You probably know that your mouth is home to one of the largest populations of bacteria in your body. While they're an independent bunch, you can dramatically influence their effect on your health. It starts with understanding how the key bacterial players operate and your role in altering their destructive tendencies.
The jury's still out on the count, but up to 700 types of bacteria call your mouth their home. About 20 billion of these organisms linger on teeth, in your saliva, and on the lining of your mouth at any given time. In dramatic fashion, they're able to double their population every 5 hours. That helps explain why your teeth feel like they've grown a shag carpet in the morning. Saliva washes bacteria away when you're awake, but your saliva output drops at night. Without the buffering and cleansing of this protective liquid, the micro-organisms flourish.
Not all of the bacteria in your mouth stir up problems. The majority of them play a role in a balanced ecosystem and coexist with viruses, fungi, and protozoa. But like any community, a few bad characters create the majority of the issues afflicting patients. Many people are surprised to learn that both cavities and gum disease are actually an infection, spurred on by a few strains of harmful bacteria.
Like any living organism, bacteria need energy to survive. Fermentable carbohydrates deliver their favorite fuel, and various forms of sugar provide the ideal power source to metabolize into energy. These bacteria then flood the surfaces of the teeth and gums with a toxic mix of acidic waste.
If you've ever seen acid poured on concrete, you have an idea of what the bacterial waste does to your teeth. The hard outer layer of enamel erodes away over time as a steady supply of acid attacks the heavily mineralized surface. A cavity starts to open in the tooth, and a lot of damage often occurs before anyone knows what's happening.
Other types of bacteria prefer settling deeper under the gums. Their waste damages the gum lining and causes a rush of inflammation from the immune system. Bleeding gums are like an open door that invites bacteria deeper into the body. The whole toxic, inflammatory mix can cause the bone to dissolve around teeth and aggravate general health problems.
It's not unusual to find families with various levels of tooth decay despite similar diets and oral hygiene habits. Different people have different bacterial populations, and not everyone has been infected with the same organisms. Furthermore, some people produce critical antibodies that destroy these disease-causing bacteria. On the oral battlefield, the organisms don't get much of a chance to thrive when the right immune system factors attack them.
Regardless of the bacterial mix, anyone can develop a plan to control the destructive organisms responsible for cavities and gum disease. While basic habits like toothbrushing and flossing form the cornerstone to disrupting bacterial plaque, many other strategies fit individual situations. Adding prescription rinses, xylitol products, water irrigators, protective varnishes, fluoride trays, and other innovative methods can make a dramatic difference in a person's dental story.
At our practice, we're focused on developing a preventive approach that's as unique as you are. By partnering with our dental hygiene team, you'll gain an advantage that helps you overcome bacteria, genetics, and past history.
With the right approach, you can send harmful bacteria on their way and enjoy a lifetime of good dental health!