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How Your Oral Microbiome Impacts Your Dental Health

Think of your mouth as a garden of oral flora. In this environment, more than 1,300 types of bacteria and other microorganisms “flower,” according to an article published in Protein & Cell.

Like any environment within your body, your mouth “garden” is a microbiome. It consists of good bacteria (aka beneficial oral flora – an actual dental term) to keep you healthy — as long as it’s in balance.

When disruptions in your oral microbiome happen, decay can take hold. But there are ways to ensure dental diseases, such as cavities and gum disease, don’t rot your “garden” – letting beneficial oral flora flourish.

What Is an Oral Microbiome Imbalance?

First up, a brief dental science lesson: A review in the Journal of Oral Biosciences explains that:

  • Symbiosis occurs when oral microorganisms (aka bacteria) live in harmony within your oral cavity.
  • Dysbiosis is the breakdown in the relationship between oral microorganisms, occurring when there's a shift in their balance due to changes within your oral cavity.

In other words, this dysbiosis imbalance leads to dental disease.

For example, the pH level in your mouth can lower due to diet changes or a reduction in saliva flow. This shift in your oral ecosystem allows acid-producing and acid-tolerant bacteria – aka plaque – to grow at the expense of beneficial bacteria.

And by allowing these acid-producing bacteria to accumulate in your mouth, you cause an oral microbiome imbalance. This increases your risk of dental problems, such as:

  • Tooth decay and cavities (known as caries by dental professionals)
  • A buildup of bacterial plaque (also called dental biofilm) leading to the gum diseases of gingivitis and periodontitis.

What Oral Bacteria Lead to Dental Diseases?

The bacteria that can play havoc in your oral microbiome are really just good bacteria gone bad. Specifically, the good bacteria go out of control, disrupting the harmony of your oral microbiome.

As described in the Protein & Cell article, cavities are "the most common chronic infectious disease" affecting people of all ages. And oral bacteria are the chief cavity culprits.

When an oral microbiome imbalance occurs, oral bacteria produce acids that damage your teeth's enamel. The offenders include:

  • Streptococcus Mutans: This bacterium is the main contributor to cavities
  • Veillonella: This species of bacteria is also associated with cavity development, especially in young children

Additionally, various periodontal pathogens (aka bacterial) can contribute to gum disease. As the Journal of Bacteriology study explains, gum disease is the destruction of the tissues and supporting your teeth structure.

This makes sense, as the space or pocket between your gums and your teeth is dark and moist, providing the perfect home for many bacteria.

How Can I Maintain an Oral Microbiome Balance?

To keep your oral microbiome in a healthy state of symbiosis, maintain an excellent oral hygiene routine to prevent plaque buildup. If you already have plaque buildup, learn how to change your oral microbiome.

The American Dental Associate (ADA) offers excellent tips on MouthHealthy.org to keep your oral bacteria in balance and avoid a disease-free mouth:

  • Brush your teeth twice daily using a fluoridated oral microbiome toothpaste to boost your good bacteria.
  • Floss or use other interdental cleaners – such as interdental brushes and water flossers – daily.
  • Limit sugary beverages and snacks (and also eat an overall healthy diet).
  • See your dental professionals twice a year for routine exams and treatment.
  • Drink water containing fluoride.
  • Quit (or don't start) smoking, chewing tobacco, and using other tobacco products.
  • Avoid getting oral, including the tongue, piercings.

Consider your oral care routine like tending a garden, keeping the blossoms hearty while pulling out the weeds.

By doing all you can daily to keep your teeth and gums healthy, you'll maintain your oral microbiome's beautiful harmony.

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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