The Best Practices Magazine Sent to You for Free!

When you think Best Practices, think the Best Practices Magazine. It is Free!

Episode #561: What Your Patient’s Gut Health is Telling You, with Dr. Uche Odiatu

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:


Main Takeaways:

Change your diet for better gut health.

Acknowledge the role of gut health on mental health.

Understand how antibiotic prescriptions affect gut health.

Learn how to engage your patients in gut health conversations.

Involve and empower your team so they learn more about gut health.


“If you want to be current, you’ve got to know about the microbiome because your patients are reading about it every night.” (3:49—3:54)

“The average joe thinks, ‘Oh, I take a probiotic.’ There’s much more to gut health than taking a probiotic, just like there’s more to health than popping a vitamin pill.” (4:31—4:39)

“Gut health is elusive. It’s amorphous. You’ve got to think of how these gut florae became a part of us. When we’re born, basically, the womb is very sterile. When the baby comes through the birth canal, that’s the first introduction to the microbiome, or the mother’s microbiome. However, if you were born by C-section, C-section babies, which is about one out of three kids, one out of three patients born now, they get more of a skin microbiome. They get more staph bacteria than lactobacillus and bifido. It takes about seven years for a C-section delivered baby to catch up to a vaginally delivered baby.” (4:40—5:18)

“Back 40 years ago, only one in 25 kids were born by C-section. Now, it’s one in three. So, when you talk about one in three, you’re thinking about 30% of patients that are born without good, diverse, stable biome. And they do suffer from it. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has shown how they’re more likely to have asthma, more likely to have metabolic syndrome, more likely to have food sensitivities. So, there are a lot of things going on. This all might sound, ‘Uche, as a dentist, how am I supposed to know these things?’ So, we know now that if people don’t manage blood sugar well, guess what? They’re also likely to have more bleeding upon probing, loss of attachment. Diabetics lose teeth two to three times as much as a person who doesn’t have diabetes. So, this is where the conversation goes. It’s really important to have a working knowledge, and you’ve got to read the books. You’ve got to listen to the podcasts. You can’t be scared about it because these patients are Googling biome and gut and kombucha and kimchi.” (5:19—6:16)

“In South Korea, the average adult eats 35 kilograms of kimchi a year. 35 kilograms of kimchi a year. That’s how much cheese the average North American eats a year, 35 kilograms of cheese in a year. So, kimchi, because very fermented, it’s got 20 times more probiotic qualities than other fermented foods like yogurt and fruit and vegetables. So, when you look at the obesity rate of South Korea, it’s about 10%. The obesity rate in North America is 35%. So, if you start looking at fermented foods and probiotic foods, you realize how it impacts metabolism and immunity and how you look. So, I bring these things in eclectically when I talk. But ultimately, you’ve got to look current. You can’t just think gut conversations start with a probiotic. There’s much more to it.” (6:21—7:12)

“The mouth is the gateway. And the number-one way to change and have a healthy gut is to change what you’re eating. And who’s in charge of the eating apparatus? The dental industry. So, we are perfectly poised — there’s never been a better time to talk gut health because we are in charge of the entrance to the GI tract. It all starts here.” (7:13—7:30)

“Hippocrates said let food be your medicine and medicine be your food. And Hippocrates also said all disease begins in the gut. He said that 2,300 years ago. And now, we realize the information about gut health, it’s true. (8:45—8:58)

“Right now, if your bacteria were fermenting fiber, which they love, and you were eating about 30 grams a day, as a man, 35 grams a day, your body is pumping out short-chain fatty acids. And they are the most anti-inflammatory agent your body makes. And every hygienist knows inflammation is key. Back in JADA, 2009, they said a lot of the destruction of periodontal disease comes from a hyper-inflamed host, a host that goes overboard, a weak immune system, burning out and causing bleeding and creating a lot of osteoclasts that are breaking down bone. Well, if your body has enough fiber and you’re fermenting and making short-chain fatty acids, you now have a big bucket of water, anti-inflammation, and you can douse the flames easier. So, anyone who is eating fiber, anyone who is eating 30 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women, they can actually douse the flames of inflammation. They have a less likely chance of almost every modern disease, including gingivitis and periodontal disease.” (9:05—10:02)

“Right now, they’re saying that 90% to 95% of North Americans aren’t eating enough fiber. So, they literally have all these fires in their body, and they cannot douse the flames. So, if your bacteria aren’t getting fermenting fiber, what happens if they can’t ferment? They can’t douse the flames of inflammation. So, the joints hurt, hair hurts, cognitive irritation, gut inflammation, psoriasis, eczema, ankylosing spondylitis, gingivitis, periodontal disease, all because the body is unable to make short-chain fatty acids. And this body is incredible. It has its own pharmacy. But you’ve got to give it the fuel, and that’s where food comes in. Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” (10:06—10:44)

“Dr. Paul [Tennenbauer], PhD in immunology, said if you are going to eat a meal that’s debauchery, if you have a cheat meal — again, pizza once a week, there are 21 meals a week. It’s basically one of the 21. So, it’s not so bad, one out of 21. If you give your bacteria what they want, they’ll let you have your cheat meal. But if you have a big meat meal with a lot of saturated fat and processed food and you don’t give them what they want, they will slow down digestion. You’ll have gas. You’ll have constipation. You’ll have inflammation. But you have a salad with your big steak, you have two sides, broccolini and asparagus or mushrooms, now you make your bacteria happy.” (11:20—12:00)

“Give your body a couple of fermented foods a day, and now you’re giving them what they want. Now, they’ll let you digest that food. I won’t give you as much gas. I’ll douse the flames of inflammation around your joints. So, it’s like a tag team back and forth”. (12:16—12:28)

“If you want to make your own pizza, you can have gluten-free bread. You can have whole grain bread. You can put real cheese on, feta cheese, goat cheese instead of that spray-on orange cheese. You could put hormone-free meat. You can get free-range chicken. You can put broccoli on pizza. Mushroom and broccoli on pizza is taboo for you. You can put peppers. You can put olives. You can make a pizza healthy. It’s not debauchery if you make your own.” (12:29—12:58)

“Only one out of 100 people are celiac. There are some people who are gluten-intolerant, but they’re not gluten-allergic. Celiacs are definitely allergic to gluten. A lot of people eat poor quality bread. Some people say, ‘Oh, I don’t do gluten.’ Eat better quality bread, whole grain sprouted bread. Sourdough bread is very much gut-friendly. Sourdough is a different kind of yeast. So, it’s a different way that bread is made. Sourdough is gut-friendly. Rye bread is gut-friendly. Whole grain, 100% whole grain bread is gut-friendly. White bread, the white bread that you can make into a snowball, not very gut friendly. But for most Americans, guess what? That snowball, that white bread, is two to four grams a day, for the average American. But again, very heavily processed.” (13:11—13:52)

“One of the best ways to stay healthy, this is from Justin [Senebaugh]. Justin [Senebaugh] is a microbiologist out of California. Processed food is our downfall. The more processed food we eat, the more processed food the patient eats, the higher likelihood they’re going to have an inflamed gut and then chronic levels of inflammation, things that don’t heal well. Peri-implantitis. We’re so good at putting out the fire and having good integration around the implant, but we don’t talk to patients about — you do an implant on a shift worker, you do an implant on a sedentary person, you do an implant on a person who is depressed — one of the periodontists I heard lecture at the Dental Economics Conference last year in Nashville with Dr. Pam, he was saying that he was surprised how people who take antidepressants have a six percent higher chance of not accepting that implant as much as a person who doesn’t take antidepressants just because depression is an inflammatory condition. They have higher levels of C-reactive protein. So, start looking at the bigger picture. Start thinking A and B and C. There’s much more to the body than one plus two. There are many ways of looking at it. The body is always synergistic in how it responds to what we do.” (13:53—14:59)

“Ninety-eight percent of bacteria in us are good. There are bacteria, archaea, eukaryotes. Everyone know about H. pylori. But not all the H. pylori are bad. There are about three different strains. Only one causes a problem. The other two don’t always cause a problem. E. coli, there are about 20 or more different strains of E. coli. They all live inside us. C. difficile is always hanging out. It’s like the Hell’s Angels in the parking lot called our gut. But guess what? If you don’t have a lot of good, beneficial flora, now they get more parking spots. As soon as C. difficile gets more parking spots, guess what? Now, you’ve got quite the party. So, what happens is you’ve got to really feed the good ones and starve the bad ones.” (15:09—15:48)

“There are 42 trillion single-celled organisms in us, the same amount of cells of human origin in the body. But 85% of our human cells don’t have a nucleus and they don’t have bacteria. So, that’s why the gut bacteria actually outnumber the human origin ten to one. But species wise is sheer dominance. So, we have 21,000 human coding genes. You and I are 21,000 genes. But the sheer collective genetic footprint of the 10,000 to 20,000 species inside you is up to 100 million genes. So, who runs the show?” (15:58—16:32)

“The earth is 4.6 billion years old. There was zero life for a billion years. So, about 3.5 billion years ago, bacteria formed. These same bacteria are living inside us. A lot of immunologists and microbiologists joke around, we could just be the walking vehicles of bacteria to survive. Because when you’re living, they’re your friend. But when you die, within three days, your body decomposes by the same bacteria that helps you live. So, when the body decomposes, that’s your bacteria now chowing down on you. So, think about it. They’re ruthless. So, most of us treat our bacteria bad our whole lives, starving our bacteria, not getting good sleep, not being physically active, poorly managed stress. So, now, you die. Three days later, the decomposing started. And it’s the same bacteria that — people always think the bacteria comes from the flies. No. It comes from the bacteria inside us. They’re our friend, but now they’re your foe.” (16:44—17:36)

“We think of the GI tract as it starts here and ends at the butt. So, there’s up to about 26, 28 feet of it. So, that makes sense. So, the gut flora starts here. There are about 700 species in the mouth. Again, most of them, beneficial. Most bacteria in the mouth are part of your friends. So many dentists, though, don’t know what’s going on inside. We kind of know the bacteria that often produces or ferments and breaks down sugar and causes decay. We know that. But the other bacteria, we haven’t all analyzed them yet. They’re so amorphous it’s hard to fully understand. So, that’s why when people get an imbalance, all of a sudden, you get Candida or you get thrush. You get a white tongue. So, if I get someone coming in at 50, 55, 60 with oral thrush, I know that Candida albicans is overgrowing. But we have it in our mouths all the time. But when your beneficial flora is high and there’s good sleep and a good immune system, the body can keep Candida at bay. But when someone has gone through a recent bout of antibiotics or multiple bouts of antibiotics, if someone has stress, or if someone has dry mouth, or someone doesn’t sleep very well, now they have Candida. And it manifests as millions, if not trillions, of bacteria multiplying and you get this white coating, which is basically Candida setting up condos on your tongue. It just means that that’s the body out of balance, and dry mouth sets that up. (17:50—

Dry mouth sets up the mouth out of balance. If the mouth is dry, someone is not going to digest food as well. So, when you think about digestion, people always think it starts in the stomach. But if someone has a dry mouth, think about it. Two-thirds of all prescription and over-the-counter medication causes dry mouth — two-thirds. As we get older, 55, 60-plus, dry mouth. People who mouth breathe, dry mouth. People who are anxious — think of all this post-pandemic stress. Dry mouth. So, if you’re chewing food with a dry mouth because of stress, age, anxiety, and side effects of maybe three, four, or five medications, now, I’m not even going to start the breakdown process. Digestion starts in the mouth. Actually, I should really say it starts when you’re thinking about the food. If you have a dry mouth, you start swallowing that food without it being touched with all the saliva to bring it into a liquid form. You don’t have all the enzymes. And now, the stomach has to work harder to digest the food and absorb it. So, you can eat a great diet with dry mouth, and now you’re going to have nutritional deficiencies. That’s what a lot of doctors don’t understand, ‘Hey, your diet looks good. I wonder why you’re lacking B-12 or you’re lacking this nutrient.’ Well, what happens is, you’re chewing your food too fast in a dry mouth because you’re anxious, and you’re sleep deprived, or you’re mouth-breathing, now, you’re sending down food only partially broken down. The body is a miracle, but it can’t work magic. And now, you become nutritionally deficient, simply because of a dry mouth. And that’s why when I see a patient with dry mouth, I call that the sign of accelerated aging. I want to get their attention. ‘Accelerated aging.’ ‘What can I do? What I can I do?’ ‘Well, we’ve got to start getting you nose-breathing. How are you sleeping?’ So, all these conversations start with the dentist and hygienist. You’ve got to start talking the talk of total-body health. And now, as a dentist, I can talk dry mouth and digestion and absorption and slowing down the aging process. Just by having a fully functioning, fully restored mouth, I can actually help slow down aging. You know why? Because when you have a fully restored mouth with good saliva and good TMJ, now you can break down food and literally, you have healthier lungs, heart, liver, and brain. So, it starts with us. This is where dentists have to start taking ownership. We are oral physicians. We are physicians of the mouth. I don’t just do veneers. I’m a physician of the mouth. I’m looking at the big picture. Let’s see your meds. Let’s talk about shift work, that kind of thing.” —21:17)

“People think of burnout as stress, ‘I’m not managing stress well.’ People are taking antidepressants. However, when you think of the gut, think of the bacteria as your — they’re traveling with us from birth to grave. Right? They don’t have a brain, but they have a consciousness. So, when someone is stressed, mouth-breathing, when someone is stressed, poor sleep, when someone is stressed, eating comfort foods, when someone is stressed, muscular tension, your bacteria, they don’t have a brain, have a consciousness. They sense you not moving. They sense your dry mouth. They sense the lack of nitric oxide. They sense the lack of rest. So, what happens when your bacteria senses it? Digestion slows. Any time you’re in fight-or-flight, or angry, or upset, or frustrated, or irritated looking at the news, the body thinks, they put all the energy into present moment because there is no gradient to stress. It’s all or nothing. So, when you’re angry, looking back at the guy honking the horn, you’re watching the news looking at CNN, looking at FOX and all this stuff, what happens is your body goes into high alert into the present moment. It puts digestion on hold, so digestion slows. Any time you’re anxious, digestion slows down. The minute digestion slows down, your body can no longer repair, recover, and grow. That’s why stress can literally make you shorter.” (21:49—23:05)

“They talk about there are three reasons why kids will often not be as tall as other kids. So, 80% is genetic, family. But three negative impacts on childhood health is stress, infection, and food quality. So, 20% of your kids’ height is the amount of stress they had in that childhood home, how much immune system challenges, how sick they were, and the quality of the food. Twenty percent is a big impact. It’s one or two inches. And again, it’s the bacteria. Bacteria have a part to play. They help you digest the food. So, digestion slows, for one. Two, sleep quality goes down. So, when you’re stressed out, sleep quality goes down. And your bacteria, they don’t know light or dark, but they do know when you’re horizontal.” (23:05—23:48)

“Some bacteria are most awake when you’re dreaming. Many bacteria are very awake when you’re dreaming. And dreaming is what sleep scientists have said now is when your body processes emotion or processes memory. So, if people are stressed, they literally grab the emotional dirt from today and drag it into tomorrow because they’re not sleeping well. So, people who sleep well dream 100 minutes a night, on average. One hundred minutes a night allows you to process memory and process emotion. So, when you’re sleeping well, what happens is you can actually dilute or wash out the sadness from today. So, you start tomorrow morning with a clean bill of health. But stress makes you dream less. It makes you spend less time sleeping. The sleep quality goes down. But the bacteria know that. That’s part of that.” (23:48—24:31)

“One easy takeaway is the avalanche of evidence to show how plants and eating vegetables is healthy for you. So, when you have a new patient exam or a recare exam, ‘Hey, how are your food habits coming along? Do you eat vegetables?’ ‘I hate vegetables.’ Right away, I know they’re going to be fiber deficient.” (25:00—25:17)

“As much as your office could be beautiful, you’ve got the latest CEREC and iTero, start talking the language of health. Total body health is very attractive. And gut health is on every parent’s mind.” (27:15—27:24)

“You’ve got to engage people. They’re not going to fully understand it. It’s almost a PhD. The National Institutes of Health has been around for decades. So, this science is new. But you intrigue, engage the patient. Get them in. And they say, all they’re going to know is, ‘Doc, I don’t fully understand. I’m in the right place. I’ll see you in three months. I can’t wait to see you in three months.’ Get the whole team talking health.” (28:13—28:31)

“Have a study club [with your team]. Have a book club. There are some books on the microbiome that are great. And most people don’t read. People buy the books. They don’t read past the first chapter. So, what you could do is, tell them to download the audio. As a dentist, pay for it. Pay for the five hygienists. Download your audiobook. It’s $25. But they start understanding the language of gut health and nutrition, now you’ve got an empowered team. Now, you’ve got a team on the cutting edge. They’re on the cutting edge clinically. They’ve got to be on the cutting edge talking the talk.” (28:46—29:14)

“You start reading books on [gut health] and you have a book club and do one book a month, you could have a kick-butt team of people understanding gut health more than the average medical doctor. And hygienists are perfect for this. Hygienists do about 30 hours of nutrition. They’re perfectly set up to talk about nutrition, fiber, gut health. And now, they can support you doing more crowns, as a dentist. Because hygienists love it when the dentist talks prevention. Usually, we’re talking crowns, implants. But you start saying filling that edentulous space allows you to chew better, which means breaking down food, and allows you to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, now the hygienist goes, ‘Hey, she’s talking diet. I like this person. I’m going to set this up for them to restore that arch so they can chew and digest food better and eat that fiber.” (29:37—30:21)

“Inflammation is the player in almost 90% of all modern diseases: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cognitive diseases. David Perlmutter said Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s is a lifetime of chronic inflammation. So, you talk about P. gingivalis in the mouth and making sure it doesn’t make its way into the brain. All kinds of people are talking. But they’re talking about these little bacteria. You’ve got to talk big picture. You really can’t have a good, healthy mouth without a healthy diet.” (30:57—31:23)

“If I have a gut flora of a senior, what’s the best way to turn it around? Change your diet, add a probiotic, manage stress, get to bed on time. So, how can I be healthier? I don’t know. But the best way is to get tested. Like, how do you know what my perio condition is? You’ve got to do perio charting, perio probing. Well, many people might need a test. There are tests now. Fecal smear, blood test. You send it away. You’ve got to have a good company to make sure these results aren’t spread around. Alot of free tests, where is the information going? So, you’ve got to spend a certain amount of money to have a good quality company to make sure your results stay private. Because if you’ve got the gut health of someone who’s more likely to have an autoimmune disease, you’re thinking cancer, diabetes, ankylosing spondylitis, do you want insurance companies to know this stuff? So, you’ve got to have a very secure, locked-in portal to make sure that your gut test is locked in and only you and that company knows, and it’s private, it’s yours. Because your gut health is like a fingerprint.” (31:55—32:45)

“Get people engaged and thinking other than just flossing and brushing. There’s much more to it.” (32:55—33:01)

“The team needs to learn the same stuff. You can’t come back all excited about something, and the team goes, ‘What are you talking about?’” (34:03—34:08)

“We can actually help get patients lean. Lean people have different gut health than someone who is obese, which is basically 30% of the population. We have different bacteria. So, the minute you start getting the bacteria of a lean person, you can start losing weight by encouraging the beneficial flora of a lean person.” (35:09—35:26)

“Start realizing there’s much more to [gut health] than taking a probiotic. I’m a big fan of probiotics, but start reading about it, looking at it. Don’t pooh-pooh when patients ask. When you give an antibiotic, sure, you’re taking care of the cellulitis and the pericoronitis. But start thinking, ‘I’ve disturbed the beneficial flora for up to 60 days.’ So, start saying, ‘Hey, I think a probiotic is a good idea.’ Ask a pharmacist if you’re not confident in it. But a generic probiotic taken over the counter, not a bad idea. If you’re not confident, ask a pharmacist, or start learning more, or talk to me. I don’t mind sharing what I take. But start talking probiotic health every time you give out a prescription. A lot of dentists write prescriptions. But if you don’t know how disturbing they are and how destabilizing they are to beneficial flora, some of these bacteria take up to two years to come back. So, if someone is on antibiotics one, two, three times a year, their bacteria is always exhausted. It’s always swimming upstream. So, if you want to help the beneficial flora, a probiotic is perfect.” (35:48—36:47)

“You have your patients swimming upstream, getting exhausted by amoxicillin or penicillin. Clindamycin is deadly for the stomach flora. C. difficile overgrowth, pathogenic flora, they’re parking their bikes in all the empty parking spots caused by the amoxicillin, penicillin that you’re taking. They cause open spaces. And if you’re eating crappy food or poor-quality food, guess what? Those pathogenic flora back up their bad boys and they make their homes, set up a little tent city there. And now, you’ve got it set up for a perfect storm for an inflammatory condition or an autoimmune disease.” (36:49—37:24)


0:00 Introduction.

1:47 Dr. Odiatu’s background.

2:24 Where we are with gut health and dental care providers.

3:55 How to introduce this subject to patients.

7:30 Dentists are best positioned to improve whole-body health.

10:44 Give your bacteria what they want.

12:59 Eat better quality bread and less processed foods.

15:00 How bad is the bacteria inside of us and our patients?

17:39 How the oral microbiome affects health.

21:17 The role of gut health on burnout and mental health.

24:41 Guidelines for talking to patients about gut health.

28:33 How to engage your team in the conversation.

30:25 Invest in testing your gut flora.

33:27 Dr. Odiatu’s future courses and how to get in touch.

35:38 Last thoughts on better gut health.

Dr. Uche Odiatu Bio:

Dr. Uche Odiatu has a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine). He is a professional member of the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), a Certified Personal Trainer (National Strength & Conditioning Association) NSCA, and the Canadian Association of Fitness Professionals (canfitpro). He is the co-author of The Miracle of Health (c) 2009 John Wiley (hardcover) & (c) 2015 Harper Collins, and has lectured in Canada, the USA, the Caribbean, the UK, and Europe. He is an invited guest on over 400 TV and radio shows, from ABC 20/20, Canada CTV AM, Breakfast TV, to Magic Sunday Drum FM in Texas. This high-energy healthcare professional has done over 450 lectures in seven countries over the last 15 years.


Subscribe to our newsletter

Don’t miss out on valuable insights, updates, and inspiration. Subscribe to our newsletter and receive regular updates on the latest dental practice growth strategies, success stories, and exclusive offers directly in your inbox. Join our community of dental professionals committed to creating better practices and better lives.

Subscribe To Our Blog (Newsletter)! - Footer

"(Required)" indicates required fields