Three Types of Bacteria in the Mouth and What They Do

Header Image

There are typically over 70 different types of bacteria in the mouth and most of them occur naturally, doing no harm to the person. There are, however, bacteria that can contribute to dental decay and periodontal (gum) disease in particular. Here's a little on where these bacteria are found, which ones cause tooth and gum infection and how you can reduce the amount of "bad" bacteria in your oral cavity at any given time.

Where Bacteria Are

Bacteria collect everywhere in the mouth, including on the teeth and gums. They often cover parts of the cheeks and back of the throat, but they can live in between all the bumps and ridges found on the tongue. Proper brushing, flossing and using antibacterial rinses such as Colgate Total® Mouthwash for Gum Health can reduce the number of bacteria that build up in specific spots between the teeth and along the gumline.

The King of Decay

Streptococcus mutans, or "S. mutans," is the bacteria identified the most with tooth decay, and is present in all areas of the mouth. For dental decay to occur, according to Britannica, the normal presence of S. mutans in the mouth have to make contact with sucrose or sugar-containing products. This causes your S. mutans count to increase in number and secrete acids and similarly harmful products that attack your teeth's enamel – resulting in decay.

Partners in Periodontal Disease

The two types of bacteria most frequently associated with periodontal disease are anaerobic, which means they can survive without oxygen. They're called Treponema denticola and Porphyromonas gingivalis, the Journal of Immunology Research explains, and both of them can multiply to cause inflammation of the gums.

In this case, the toxins produced by T. denticola and P. gingivalis comprise what's known as the "red complex," and disrupt cultures of oral bacteria that usually exist in harmony with one another. Enough of them can sneak in beneath the gumline, breaking down the bone and connective tissue in and around the teeth. This can ultimately cause the teeth to loosen, some to the point of requiring removal.

No bacteria is beyond the control of proper tooth brushing and flossing. Just be sure you're using a variety of products that are soft yet abrasive enough to access these three "bad" bacteria's natural habitats. With consistency, they can be reduced and the affected teeth restored to their healthy states.