind of prop your nostrils open and that helps you to breathe through your nose because some people feel a bit claustrophobic about breathing through their nose cause if we have a higher palette the nasal sinuses are cramped by definition.
So that helps too, but it’s all about retraining that nasal breathing. It’s also a road as well. Mouth taping is a great option, but you just need to know that not everyone can do it.
Amy Medling: Right, so at the root of PCOS is inflammation. It’s this chronic kind of low level information. And I know that for me I think that was a huge part of what was affecting my gums. So, can you talk to us about that inflammation connection.
Dr. Steven Lin: Yeah, so the thing about this is that with gum disease and the studies that link gum disease to other diseases including PCOS is that we … is this very vague literature connection. Well, you know they’re connected, but we don’t know if it’s correlation or causation. But the problem is we’ve not understood the mechanisms there it’s one condition. Gum disease is a sign of this inflammation which is a sign that your microbes and your immune system are unhappy. That’s what’s happening, alright. So, in the mouth when your microbes aren’t happy and your immune system isn’t happy, you get bleeding gums. But the immune system is primed in your gut, right, so bleeding gums is the first sign that your gut and the immune system is unhappy. Remember 80% of your immune system is primed in the gut.
So, the first sign is bleeding gums, right, because your body is upregulating your immune system to increase its response because it thinks something’s bad there. But all of that is about not having a tolerant immune system. A tolerant immune system needs Vitamin D, it needs the 3 fat soluble vitamins, you need to eat. It needs those probiotic foods and friendly bacteria, this diverse ecological environment instead of scrubbing and disinfecting. We need to breathe right as well.
So, the three points, so all of this is pinned in not fitting out the body with the right oxygen, giving us the right neurosignal, Vitamin D the fat-soluble vitamins, and then feeding the microbiome the right things. So, it’s a problem with this interface between our gut and our mouth and if we just scrape the plaque away, I like to say that if you have a car with an engine problem, you don’t go to the car wash do you. You get under the hood and you understand what’s wrong with the engine. It’s crazy we’ve just been scraping away at the surface when there’s so much more to understand underneath.
Amy Medling: That’s a great analogy. You know you’re right, it’s really getting to the root of it. So, ladies if you’re listening and you’re struggling with your dental health, I really recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Lin’s book The Dental Diet. Why don’t you tell us where you can find that book and where can we learn more about you and your work?
Dr. Steven Lin: Sure, The Dental Diet is available on Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or across Booktopia in Australia or Amazon UK as well. You can find more about me at www.DrStevenLin.com so we go through a lot of functional oral health concepts and understand the root cause of dental disease and how it connects to the body. That’s www.drstevenlin.com. And on Facebook and Instagram @DrStevenLin where we talk about this kind of stuff. We do a lot of interviews and try to connect the mouth-body link and how to really get better teeth and healthier life along the way.
Amy Medling: Alright, I have one more question for you. So, what if you go to your dentist and with all of this great information and they think it’s a bunch of bunk?
Dr. Steven Lin: Yeah, that’s going to happen. If you do, you know I would say, send them the link to the book. In the book there’s 300 scientific references. I have been training professionals in this, so there is a group of dental professionals out there that understand these concepts. Dental nutrition is the last leg, this is what I’m really trying to push out to get professionals in this, but understanding, but sleep in airway, sleep disorders, functional testing in the mouth, there are dentists that do this. Don’t settle for someone that says, “No, this is a bunch of bunk” because if you just look at the reference section in The Dental Diet there is so much science there.
That’s probably a quarter of what we did to write the book. Unfortunately, health professionals are isolated from this stuff, so just know that there’s no need to get angry about it or …I would just try to find someone that understands it and when you do it is very, it’s a lot easier because then they might even say they’re not familiar with the concepts of the dental diet, they’re at least going to be open and understand that there are pathways here to work alongside your teeth and dental health.
Amy Medling: Yeah, like I say: you have to be a Diva to doctor, even at the dentist.
Dr. Steven Lin: Absolutely, and make sure your dentist talks to your doctor and health professionals too. Don’t let them work in isolation.
Amy Medling: And that’s a great point. When you have to do the medical intake form, write down that you have PCOS, write down that you are low Vitamin D. For some people, some dentists that would be the missing link that they need.
Dr. Steven Lin: Absolutely.
Amy Medling: Well, thank you so much for your time today. This was a great conversation and definitely eye opening I think for a lot of us.
Dr. Steven Lin: Thanks so much for having me, Amy. And yeah, I’m really excited, this connection between hormonal health and gums and this is something that we really need to get in. It’s actually very simple if we just kind of break it down from its most fundamental points and I think the mouth really is the key to that.
Amy Medling: Yeah, I’m so glad that you’re sort of an ambassador out there spreading this good news. Keep doing your good work.
Dr. Steven Lin: Thank you so much, Amy.
Amy Medling: Thank you everyone for listening.