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Oral Microbiology

The thought of microorganisms inside your mouth may be a little unsettling, but the fact is, there can be millions of the little buggers crawling around in there. In a normal mouth, these organisms operate in perfect balance with your immune system. When that balance is disturbed, however, the organisms can cause a number of problems, including cavities and gingivitis. Oral Microbiology is the study of the organisms and how they impact oral health.

Your mouth hosts several types of oral bacteria. If your mouth is well-maintained, these bacteria can be beneficial to your health. If you do not properly care for your oral health, however, it can lead to bacteria multiplying out of control, throwing off the delicate balance and causing oral health problems. A person who practices good oral hygiene typically has between 1,000 and 100,000 bacteria on each tooth. On the other hand, a person with poor oral hygiene can have as many as a billion bacteria on each tooth.

Your mouth can contain up to 1,000 different types of bacteria. Most of those bacteria are beneficial and provide essential functions to prevent disease. Unfortunately, even normal bacteria can cause oral problems when the conditions in your mouth become unbalanced. Streptococci are the biggest threat to oral health. These bacteria process carbohydrates and sugars and turn them into acids. The increased acidity can eat away your tooth enamel, leading to cavities and decay. Once decay sets in, the acidic environment can breed more bacteria, causing the damage to advance more quickly.

Other organisms, such a spirochetes and fusi-form bacilli, can lead to gum diseases like gingivitis. Gingivitis causes your gum line to recede, exposing sensitive nerve endings that can cause pain and tooth sensitivity. In severe cases, the loss of gum tissue from gingivitis can even cause your teeth to become loose and weak, leading to tooth loss. If you have recently developed tooth sensitivity, it may be a sign of gingivitis or other periodontal disease so you should visit a dental practitioner as soon as possible.

Another threat from microorganisms is tooth plaque. Plaque is the collection of the organisms’ waste by-products that accumulates on your teeth. You may be able to see plaque on your teeth as a thin off-white or yellowish film that you can scrape off. If plaque is not properly removed through brushing, flossing and regular teeth cleaning it can harden and become tartar. Tartar is a hard yellow coating that not only looks bad, but can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Understanding how these microorganisms affect your oral health is the first step to achieving good oral hygiene. To maintain and promote good oral health, brush and floss twice a day and make regular visits to your dentist. Many dentists recommend getting your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year. If you have already developed issues like receding gums or tooth pain, your dentist can intervene and get your oral health back on track. Reversing periodontal disease may involve sessions with a qualified oral hygienist, a root canal or dental implants.

Dr. Bruno Silva
Founder and Principal Dentist, Brighton Implant Clinic.