Did you know that your body is home to trillions of tiny microorganisms? That’s right! Bacteria and other microorganisms live in our digestive systems, on our skin, and even in our mouths. In fact, research suggests there are more than 700 different types of bacteria in the human mouth alone.
Don’t worry! While some of these species are known to cause problems like gum disease and tooth decay, not all oral bacteria are bad. In fact, some of it is essential for protecting your oral health. In this article, we’re breaking down the difference between good and bad oral bacteria and how to maintain a healthy balance.
What is the oral microbiome?
A microbiome is a community of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) living together in a particular habitat or environment. The human oral microbiome refers to the community of bacteria and other microorganisms that exist at a given time in a person’s mouth.
In fact, the mouth contains a number of different habitats, including the teeth, gums, tongue, cheeks, and more. Each habitat is colonized by both good and bad bacteria.
Good oral bacteria
The good bacteria in your mouth are essential for oral health. They help break down food effectively, keep your breath smelling nice, and protect your teeth, gums, jawbone, and other structures in the mouth.
Good oral bacteria prefer neutral-to-high pH environments. An abundance of these bacteria reduces your risk of developing cavities or periodontal (gum) disease. That’s because they produce proteins that effectively control the population of bad bacteria.
Bad oral bacteria
Too many bad bacteria in your mouth can lead to bad breath, dry mouth, and an increased risk of developing oral health conditions such as:
Bad oral bacteria tend to flourish in low pH environments with limited oxygen, such as in plaque and tartar. When these substances build up on the teeth and along the gum line and are not properly removed, bad bacteria begin to reproduce and cause damage.
How your oral microbiome impacts your overall health
Bad oral bacteria can cause inflammation, ultimately weakening the immune system and limiting the body’s ability to fight illness and disease. They can also travel to other areas of the body through the bloodstream, including to vital organs such as the heart and brain.
Research shows that poor oral health is strongly associated with systemic health conditions, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Depression and anxiety
- Certain types of cancer
Tips for maintaining a healthy oral microbiome
Keep up with dental hygiene
Daily at-home dental care is one of the most important steps in promoting a good microbiome. To remove harmful bacteria, make sure to keep up with basic dental hygiene practices, including:
- Brushing twice a day
- Flossing once a day
- Using an antibacterial mouthwash
Visit your dentist for routine checkups
While at-home care is essential, brushing alone won’t always be enough. Getting professional dental cleanings and exams twice a year will help preserve your oral microbiome by removing plaque and tartar and screening for potential oral health problems.
Eat a healthy diet
Maintaining a balanced diet filled with nutrient-rich foods allows good bacteria to thrive and helps build your body’s natural defenses. Ensure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Try to limit your consumption of sugary or acidic foods, as they can increase your risk of developing oral infections.
In recent years, research has suggested that probiotics can improve oral health by strengthening the microenvironment in our mouths, allowing good bacteria to thrive while inhibiting pathogens.
Probiotics can be consumed through certain foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and some cheeses. Dietary supplements with probiotics may also help improve your oral microbiome.
Avoid smoking and limit alcohol
Smoking is exceptionally bad for your oral health. It naturally increases bad bacteria that can cause oral infection and disease. It also reduces oxygen in the bloodstream, making it harder to heal from bacterial infections.
Excess alcohol can also cause a number of problems for your oral microbiome by killing off healthy bacteria. It’s been observed that heavy drinkers have more bad bacteria and less good bacteria in their mouths compared to moderate- and non-drinkers.
Maintain your oral health and enhance your overall well-being with Choices in Dentistry
We’re on a mission to transform our patient’s health and well-being by combining the most effective practices in holistic dentistry and traditional, proven treatments.
It’s imperative that you feel empowered when it comes to your oral and total-body health and have all the tools you need to make informed decisions. At Choices in Dentistry, we’re here to provide you with the evidence-based guidance and support you need to do just that.
Contact us to learn more about our services and to schedule your first appointment!