Like the rest of your body, the mouth contains numerous microorganisms. Some help to keep our mouths healthy, others not so much. Have you ever wondered what is really in there?
Researchers have compiled a list of microorganisms that normally have the largest presence in a healthy mouth. These include organisms of the following genuses:
|– Streptococcus||– Eubacteria|
|– Actinomyces||– Lactobacilli|
|– Veillonella||– Capnocytophaga|
|– Fusobacterium||– Eikenella|
|– Porphyromonas||– Leptotrichia|
|– Prevotella||– Peptostreptococcus|
|– Treponema||– Staphylococcus|
|– Neisseria||– Propionibacterium|
Many of these organisms work in a symbiotic relationship with our mouth to keep it healthy. The commensal microorganisms keep most pathogens in check by not allowing them to attach to the mucosa. The attachment is the point at which these organisms can cause infection and disease.
What causes cavities?
We have all heard our parents say, “All that sugar is going to rot your teeth.” As children, we actually thought it was the sugar that was giving us cavities, but that is not the case. The byproducts of reactions carried out by bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, cause cavities. The bacteria break down the sugar that we put in our mouths, and the chemical reaction converts those sugars to acids. It is these acids that are breaking down our tooth enamel and causing cavities.
A healthy mouth = a healthy body
The health of your mouth is not just important for a beautiful smile. Your entire body is affected by your oral microbiology. There have been studies linking periodontal disease to other ailments such as atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), preterm low birth weight, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
On the other hand, oral organisms can have a beneficial effect. The commensal organism Streptococcus salivarius has been made in to a probiotic by a New Zealand company. This organism was initially selected based on its inhibitory activity against Streptococcus pyogenes (the organism that causes strep throat).
How to keep your mouth healthy
In order to manage your mouth flora and keep acids from breaking down your teeth, there are several steps you can take to keep your mouth healthy:
- Go in for dental checkups and cleanings twice a year.
- Start dental checkups yearly. Children should go to the dentist by the time they turn 1, and parents should help clean their child’s teeth until he or she is coordinated enough to do it alone.
- Avoid daily consumption of soda. If you drink one or more can of soda a day, the phosphoric acid and citric acid in the soda can soften you tooth enamel which is your shield against cavities.
- Cut down on sugar.
- Quit smoking. Cigarettes deteriorate your gums which will increase your risk for tooth loss.
- Replace your tooth brush often. Tooth brushes should only be used for two to three months or when the bristles start to bend.
- Gently brush each tooth 10 to 15 times at a 45-degree angle.
- Floss! It is not fun, but you gums will be thankful.
If you are looking for ways to teach your kids about the importance of dental health, download some fun activity sheets from the American Dental Association (ADA). February is National Children’s Dental Health Month in the United States and the ADA has numerous resources to educate kids and adults.