There are thousands of microorganisms living in your mouth right now. They span hundreds of species and include everything from viruses and bacteria to protozoa and fungi. You can’t see them or feel them with your tongue, but they form an invisible community of living organisms now known as the oral microbiome. The dynamics of that community have a significant impact, not only on your oral health but also on your overall health and well-being.
When you improve your oral health, you can also reduce your risk of systemic disease and illness. Those tiny organisms living in your oral cavity have a lot more power than we have given them credit for in years past.
Several start-ups have begun to offer at-home gut health tests to help you map your gut microbiome, with the promise of assisting in the improvement of disease symptoms and even weight loss by eating the right food for your unique gut bacteria. However, until now, few to no companies have offered oral microbiome tests.
In this Bristle review, we’re going to explore one of the best online oral microbiome tests and discuss the reasons you may want to test your oral microbiome. The at-home test is designed to determine the current balance of good and bad organisms in your saliva. Bristle uses this information to provide personalized recommendations to help you improve your oral and overall health.
So, is Bristle legit? And what exactly can you learn from completing the oral microbiome test? We’re going to answer those questions and more right here.
What does the oral microbiome do?
Microbiome research is still currently in its early stages, but we do know that the oral microbiome is crucial to your health as it can cause both oral and systemic diseases. However, because the oral cavity is one of the easiest to collect samples from, it has been the most well-studied microbiome to date. The biofilms in your oral cavity form an ecosystem that helps to keep your overall health stable, and certain imbalances can allow pathogens to manifest, cause diseases, and potentially lead to dysbiosis.
The oral microbiome, which is in constant contact with the outside environment, is very susceptible to change in composition based on your daily actions and genetic predisposition. What is in your microbial communities plays a role in many bodily functions including digestion, energy generation, immune system maintenance, fat storage control, metabolic regulation, detoxification, anti-inflammatory processing, and prevention of disease growth.
Should I test my oral microbiome?
Have you heard about the importance of seeding your gut microbiome with bacteria and other microorganisms that support your immune system and stimulate greater health throughout your body? Perhaps you’re now more conscious of eating your prebiotics and taking your probiotics to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut. You might have even taken a gut microbiome test for personalized insights into the health of that microbiome.
Taking an at-home oral microbiome test delivers similar benefits. The oral microbiome is the second largest habitat of microorganisms in the body. While it may appear that you can simply brush away the microbial growth in your mouth with a toothbrush, maintaining a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria is actually far more complicated. Managing your microbiome can help you avoid periodontal disease, gum inflammation, halitosis, and tooth decay. It can also support a wide variety of systemic functions that your body depends on for health.
For example, the gut and oral microbiomes have a heavy influence on food digestion, energy generation, fat distribution and control, metabolic regulation, and many other bodily functions. When bad bacteria are allowed to flourish, your body is likely to lean more toward disease and illness. When good bacteria are plentiful, they keep the bad bacteria in check to move your system more toward health.
The only way to determine the current balance of good and bad bacteria in your system right now is to test your oral microbiome. In this Bristle review, we’ll reveal the quality of the test and help you determine if you should invest.
Review of Bristle oral microbiome test
It’s time to take an in-depth look at what many claim to be the best online oral microbiome test available today. There are a surprising number of dental care startups surfacing right now, but their focus is typically on teeth whitening and straightening products. It’s exciting to see something with the potential to help millions of people improve their dental health and overall wellness from a simple saliva test.
What do you have to lose or gain from the Bristle oral microbiome test, and is Bristle legit? It’s time to answer those questions.
What is Bristle?
The trillions of microscopic organisms that live in your mouth may hold the key to a variety of health issues, including cavities, gum disease, and even cardiovascular disease. However, today’s dental care only intercepts the damage that these microbes have already caused. By the time they’re noticed, they’ve often progressed to serious problems that necessitate the invasive procedures we all dread: fillings and root canals. We end up spending thousands of dollars treating diseases that can be avoided largely with good oral health management.
Bristle is a startup focused on providing affordable preventative dental care. The inspiration behind Bristle was the aspiration to enact change in the dental industry. The company’s goal is to shift the focus from reactive dental care to disease prevention.
The at-home oral microbiome test is the premier product from Bristle. It goes beyond a simple home test to include personalized oral health counseling. The founders not only want you to understand your oral health, they want to help you improve it and prevent disease throughout your body with evidence-based recommendations.
How to test your oral microbiome with Bristle’s test
There are four steps to testing your oral microbiome with Bristle.
1. Order your kit online and register it through your account dashboard
You can pay a one-time flat fee to purchase a single test or opt into a subscription that entitles you to a discount on each test.
Your test will ship directly to the address you provide within 5 business days. After creating an account on the Bristle website, you can register your kit to your account.
2. Administer your at-home microbiome test on your own
Bristle’s test is taken by spitting into a small tube provided in the mail. The tube contains a clear solution that will stabilize your saliva until it arrives back at the lab for processing. It’s a fast, painless process that leaves little room for error. You then seal the small tube, place it in the prepaid envelope provided with the test, and mail it back to their CLIA-certified labs.
3. Review your test results online through the Bristle website
Bristle will upload your test results to your online account. It generally takes two to three weeks to receive the full report. Your oral health report will include risk scores for tooth decay, gum inflammation, and halitosis (bad breath).
It doesn’t stop there! The report will also include personalized action plans for lifestyle changes that can help improve the balance of good and bad microorganisms in your microbiome.
4. Take action to improve your oral health and overall well-being
You can discuss your results with a Bristle oral health specialist who will further give you personalized diet, product, and hygiene recommendations.
Bristle also encourages you to share your test results with your dentist or other medical providers, which can open the door to productive conversations about improving your oral and overall health.
At-home oral microbiome test: What does Bristle’s oral kit test for?
Bristle uses “shotgun metagenomics” to identify and quantify all microbes in your mouth, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. There are over 700+ bacterial species found in the oral cavity, and Bristle detects all of them (on average between 100-200 unique species for an individual). Their oral microbiome test sequences the entire genome of the microbes, providing information such as functional profiling and higher strain-level resolution. This means increased sensitivity and specificity, in addition to providing the type of data required to develop better oral care products and therapeutics in the future.
Some of these species tested for are beneficial to our health, while others are harmful and can cause halitosis, tooth decay, gum inflammation, and other problems. Bristle detects the root cause of these oral symptoms and links them to other chronic conditions by analyzing specific bacteria’s identity and relative abundance in your saliva.
Beneficial bacteria can aid in digestion by stimulating saliva as a natural healer and cleanser. On the other hand, some bacteria are harmful, converting the sugar from our foods and drinks into acid that erodes our teeth and gums. An acidic environment in our mouth encourages plaque buildup, which hardens into tartar, weakening our teeth and gums.
Check out screenshots from my Bristle dashboard
Bristle truly excels in explaining the connection between our mouths and the rest of our bodies, which extends far beyond chewing, swallowing, and digesting food. For example, periodontal disease has been linked to poor pregnancy outcomes, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and neurological diseases. It can raise a patient’s lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease by 19%.
Therefore, Bristle has compiled research and collaborated with a team of oral health experts to create the most effective personalized diet, lifestyle, hygiene, and oral care product recommendations for improving your overall health.
How to restore your oral microbiome with Bristle
Obtaining the results of the at-home oral microbiome test is only the first step. If you want to improve your oral health and guide your body toward greater overall health, you must make changes in your daily lifestyle. Even the best online oral microbiome test is useless if you don’t follow the expert recommendations that come with your results.
Speaking of, here are the high-level recommendations that Bristle suggested after analyzing the results from my saliva sample:
Diet, hygiene, medications, and other lifestyle choices can all contribute to poor oral health. Bristle can create a plan to improve your oral health once they understand it. You can discover how your unique oral microbiome affects your oral health, including your risk for cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and other issues.
The great thing about Bristle is that they provide a comprehensive report that does more than just reveal your oral health issues. It tells you how to improve your oral health by utilizing scientific data and tried-and-true products. They also offer articles to read about the most recent studies on the links between oral bacteria and heart health, prenatal health, and cognitive health. Furthermore, if you subscribe to receive multiple tests, you can use your dashboard to track changes in the balance of your oral microbiome.
Bristle’s 1:1 expert oral health coaching
This Bristle review would be incomplete without mentioning their one-on-one oral health coaching service, which is available after you receive your test results. The coaching isn’t a sit-down session with an expert, so you won’t get a call from them or need to schedule an appointment. The counseling will simply appear as personalized feedback in your dashboard report.
The recommendations you receive are detailed and go beyond general advice such as brushing and flossing your teeth. You will receive genuine, personalized advice based on your results from dental experts that is supported by evidence to improve your oral health. These recommendations may take the form of specific ingredients, probiotics, toothpaste, and mouthwashes, among other things. You can also read about how each of these products helps to reduce the risk of cavities.
How much does Bristle’s oral microbiome test cost?
Bristle’s at-home microbiome test is available for one-time purchase as well as on a subscription base:
|2 tests per year||One test shipped every six months||$109 each|
|4 tests per year||One test shipped every three months||$99 each|
If you are purchasing the testing kit, we recommend taking advantage of their subscription plans, which entitle you to a significant discount for two or four testing kits with all of the benefits and services included in the one-time purchase plan. Given that managing your oral health isn’t a quick fix, the various tests can help track your progress and allow Bristle to optimize your actionable plans with your developing microbiome.
If you cancel the order within twenty-four hours of purchase, Bristle will issue a full refund. If a refund is requested after 24 hours but within 14 days of purchasing an Oral Health Test and the sample is not returned to Bristle, they will refund the test kit purchase price less a $25 processing fee.
Does Bristle accept insurance?
No, Bristle doesn’t currently accept medical or dental insurance to cover the cost of the test upfront. However, some FSA and HSA plans will reimburse you for the cost of the test if you file a claim and present your receipt. You should contact your plan administrator to see if you’re eligible for reimbursement.
Where is Bristle available?
Bristle tests are available in every US state except New York. However, they are soon planning on extending their services there, too, and offer oral microbiome testing nationwide.
Bristle reviews: What do customers think?
Before we wrap up our Bristle review, we want to share some consumer reviews written by real Bristle customers.
Although anyone’s individual experience with a product should be taken with a grain of salt, I’ll add anecdotally that my own experience using Bristle was enlightening. I learned a ton about microbiome in general, as well as how my own habits impact my oral health.
I especially enjoyed my 1-1 session with Bristle’s coach, which allowed for a deeper dive into my mouth’s metrics. For anyone curious about their own oral health, it’s a highly useful exercise to try once. I didn’t find anything too alarmingly wrong or unhealthy about mine, so I won’t subscribe for ongoing tests, but once every year or two I plan to check in, especially now that I know how crucial the microbiome in your mouth are to your overall health and wellbeing!
The verdict: Is Bristle the best online oral microbiome test?
It’s not difficult to name Bristle the best online oral microbiome test available, simply because there aren’t many competitors in this space right now. Some companies like Invivo Healthcare offer similar tests, but only through designated healthcare providers. Bristle is breaking new ground by offering oral microbiome tests directly to consumers at a price that most people can afford. The process of collecting your sample and analyzing your results with an expert – without leaving home – is convenient enough to become proactive about oral care in a way that so few of us are today.
What makes Bristle’s at-home oral microbiome test worthwhile, in our opinion, is the commitment to providing more than test results. They go that extra step to provide actionable advice that will help you improve your oral health. You don’t want to just know what’s causing you to develop cavities or tooth decay. You want to know exactly what you can do to turn that around, and Bristle provides that, and more, for you.
Finally, Bristle goes the extra mile by allowing you to track improvements in your oral microbiome over time. Subscribing to repeat testing not only delivers a small discount on the cost of each test but also motivates you to follow the expert advice included in your test report. Just having the option to track your oral health over time may contribute to more consistent action in daily life.
In our opinion, even the slightest chance of avoiding invasive and costly root canals and fillings by investing in a preventative oral microbiome test is worthwhile. Bristle can help you do that and a lot more. Overall, it pays to be proactive about your health, and Bristle nudges us all in the right direction.
Have you taken the Bristle at-home oral microbiome test? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below – it could help someone else improve their oral health, and their life!