Welcome to the first episode of the Mind Body Mouth podcast! I’m Dr. Vijaya Molloy, and I’m so excited to welcome you to a place where we’ll be exploring the important and fascinating connections between our dental health and the health of our entire body.
In this episode, I want to introduce myself and share some background about my life, my dental practice, and my treatment philosophy. I’ll tell you why I love dentistry and why I think a functional approach is the best way to treat a patient’s teeth and the root cause of their dental health problems.
Then I’ll give an overview of some of the conditions I regularly treat, including tooth decay and gum disease. We’ll briefly explore the importance of good nutrition for a healthy gut and happy mouth, the gut-brain axis, and why chronic mouth breathing is one of the most common indicators of an unbalanced mouth-body connection.
I love to continuously learn about dentistry, health, and how I can better care for my patients. I hope that this podcast becomes a fun and informative place where you can learn more about your health and the important, interesting relationships between the health of our mind, body, and mouth.
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will entrust his patients in the care of the human frame and diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” By Thomas Edison.
You are listening to the Mind Body Mouth podcast with Dr. Molloy, episode one.
Welcome to Mind Body Mouth, a podcast that explores the link between the health of your mouth and the rest of your body. If you’re a patient, parent, or fellow practitioner who’s curious about how functional dentistry can improve your overall health, this is the show for you. Here’s your host, Australian dentist, Dr. Vijaya Molloy.
Hi everyone, and welcome to the very first episode of the podcast. I decided to start with that quote as it really nicely sums up the philosophy that I incorporate into my daily life and into my practice of dentistry.
In today’s episode, I thought I’d talk a little bit about myself, what inspired me to record this podcast, and what you can look forward to in coming episodes. As you know, I’m a dentist. I currently live in Australia but I grew up in New Zealand and I completed my degree training there.
I completed my degree in 1995, then worked in New Zealand for a year while I was living at home with my parents. By the end of the year, I decided it was time to get out, so I packed my bags and flew across to Sydney, which is where I’ve been ever since.
I’m now married to an Australian man. His name is Brad and we have three wonderful boys, Jai who’s almost 16, Ashwin, 13, and Rishaan, seven. I have my own dental practice which I own with my business partner, Steve, which is one hour north of Sydney in an area called the Central Coast.
I love living in Sydney. It’s not too hot, not too cold. It has the most beautiful beaches in the world, in my opinion anyway. It’s such a cosmopolitan city. If you ever decide to eat out, any cuisine in the world is available somewhere within the city.
Setting up my own practice was never part of my long-term plan. I thought it would be too time-consuming, which it can be at times. But about five years ago, I realized that if I wanted to be able to practice my own way, it was something I was going to have to do.
I started out four years ago with a single room in a medical center, and after four years decided that I needed more space, so I joined forces with Steve, my now business partner, and five weeks ago, we moved into brand new premises not far from where I started out four years ago.
Over the years, many people have asked me why on earth I became a dentist. Many years ago, my father gave me what turned out to be very sound advice and that was to choose an occupation which would allow me to work part-time so I could still raise a family but also pursue a career.
I always loved science and I knew from a very young age that I wanted a career which would allow me to help people. And I also loved problem-solving. Dentistry ticked all those boxes. So, almost 25 years later, here I am.
When most people think about dentistry, they think about a painful extraction or having a filling, and that was how dentistry started out, in the barber’s chair, teeth being pulled out with cocaine as the anesthetic. But thank god for technology because these days there’s a lot more to it than that.
I love learning. I’m a major nerd at heart, so I spend a lot of my spare time at dental courses and reading so I can constantly learn new information which helps me to better serve my patients. For me, the major take-home message has been that I need to consider the whole person, not just their teeth.
This means that two identical patients presenting with the same problem may require a different solution. An example is a missing tooth. In a healthy person, an implant would be just perfect, but in a patient with numerous health conditions, such as diabetes or an immune-related disease, not such a great idea. The chances of failure are a lot higher.
Another example is teeth-grinding. In some patients, a simple plate may be the solution, but in other patients, the grinding may be a symptom of underlying sleep apnea, which will require a completely different treatment protocol.
Recently, we’ve heard a lot about the gut and how the gut influences the health of the rest of the body and the immune system. So it’s no surprise to learn that the gut also influences the health of the mouth. This is especially obvious with gum disease or periodontal disease, as it is technically known. And we now have research to support this.
If a patient has a disturbed gut or gut dysbiosis, as the technical term is, they’re more likely to show up with gum disease in the dental practice. And if they have gum disease, it is very hard to treat them and get complete resolution if they have an ongoing issue with their gut.
You might have heard of the term, “The gut-brain axis.” This describes the biochemical signaling process between the gut, or gastrointestinal system, and the central nervous system. This means, when there’s a problem with your gut, you’re more likely to experience uncontrollable stress, anxiety, and tooth-grinding.
There’s a lot of information around these days about gut healing, how to heal your leaky gut. And until recently, a lot of it hasn’t been backed with science.
Earlier this year, I was at a conference and there was a lecturer from the United States talking about an experiment where they used chicken broth on rats to heal their guts. So now, we actually have an experiment using chicken broth. It’s not just an alternative kind of hippy thing that’s going around. It’s actually research-backed science.
And what they found was that the use of bone broth with these rats increased the prebiotic colonies in their guts, improved the serotonin production by their brains, which then decreased their experience of pain.
So who would have thought all those ancient cultures that have been bone broth for years were actually onto something? My mother actually told me, she grew up in a village in South India and she told me how she remembers bone broth being brewed for days in her village. And I think a lot of cultures have similar stories.
So I think we’ve forgotten a lot of the ancient wisdom which was really here to help us. And it’s funny how we’re just discovering it again now and it’s now a new fad. It’s kind of like the organic food thing. Back in the 70s, food was just food, now it’s organic or biodynamic instead of just being food.
As a dentist, there is two diseases that I treat; gum disease, or periodontal disease as it’s technically known, and tooth decay. So, let’s talk a little bit about gum disease. Gum disease varies a lot in its severity. 90% of the population have some level of gum disease. And this might mean just a little bit of bleeding when they brush or floss their teeth, to huge amounts of bleeding and smelly breath and loose teeth; in some cases, teeth that are actually falling out into their hands. And I have actually had that happen. I’ve had a patient walk in holding her teeth in her hand.
There are certain risk factors for gum disease, such as genetics, people from the Indian subcontinent and a lot of the Eastern European continent seem to be most at risk. There’s lifestyle factors as well, such as smoking. And as I said before, there’s also factors within the gut that can be of influence too. And it would be interesting to know if these races that are most at risk of gum disease actually have factors in their gastrointestinal tract, or their gut, that makes them more at risk. But as yet, there’s no research along those lines; that I know of anyway.
Treatment of gum disease has traditionally involved cleaning a person’s teeth. Gum surgery might be needed. And these days, some prebiotics and probiotics are also thought to be useful.
Of course, if someone’s a smoker, we want to do whatever we can to help them give up, but anyone who is a smoker out there will know how hard it can be to do that. But it’s very, very difficult for us to completely treat someone with gum disease if they continue to smoke.
That patient I spoke to you about earlier who walked into my surgery with the tooth in her hand, she was a chronic smoker. I treated her for five years, but we weren’t able to get any resolution because she was not able to give up the smoking. And she was Italian as well, so she had multiple risk factors happening there.
So let’s move onto the other disease that I treat. Tooth decay – the major culprit for tooth decay has known, for a long time, to be sugar. There was a huge rise in tooth decay once sugar stopped being a luxury item and was available for everyone to consume.
But there are other risk factors for tooth decay, which we’ve only recently found out more about. One is the bacteria that you inherit from your parents; usually your mother. There are certain bacteria contained within your saliva and if you have a high concentration of these bacteria in your saliva, you are more likely to be at risk of tooth decay.
You might have a friend who has a soft drink every day but has pristine teeth and if you have one a week then you need a filling every time you go to the dentist. There are now some creams that you can use in your mouth to help balance out the bacteria to reduce your risk of tooth decay, even if you have been dealt the genetic short straw. And, of course, regular brushing and flossing is critically important as well.
Nutrition is another big part of whether you have healthy teeth or not, and this is not just the nutrition you’ve had throughout your life, but also the nutrition your mother had growing up and even the nutrition that your grandmother had. This all comes back to our body’s inherent composition and our absorption of certain minerals and vitamins.
Vitamin D is a critical vitamin. It’s actually a hormone rather than a vitamin. And it’s really important for the absorption of calcium. So if your mother was Vitamin D deficient when she was pregnant with you, there is a much higher likelihood of you having tooth decay at a young age. Or if your mother was sick a lot throughout your pregnancy, she would have been nutritionally deficient, and this may have passed onto you as well.
A lot of people these days are vitamin D deficient and it’s a hard nutrient to easily get. It’s available mainly from exposure to the sunlight. One food source is egg yolks, but a lot of people do have to take a supplement. I wouldn’t recommend supplementing though without getting a blood test and checking with your GP first because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, so if you take too much of it, your body won’t be able to excrete it.
Mouth-breathing is another major risk factor for tooth decay. This usually happens at night when our saliva flow slows down anyway. But if you have your mouth open for three to four hours overnight, then your mouth is almost completely dry.
Some research came out a few years ago from the University of Otago, where I got my degree, that showed that four to five hours of continuous mouth-breathing hugely increased your risk of decay because your mouth became acidic to the point where the acid started eating away at the dental enamel and causing tooth decay.
You heard me in the beginning described as being a functional dentist, so I wanted to explain what the world functional means when applied to medicine and dentistry. Functional means to treat the root cause of a problem, not just the problem itself, or the root cause of a disease.
So in the case of dentistry, the two diseases that I have described to you being gum disease and tooth decay, rather than just treat a patient when they show up every time with the same symptoms and the same disease, I want to help them break the disease cycle. So that means looking into all of the things I’ve discussed, with nutrition being a particularly big focus.
Nutrition is something that’s a really big focus in my personal life as well and on how I raise my children. So every morning, my children come downstairs to breakfast and there’s a green smoothie waiting for them next to their plate of breakfast.
My middle child used to go to inordinate lengths to get out of drinking this smoothie. I would find it hidden in the laundry cupboard, stashed behind a door. He even poured it down the toilet, which had me smelling the toilet, which sounds a little bit crazy and neurotic, but I’m sure any mother out there who’s tried to feed their children well can relate.
But the funny thing is that that middle child who used to go to any length to not drink his green smoothie now comes and asks for one. And in fact, he actually thanked me for taking the time to force such good nutrition on him because he thinks that’s the reason why he might be taller than he should be for his age group. So, for any of the mothers out there that are feeling unappreciated and wondering why they keep persisting, take heart in the fact that one day, your kids might thank you for your efforts.
I thought I’d talk a little bit about how I consult with patients within my clinic. I ask a lot of questions about any chronic health problems, medications, or ongoing health issues that they may have had, or specific dental problems. For a child, I’ll ask the parent about how they sleep, what their birth was like, and how they perform at school. I do this so I can get a complete picture of the person that I’m going to be treating and formulate a treatment plan that’s tailor-made just for them.
One thing I do communicate to all patients that come in with complex health problems is that they may require a team approach from a range of health practitioners to help them. And the reason for this is that people are complex. Health problems are complex and they probably have needs beyond the skill set of just one health professional. So for this reason, I work collaboratively with a range of health practitioners, ENT specialists, physiotherapists, GPs, and many others.
In coming episodes, I’ll be interviewing a range of practitioners who are all specialists in their field and we’ll take a deeper dive into the topics that I’ve just touched on today. That wraps up the first episode of Mind Body Mouth.
Thanks everyone for listening to the show today. If you don’t want to worry about missing any future episodes you can subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts, and if you haven’t done so already, I’d really appreciate you leaving me a rating and review. Your feedback would be really useful in helping me create valuable content. Visit mindbodymouth.com.au/podcastlaunch for step by step instructions on how to subscribe, rate and review Mind, Body and Mouth. Until next time.
Thank you for joining us for this episode of Mind Body Mouth. If you like what you heard and want to learn more, visit mindbodymouth.com.au for show notes, links to resources mentioned in this episode, and more valuable information about the mouth-body connection. The information contained within this podcast is for informational purposes only and is not to be taken as medical advice. For specific advice on your own health needs, consult with a health practitioner.