Biofilms and Oral Health

The role of biofilms in the oral health of patients has been known for several years, but only recently has the public been made aware of the part it plays in periodontal health and disease. A lot of past and present research indicates they are a huge component of chronic infections of all kinds encountered by patients.

Read on to learn more about chronic periodontal infections caused by its formation and growth, and how to treat its resistance to antibiotics and other therapies.

What Are Biofilms?

This clump of bacteria grows in a slime-enclosed structure, and it is linked to producing chronic infections, such as those found in periodontal disease. Infections that are formed in this manner are resistant to all types of antibiotics and antimicrobial agents, and usually are able to resist the body's normal immune system, according to APMIS, a journal dedicated to researching pathology, microbiology and immunology. During their formation, the unique structure they develop makes it hard for them to be destroyed.

When Were They First Discovered?

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the microscope, was the first scientist to observe what would later be known as biofilm. In 2002, four centuries after van Leeuwenhoek, biofilm received a concrete definition, states the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. Then, the link between biofilms and dental plaque and calculus was discovered.

What Are the Stages of Biofilm Development?

The formation of a biofilm can be separated into four distinct stages, as the University of Illinois outlines:

  1. In stage 1, free swimming microorganisms attach to the oral cavity surface. The process is reversible with good home care and the use of products, such as Colgate Total® Advanced Pro-Shield™ Antibacterial Mouthwash, kills the bacteria in the organisms.

  2. Then, there is a permanent chemical attachment, a single layer where bugs begin making slime. Stage 2 requires disruption with a toothbrush, such as a Colgate® Enamel Health™ 360® Toothbrush, and floss to dislodge the attachment created by the biofilm.

  3. Next, in stage 3, the early vertical development with channels forms within "towers" in a mature structure.

  4. Mature structures with seeding and the dispersal of more free swimming microorganisms occurs in stage 4. Pieces can fracture off from the original colony and reestablish elsewhere, starting a new piece of biofilm development.

In the mouth, they are found in plaque, which is a substance that can harden to form calculus (tartar), leading to periodontal disease. Mature biofilms are very destructive to the teeth and surrounding gums, and many other varieties can actually provoke other significant medical health problems as well.

As with most health habits, proper prevention will ensure a lifetime of good oral health. Routine preventive visits to your dentist and dental hygienist will go a long way to avoiding tooth loss, gum disease and other threats to your oral health.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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  • About 90 percent of people with mouth cancer and some types of throat cancer have used tobacco. The risk of developing these cancers increases as people smoke or chew more often or for a longer time.

  • Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.

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