Mouth Bacteria: Friend or Foe? (You Might be Surprised!)

When you hear the word "bacteria," you might think of the germs that make you sick or your regimented hand-washing during cold and flu season. But when it comes to mouth bacteria, you may be surprised to know that not all bacteria are bad for you or your oral health. In fact, some healthy bacteria are responsible for keeping the bad germs at bay. Get to know the good bacteria in your mouth and you may not be so quick to banish them all.

The Truth About Bacteria

A study by the National Institutes of Health found that 500 to 700 bacteria can live in the human mouth, with an individual harboring 250 to 300 at any given time. While it's true some bacteria are responsible for things like gum disease and other oral diseases (not to mention the transmission of contagious illnesses via the mouth), not all bacteria are bad. In fact, some mouth bacteria play a specific part in helping you stay healthy. Consider the following ways good bacteria are on your side:

Fighting Bad Breath

Your mouth is filled with its own "checks and balances" system. An article published in a 2013 issue of Scientific American suggests that eradicating all the bacteria in your mouth could have a negative effect. If you do that, you'll be getting rid of some bacteria that control the more offensive mouth bacteria, such as the germs that feed on food particles and emit a foul odor. Good bacteria, like Streptococcus salivarius K12, could effectively cancel out the stinky bacteria and help your breath stay in neutral territory.

Food Digestion Help

Sure, the stomach gets all the credit when it comes to digestion, but the actual breakdown of the proteins and sugar in your food starts in the mouth. Healthy bacteria can help aid the process for better digestion. Some better bacteria – like probiotics – in your mouth may be responsible for triggering the enzymatic reaction that begins the digestion of your food, starting with your saliva.

Reducing Oral Disease

A study published in The European Journal of Dentistry notes that the healthy bacteria found in probiotics could help stave off oral diseases such as oral candida, as well as periodontal disease and perhaps even dental caries. That's because healthy bacteria can improve or stimulate saliva production, and saliva is responsible for washing away the food particles, sugar and other bad germs that can lead to oral health problems.

Good Bacteria, Good Habits

Although your mouth may be home to some good bacteria, it doesn't mean you can skip good oral health habits altogether. Instead, help your good bacteria banish the bad by brushing with germ-fighting Colgate Total® Advanced Deep Clean Toothpaste for a clean mouth and fresh breath. By consistently participating in good oral hygiene, you can be sure of a healthy mouth, no matter what type of bacteria lives there.

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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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.