It’s only within the last twenty-years that we’ve discovered just how important bacteria is to our bodies. The human “microbiome,” as it is often referred, has bacteria that outnumber human cells nearly 10 to 1. In fact, if someone were to collect all of our bacteria into a bucket, it would weigh between three and five pounds. Just inside our mouths, there are can be close to 8 billion bacteria, more than the entire human population.
If all this bacteria weirds you out, don’t be concerned. They are there for a reason, and many of the things they do are essential to human life.
Bacteria Are Our Friends (Mostly)
Inside our mouths are nearly 700 different strains of bacteria, and more are being discovered every year. Of these different strains, most of them are either harmless or helpful for our mouths. According to a study published in the European Journal of Dentistry, some bacteria stimulates saliva production, which can help to flush out the mouth of food particles and sugar. Bacteria also helps to pre-digest food along with saliva. While some bacteria is predisposed to break down fats, others might break down protein. Some bacteria can even communicate with other bacteria in the stomach, letting them know when certain food sources are on their way. By having a wide variety of bacteria inside our mouths, we can improve our digestion, ensuring we’re getting the best nutrients possible.
Are There Bad Bacteria?
While most bacteria lives with us happily and healthily, there are other bacteria that like to cause problems. Known as Streptococcus mutans, these bacteria are the reason we get cavities and gum disease. When sugar or simple starch is present within the mouth, Streptococcus mutans use this food source and multiply rapidly. As a byproduct, they create acidic waste that can erode tooth enamel over time. Not only that, but it can get into the gums and cause low-grade inflammation which can lead to periodontitis.
Practice Good Habits for Good Bacteria
Bacteria isn’t really bad or good, it’s simple doing what it needs to do. The way you ensure your mouth bacteria stays diverse and healthy, is by eating a balanced diet and practicing good oral hygiene habits. Avoiding foods high in sugar and starch is a great way to start, and has positive benefits for your body, as well. According to the American Heart Association, eating less than 30g of sugar a day can significantly lower your chances of heart disease and stroke.
Beyond diet, regularly brushing and flossing is key. This allows you to clear out any excess sugar within your mouth, eliminating a food source for troublesome bacteria while also protecting your teeth and gums with fluoride. Visiting your dentist once every six months can also ensure that any problems can be taken care of before they become bigger, and more costly.
For more information on the quality dental care we offer, please call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry today for an appointment.