Biofilm: What It Is, And What It Means For Your Mouth

Your mouth is made up of many naturally occurring bacteria, and by extension, numerous types of biofilms that build up on your teeth's surfaces. The oral cavity contains a large variety of these microorganisms at any given time and, believe it or not, you couldn't survive without some of them.

What 'Biofilms' Really Are

It's easy to think of bacteria as all bad, but many of these germs are needed to stay healthy. The term "biofilm" is used to express the fact that bacteria live in organized and complex groups. These groups provide for an environment that allows them to survive, protecting them against other invading germs and viruses in the process. It also protects them against antibiotics and antimicrobials found in mouthwashes (which are still important to other aspects of your health). So, you can think of a biofilm as a community of bacteria – most of them are harmless, according to Mayo Clinic, while some of them can start to take over.

The Good and the Bad

The oral cavity will always have bacteria, and you need them there to prevent opportunistic fungi, viruses and bad bacteria from invading your tooth structure, gums and other soft tissues like the tongue. "Good bacteria" essentially help to control the degree of oral inflammation you experience due to the biofilms created out of an excess of bad bacteria. Chronic inflammation in the gums – as you may know firsthand – is not good for your overall health. And to prevent tooth decay, you do not want bacteria that thrive in an acidic environment. These bacteria feed on sugar and fermentable carbohydrates, and have the ability to cause teeth to demineralize.

The Concept of Probiotics

To increase the amount of good bacteria in the mouth, and the digestive tract as a whole, scientists are looking at probiotics to heighten the number of good bacteria in your biofilms according to the European Journal of Dentistry. The more good bacteria in the oral cavity, the less likely it is that bad bacteria (which cause gum inflammation and tooth decay) will be found.

The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene

Maintaining good oral health is imperative when trying to limit your biofilm to just healthy bacteria. It's therefore important to floss every day between each tooth and along the gumline – where biofilms spread most often. However, this isn't a substitute for brushing with a silica toothpaste like Colgate Total® Advanced Deep Clean to eliminate the bad bacteria. You should also supplement your routine with a mouthwash that limits the unhealthy bacteria and helps the good communities of bacteria to thrive.

Remember to get a checkup to see if you are at risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Plaque and tartar are common products of unhealthy biofilm, and your dentist will help you to customize your oral hygiene regimen to keep them at bay.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.