Oral Ecology

oral-ecologyYour mouth has entire colonies of microorganisms, and most of them do no harm. There have been over 700 different strains of bacteria that have been detected in the human mouth, most of which are harmless. Sometimes, other disease-causing bacteria are thrown into the mix which can affect our health. They can be controlled with a healthy diet, good oral care practices and regular visits to your dentist.

Bacteria in biofilm (a thin film of bacteria which adheres to a surface) were first detected under the microscopes of Antony van Leeuwenhoek in the 17th century. Bacteria in your mouth have both the ability to be harmful, but also to be beneficial and necessary to your immune system.

The plaque that forms on your teeth and causes tooth decay and periodontal disease, is a type of biofilm. A biofilm forms when bacteria adhere to surfaces in a watery environment, they excrete a glue-like substance which helps them stick to all kinds of materials. Dental plaque is a yellowish color type of biofilm that builds up on teeth.

Watch Out For These Bacteria
Streptococcus mutans
Lives in your mouth and feeds off the sugars and starches you eat. It produces enamel-eroding acids as it feeds, which make it the leading cause of tooth decay.

Porphyromonas gingivalis
Strongly linked to periodontitis. Periodontitis is a serious and progressive disease that can result in bone degeneration. It causes pain and leads to tooth loss.

A biofilm can contain communities of disease-causing bacteria, and if left uncontrolled, they can cause cavities as well as both gingivitis and periodontitis. Bacteria is also the cause of inflammation and pain of a root infection, leading to root canal treatment.
During root canal treatment, the root is dried extremely well and sealed, as to not provide any moisture for bacteria to colonize. A well-filled root canal offers bacteria a nutritionally limited space.

Biofilm can be controlled by proper oral hygiene; however, periodontitis requires an extra helping hand. Treatment of oral infections requires removal of biofilm and calculus (tartar) through non-surgical procedures followed by antibiotic therapy. Chlorhexidine and triclosan can reduce the degree of plaque and gingivitis, while preventing disease-causing microorganisms to colonize.

Don’t let oral bacteria be your “fr-enemy”! Call us Associated Dental Care of Helena today on 406-443-5526 to discuss your oral health options.