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What Are Mouth Germs?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Germs may be responsible for most infections and diseases, but did you know that countless germs live in healthy people, too? In fact, there could be more of these tiny microbes in your mouth at this very moment than there are people on earth. And that's even true right after you brush your teeth! So what exactly are mouth germs, and what happens to them when you practice good oral hygiene? We'll let you know all about these tiny inhabitants of your mouth so you can maintain a level of oral health that you can smile about.

What Are Mouth Germs?

Mouth germs are microorganisms that live in your mouth that can cause tooth decay, infection, and diseases. There are four main kinds of germs:

  • Bacteria According to a review published by the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, you may have over 700 species of these single-celled microorganisms in your mouth. It's normal for them to live there, but it's necessary to practice good oral hygiene to keep bacteria from having adverse effects on your mouth. When bacteria collect on your teeth, they form a thin, sticky layer of plaque. The plaque feeds off sugary foods or carbohydrates, which creates acid that attacks tooth enamel. This can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and without treatment, it can even lead to tooth loss.
  • Fungi According to a review published by the Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews, about 100 identified fungi species can be found in the human mouth. Most of them don’t cause problems unless there are irregularities. For instance, the fungus Candida lives in most people’s mouths and digestive systems in low numbers. Still, when Candida multiplies, it can cause creamy white lesions to form in your mouth called oral thrush (also known as oral candidosis).
  • Protozoa Protozoa are single-celled microorganisms that can be parasitic. According to an article published in Periodontology 2000, "few parasites affect the oral cavity, but an increasing body of literature claims that oral protozoa are more common than previously appreciated." Entamoeba gingivalis and trichomonas tenax are free-living amoebas that can become invasive and may play a role in periodontitis.
  • And viruses Viruses are smaller than bacteria, get inside living cells, and cause them to multiply. Herpes, HPV, and HIV are examples of viruses that can affect the mouth in adverse ways. Viruses are nearly always bad for your health, but they can exist inside of you without any negative effect. Most adults have the most common form of herpes, the Epstein-Barr virus. It's one of the most prevalent viruses in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and it's dormant in most adults.

How Do I Get Rid of Germs in My Mouth?

There is no way to get rid of all the germs in your mouth, but you can protect your oral health from bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses by taking good care of your health and practicing good oral hygiene. Be sure to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise. Brush at least twice a day, and don't forget to brush your tongue. Consider using other helpful products like an antimicrobial mouthrinse and tongue scrapers. And be sure to see your dental professional for regular appointments. By visiting your dental professional regularly, you are better positioned to catch the adverse effects of germs early so you can effectively maintain oral health that makes you smile.


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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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