The Complicated World of Mouth Bacteria

A single tooth can have up to 500 million germs on its surface.  Here are a few interesting facts about dental bacteria.

Happy Birthday

Although you are not born with mouth bacteria, the introduction to them happens very rapidly.  Sharing silverware and glasses, putting hands and feet in your mouth, and even getting kisses from family members exposes your mouth to bacteria.  Each year that passes brings exposure to new visitors that stick around for life. Scientists estimate that there are well over 500 different species of bacteria associated with the human mouth but every person has their own unique combinations.

Good Germs, Bad Germs

Not all germs are bad. We need many of them to help with digestion and protection against other counterparts that prefer to destroy tissue and teeth.  As you swallow, billions of germs travel into your gut and become part of your digestive system.  Usually, the germs that live on the surface of your teeth and gums are fragile and can be removed easily.  The bad germs tend to create ecosystems deep below the gum line where they won’t be bothered.

What Do They Do?

Sophisticated bacteria are just trying to survive and the best way to do that is find safety in numbers.  Sticky slime called biofilm is the ideal substance for germs to attach themselves to your teeth.  As bacteria swim by, they are attracted to other similar bacteria and they gang together to create a colony.  They are able to communicate with each other and give off byproducts that other species of bacteria can use for fuel. Repeat this process and you’ve got yourself quite a community of plaque bugs.  These “bugs” devour sugars from your food and their excretions are what cause decay and initiate infection.  Some aggressive bacteria travel beyond your mouth and through your bloodstream to the rest of your body.

When You Should Worry

You are the host and germs are the invaders, capable of destroying you if your body’s defenses aren’t working correctly.  The time to be concerned is when bacteria in your mouth are causing inflammation.  Bleeding gums, bad tastes, and pain of any kind is your clue to get checked out right away.  Chronic inflammation almost always leads to bone loss (periodontal disease) and cavities.  It can also be very taxing on your organs.  Brushing twice a day and disrupting bacterial colonies in between your teeth at least once a day by flossing should keep your out of trouble.  Trust your dentist and his or her team to properly diagnose your mouth.

Did you know that our office offers bacterial screenings to find out the quality of your saliva and what kind of bacteria are in your mouth?  With this kind of information, we are better able to treat your specific condition for a happy and healthy smile.