Your mouth, like your kitchen sink, is filled with bacteria.

You might think that Charles Mayo MD achieved his greatest dream by opening his world-famous clinic. But what the great physician and philanthropist really wanted was to raise awareness about the importance of oral hygiene.

We’re not talking about cavity prevention here. Mayo believed the mouth held the key to the entire body. While his “focal infection” theory of 1913 descended into obscurity during his own lifetime, it’s now making a comeback. In simplest terms, Mayo’s theory postulated that common oral bacteria could cause serious systemic diseases.

New research has found that “spirochetes,” bacteria named for their spiral shape, may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientist Judith Miklossy, of the International Alzheimer’s Research Center in Switzerland, discovered that microscopic spirochetes are not only present in gum tissue affected by periodontal disease, but also in the brain plaques of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s. These bugs get into the brain through the nervous system, by way of infected tooth roots. 

According to Edward C. Rosenhow, MD, who published more than 300 papers on Mayo’s theory, and Weston A. Price, founder of the research institute of the National Dental Association, Alzheimer’s isn’t the only affliction to be caused by mouth bugs. Both researchers theorized that infections in the mouth could enter the bloodstream and cause major problems elsewhere in the body. They even demonstrated that pulling an infected tooth could help a patient recover from serious diseases including chronic fatigue, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. 

Nostalgia for childhood punishments aside, there’s no reason to wash your mouth out with soap. In addition to brushing, flossing and using commercial rinses, Mayo recommended patients “swish” with coconut or sesame seed oil. 

There’s real science behind what might seem like a folky approach to hygiene. Periodontal bacteria live in “biofilms,” which, under a microscope, resemble barnacles attached to seaside rocks. These biofilms are constructed mainly of fats. Because like substances dissolve each other, the fats in coconut and sesame oils help break down the biofilms, exposing the bugs to our immune system, which delivers a strong, disease-killing punch and prevents the spirochetes from entering the bloodstream. Finally, a way to put that Costco-size drum of coconut oil to good use.


  1. Mayo, C. H. "Focal infection of dental origin." Dental Cosmos 64.1206 (1922): 8.
  2. Rosenow, Edward C. "Studies on elective localization. Focal infection with special reference to oral sepsis." J Dent Res 1.3 (1919): 205-267.
  3. Price, Weston Andrew. Dental infections, oral and systemic. Penton Pub. Co., 1923.
  4. Pasteur, Louis. "The germ theory and its applications to medicine and surgery." (2010).
  5. Alzheimer's Disease  - Emerging Role of Infection
  6. Miklossy, Judith. "Emerging roles of pathogens in Alzheimer disease." Expert reviews in molecular medicine 13 (2011): e30.