Bacteria, the Oral Health Edition

Only within the last decade have scientist begun to pay more attention to the bacteria present in our bodies. Known as the “microbiome,” the human body has communities of bacteria that outnumber human cells 10 to 1. Despite being so small, if all our bacteria was collected and placed into a bucket, it would weigh three to five pounds.

In our mouth alone, dubbed the “human oral microbiome,” there may be upwards of 8 billion bacteria, more than the entire human population. With so many organisms hanging out in your mouth, you might ask what they’re all doing in there? The short answer is that we don’t exactly know. Bacteria are born, work, feed, mate, die, and are also essential to our bodies.


A common term used in biology to mean, “a mutually beneficial relationship between different organisms,” symbiosis perfectly describes some of the bacteria in our mouths. While many of the connections between mouth bacteria and us are still undiscovered, what has become obvious are the ways in which they help us pre-digest food. Bacteria present in saliva can attach onto food, help break it down before it reaches the stomach, and can even send messages to other bacteria to provide back-up. Having an array of healthy bacteria can improve digestion and ensure your body is getting all the best nutrients possible.

What About Bad Bacteria?

You might have heard about a certain group of bacteria called Streptococcus mutans, which have been blamed for cavities and gum disease. In a sense, the blame is valid. Streptococcus feeds on starch and sugar, multiples rapidly, feeds on more starch and sugar, and then produces acid that can erode tooth enamel and cause gum inflammation leading to periodontitis. Not to mention that bleeding gums can allow in other, more harmful bacteria that can eventually enter your bloodstream.

There are many bacteria in our mouths that aren’t beneficial to us, but there are many others that start out as beneficial or at least harmless, but can be co-opted by other bacteria to participate in periodontitis.

Happy Bacteria, Happy You

The truth is that no bacteria is inherently good or bad, not even Streptococcus. The best way to ensure that your mouth and body has a good balance of bacteria is to eat a healthy, plant-heavy diet. By not regularly eating foods high in starch and sugars, you can ensure that your mouth’s microbiome stays varied.

Another step you can take to prevent gum disease and cavities are solid oral-hygiene and regular check-ups. By maintaining a consistent relationship with your dentist, you can ensure that if there are any oral complications, they don’t become big problems.

If you can’t remember the last time you had a checkup, then it’s time to schedule one today. If you’re looking for a smile solution in Scripps Ranch, please call (858) 271-1010 today for an appointment with Dr.G at Oasis Dental Arts.