Extensive research shows that your oral microbiome “constitutes an important link between oral and general health” for multiple reasons.

According to quip dental advisor and Askthedentist.com founder Dr. Burhenne, 45 percent of the bacterial community that exists in our stomachs (Stomach Saturn?) is actually the same make-up as our oral microbiome. This is because your mouth quite literally feeds your gut, and some bacteria trickles down your gastrointestinal tract to find a new home in your gut. As the New York Times and basically every wellness blogger has written over the past few years, your gut microbiome can dictate anything from your skin health to mental health — and the most recent wellness wave has been obsessed with “hacking” your gut microbiome, with little attention paid to your oral microbiome. It turns out they’re equally crucial to your health. Microbiomes, hack ‘em all!

S. Mutans, for example, is one of the bad-bacteria-guys that lives in your mouth. When the climate in your mouth becomes more acidic, they replicate really fast and burrow into your teeth in the beginning stages of tooth decay. Lactobacilli are the nicer friend of S. Mutans who falls to peer pressure. Lactobacilli normally are just kind of… there. When your diet contains more simple carbs, though, they replicate and get in on the tooth decay fun before moving down your digestive tract and potentially impacting other parts of your body.

Luckily, other citizens of Mouth Mars can be good with the right environment. Some studies have shown that Streptococcus sanguinis can alter the environment in your biofilm to be less welcoming to S. Mutans, its evil bacterial brother (they’re in the same genus AKA family). A recent study published in September of 2017 suggests one microbe in your oral microbiome makes Vitamin B12, which is a jack-of-all-vitamin-trades by providing different cells in your body with their particular needs.

Your mouth is the gateway to your body — and your oral microbiome reflects this by having more variation than your gut. We put a lot of different things in our mouths!

While some of this community comes from your genes (thank your family for the bacteria in your mouth the next time you see them), environmental factors like diet and hygiene habits introduce new residents, clean away old ones, and influence how they interact with each other. For example, S. Mutans eats sugars that you eat and turns it into an acidic environment favorable for the bacteria.