All About Oral Biofilm Infections and How to Prevent Them

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You may know that bacteria in your mouth are what cause dental problems such as gingivitis and bad breath. But what you may not know is that these bacteria like to live in complex and organized communities, or biofilms, that are attached to your teeth and oral tissues. When the bacteria accumulate over time, they can cause biofilm infections in your mouth.

How Do Biofilms Work?

Amazingly enough, over 700 different species of good and bad bacteria live in your mouth, as a review in the Journal of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology explains. To keep your mouth healthy, you should maintain proper oral hygiene to remove and prevent dental biofilm and promote good bacteria. If you don't maintain a good oral hygiene routine, the plaque in your mouth can build up. This gives the bad bacteria an opportunity to flourish and cause disease.

What Types of Biofilm Infections Can Develop in the Mouth?

According to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, the bacteria in oral biofilms are usually weak if they are alone, but they become strong — and destructive — when they form a biofilm community. There are three basic types of oral infections that can result when destructive biofilms wreak havoc in the mouth, as the Journal of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology review explains:

  • Gingivitis

    This condition, which is characterized by swelling and inflammation of the gum tissue, develops as bacteria accumulate along the gumline.
  • Periodontal Disease

    This condition can develop if gingivitis persists. It can cause the gradual loss of bone surrounding a tooth, and unfortunately, the tissue destruction caused by periodontal disease is irreversible.
  • Tooth Decay

    This dental disease, which leads to the formation of cavities, is caused by biofilm bacteria that like acidic conditions. People often think that sugar itself causes cavities, but actually, the sugar simply creates the perfect environment for acid-loving bacteria to grow.

How Dental Biofilms Affect Other Areas of the Body

According to the Journal of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology review, bacteria in your mouth can grow and spread infection to other parts of your body. Below are two general health conditions that are connected to bacterial infections in the mouth:

  • Infective Endocarditis

    As the American Heart Association explains, infective endocarditis is a systemic infection that can develop when mouth bacteria enter the bloodstream. This condition may affect the inner lining or valves of the heart and can sometimes cause death.
  • Diabetes

    As the American Academy of Periodontology explains, people with diabetes are more susceptible to infections in general, which increases their chances of getting periodontal disease. When a person has severe periodontal disease, it can increase their blood sugar, making their condition worse and making them more vulnerable to dental biofilm infections. For these individuals, special attention to plaque removal at home is a necessity to keeping their overall health under control.

How to Control Biofilm in Your Mouth

The comforting news about biofilm infections is that there are easy steps you can take at home to protect yourself from them. One important action is limiting your daily sugar intake. As the Journal of Clinical Periodontology article explains, cavities are associated with high sugar intake, as sugar creates the acidic environment that bad bacteria love. When you consume less sugar, healthier bacteria will thrive in your mouth.

The next step involves regular 6-month dental cleanings and maintaining good oral hygiene throughout your entire mouth, which can be readily accomplished with proper brushing and flossing. By removing plaque on a regular basis — both above and below the gumline — disease-causing biofilm communities will be stopped in their tracks as you show them who is in control of your mouth.

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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