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Biofilm Formation: How To Protect Your Mouth From Harmful Germs

Whether you realise it or not, your mouth is filled with a wide variety of germs, both good and bad. Complex and organised communities called biofilm can develop if the germs are left undisturbed in the mouth. The formation of biofilm is a process that takes time to occur, but can lead to a variety of dental diseases as it progresses.

Stages of Biofilm Formation

As explained in an article featured in High Throughput, a publication of the US-based National Library of Medicine, there are three phases of biofilm formation:

  • Planktonic Phase

    During this phase, free-floating germs make initial contact with a surface, either randomly or by chemical attraction.
  • Biofilm Phase

    In this phase, the germs come together into groups that attach to a nearby oral surface and form colonies. This leads to the development of complex biofilm communities.
  • Dispersion Phase

    This is the most threatening phase, in which the disease-causing germs move to infect new areas.

Which Oral Germs Are Harmful?

According to a review published in the Journal of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology (an international, peer-reviewed journal), the average person's mouth contains over 700 different species of germs. As long as your mouth is cleaned thoroughly and regularly, these germs won't harm your oral health. But when they are left undisturbed, dental diseases can develop. Some of the harmful germs found in biofilms include Fusobacterium, Streptococcus, Prevotella, Porphyromonas and Actinomyces.

Common Oral Diseases

As the Journal of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology review details, there are three main types of oral conditions that are caused by dental biofilms:

  • Tooth cavities

    This common dental condition is caused by certain types of germs in biofilms that prefer acidic conditions. A diet that is high in sugar helps these germs form acids that weaken the enamel of teeth and produce cavities.
  • Gum problems

    The accumulation of plaque around the gumline leads to gum problems and sensitivity. When this happens, the gums may appear red and swollen.
  • Periodontitis

    This destructive condition can develop if the gum problems are allowed to persist over time. Periodontal disease may lead to the gradual loss of the supporting bone that surrounds a tooth. This bone loss is irreversible and can result in eventual tooth loss.

How to Prevent the Build-up of Germs

A key component of good oral hygiene is consistent biofilm removal. This involves brushing your teeth twice daily for two minutes to help remove germs from your tooth surfaces. You can reach the remaining biofilm by gently using floss in an up and down motion between the teeth and then curving it around each tooth underneath the gumline.

According to the article in High Throughput, dental plaque can accumulate in other areas of the mouth than on and between the teeth and gums. Biofilms can grow on dentures, implants and orthodontic appliances, as well. If you have any of these devices, it's important to keep up with your oral hygiene and follow your dentist's instructions for cleaning them. Getting regular cleanings from your dental hygienist at your dentist's office will ensure that no areas of biofilm accumulation go unnoticed, so your mouth can stay as healthy as possible.

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