Many types of bacteria are actually good.
You’ve heard us talk about the importance of keeping oral bacteria at bay, but what you might not know is that not all of these microorganisms are bad.
In fact, many types of bacteria are actually good, and hold the secrets to discovering more about our overall health. However, before you toss your toothbrush, remember that a solid oral hygiene routine is key to striking a healthy balance.
Today we’re taking a deep dive into the fascinating world of oral bacteria with 10 interesting facts to remember. From the thought provoking to the downright silly, who knew bacteria could be so much fun?
1. Oral bacteria is linked to your overall health.
In the late 1800s, W.D. Miller said, “Oral bacteria can explain most, if not all, of the illnesses of mankind.”
Your mouth is more than a holding spot for your beautiful smile. It’s also a primary entry point for both your digestive and respiratory tracts. While most of the bacteria that enters your mouth is harmless, some can carry disease.
If it’s allowed to grow unchecked, it can lead to chronic inflammation. This is your body’s response to toxins and bacteria and is designed to work as a natural defense. If left unchecked, this long-term inflammation can have other adverse health effects.
A few of the conditions linked to poor oral health include the following:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of your heart)
2. Oral bacteria can cause gum disease.
Within your mouth, the inflammation caused by bad oral bacteria can lead to gum disease and periodontitis.
If left untreated, this can cause your healthy teeth to become loose and can even lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease is also linked to other health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
It’s important to brush and floss twice a day to prevent bacteria buildup and encourage healthy gums. Regular visits to our office can also help your dentist monitor your mouth for any early signs of gum disease.
3. Oral bacteria are teeny tiny.
Although they can cause major damage, bacteria are actually microscopic. In fact, they’re made of just one, single cell.
To put that into perspective, you have more than 37 trillion cells in your entire body, and each has its own designated role. For instance, humans have roughly 50 billion fat cells and 2 billion heart muscle cells!
4. Oral bacteria have their own DNA.
You know that your DNA is unique, but what about those little bacteria cells? Turns out, theirs is also one-of-a-kind. Most of the DNA of bacteria is contained within one circular molecule, called the bacterial chromosome.
In addition to the chromosome, most bacteria will also contain plasmids, which are smaller, circular DNA molecules.
5. They need energy.
Without a source of power, you’d lie around all day. Bacteria would do the same, but they have a job to do. That’s why they need a constant supply of energy, just like any other living organism.
Oral bacteria derive most of their fuel from fermentable carbohydrates that exist within your mouth. Then, they use various forms of sugar to create an unstoppable power force that they can metabolize into energy. Revved up, they can then impact the surface of your teeth and gums with a toxic blend of powerful, acidic waste.
6. Your mouth is home to hundreds of types of bacteria.
While scientists haven’t determined an exact number, they estimate that roughly 700 different types of bacteria will call your mouth home throughout your lifetime. At a given time, however, that number is somewhere between 34 and 72.
Once there, they prefer different places. Some stick to your teeth, while others hang out near your gums or on your tongue.
When they’ve found a spot to settle in, these bacteria will team up with other oral microbes. Together, they form what’s known as a matrix. This is the slimy, sticky material in plaque that makes it particularly difficult to remove.
7. Some oral bacteria are good.
Within the matrix, there are different communities of microbes. Some bacteria are disease causing, but others are good. The good bacteria help keep the levels of bad bacteria in check.
In addition, they also aid with digestion and help keep harmful microbes present in food from entering and attacking your body.
Want to help the good microbes grow while diminishing their bad neighbors? Limit sugary food and drinks.
These attract sugar-loving microbes, encouraging them to grow and spread out. Those are the microbes that can turn sugar into both matrix and acid, eroding the surface of your teeth. Some of the worst offenders include:
- Streptococcus mutans
- T. denticola
- P. gingivalis
Streptococcus mutans are the bacteria most closely associated with tooth decay. These bacteria feed off any sugar in your mouth, producing a potent acid that breaks down your tooth layer by layer.
Similarly, T. denticola and P. gingivalis are the top culprits for gum disease or periodontal disease. The toxins produced by these bacteria can severely harm your gum tissue.
8. Babies don’t have any.
Directly after their birth, babies don’t have any harmful oral bacteria present. However, that clean slate doesn’t last too long.
It usually takes only hours for that microbiome to begin, usually due to their mothers kissing them! As they grow, their oral microbiome is also built by other saliva-sharing behaviors, such as blowing on food or testing it on a spoon before feeding.
This is one of the many reasons why it’s smart to schedule your baby’s first dental checkup within six months of their first tooth erupting or by their first birthday.
9. They reproduce quickly.
Have you ever wondered why you need to brush at least twice a day? Oral bacteria multiply in number every four to five hours, so cleaning once simply isn’t enough to keep their numbers down.
Let’s talk numbers. Say you begin the day with 20 billion bacteria. If you go 24 hours without picking up a toothbrush, that number will be nearly 100 billion by the next day.
10. You can control and maintain your oral microbiome.
Want to keep your oral microbiome healthy and balanced? You have the power to do so!
First, limit the amount of sugar you eat. Instead, snack on crunchy veggies like carrots and celery. Not only are these better for your overall health, but they can stimulate your gums and help wash away bad bacteria from your teeth. Certain acidic fruits, like apples, can also stimulate saliva production for a similar effect.
In addition to eating healthy, remember to stay on top of your at-home brushing and flossing routine. It’s also important to partner with your dentist to take a proactive approach to your dental health.
Optimize your oral health.
Our office is committed to helping you learn as much as possible about your teeth and gums, including the bacteria that live within them. We’re also here to keep them clean and help prevent or reverse any damage.
With the right approach, you can enjoy a lifetime of healthy, vibrant smiles.
From general dentistry to cosmetic or restorative treatments, we can help. Schedule an appointment today!