Left undisturbed, viridans streptococci can cause infections of the mouth and other parts of the body. Viridans streptococci, including streptococcus gordonii, are gram positive bacteria and can be penetrated by detergents and antibiotics. Conversely, in plaque, these bacteria are hardy and prevalent in the oral environment, feeding off carbohydrates that are introduced into the mouth on a daily and frequent basis.
Streptococcus gordonii are considered normal flora in the mouth, and therefore are most commonly blamed for mouth problems like cavities, gingivitis and gum disease. A study published by the Public Library of Science Pathogens identifies oral streptococci as active components of the plaque film that possess specialized survival traits in the mouth. They are able to form a long-lasting bond with the tooth surface by ingesting the carbohydrates that are present in your diet. These multifaceted bacteria proliferate by thriving on the ideal components of the oral environment: temperature, pH and saliva. They use sugars, namely sucrose, lactose and glucose, to form the sticky plaque film, according to a study in the Journal of Oral Microbiology. Sugars also produce acids that contribute to the decay process.
The most serious viridans streptococci infections occur when these bacteria enter other parts of the body. For example, if the bacteria enter the bloodstream, it can cause a serious infection in the lining of the heart, called endocarditis. This heart infection can be fatal and often requires hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics treatment. Patients with compromised immune systems or who already suffer from heart valve problems are especially vulnerable.
According to the Mayo Clinic, poor oral health can contribute to systemic health disorders, from cardiovascular disease to preterm or low-weight births. Additionally, certain chronic health conditions compromise oral health by affecting salivary flow and suppressing the body's ability to fight infection.