We all have bacteria that lives inside our mouth—in fact, your mouth is home to more than 700 species of bacteria at any given time! Even the most rigorous brushing and flossing routine leaves bacteria—and despite what it sounds like, that’s a good thing.
There are good bacteria that help keep our mouth healthy, but there are also bad bacteria that contribute to decay, cavities, and gum disease. Keeping the right balance between the two can make all the difference in your oral (and even your overall) health. Let’s dive into some surprising facts about the bacteria in your mouth that you may not know.
1. Your oral microbiome starts when you are born.
The millions of bacteria that live inside your mouth start multiplying as soon as you are born. Even further, oral bacteria can be passed from mother to child, highlighting the importance of good oral health during pregnancy. Studies have shown that mothers who have gum disease or who smoke during their pregnancy are much more likely to pass along harmful pathogens, increasing the likelihood that their child will suffer from gum disease or tooth decay later on in life.
2. Oral microbiomes are the primary cause of childhood tooth decay.
Approximately 23 percent of children in the U.S. experience early tooth decay between the ages of 1 and 5. Studies suggest that an imbalance of good and bad bacteria is the primary cause, with acid-producing bacteria overwhelming the presence of good bacteria. Cutting down on sugar and avoiding acid-producing foods can go a long way in promoting a healthy bacterial balance (for children and adults alike).
3. Not all bacteria are bad.
We tend to hear “bacteria” and immediately think of mold or decay. Don’t panic thinking about the bacteria in your mouth—not all bacteria are bad, especially when it comes to your oral health! Good bacteria combat the growth of the bad bacteria and help you digest food, protecting against decay from food particles. The bad bacteria will convert sugar particles into acid, offsetting the pH of your mouth and supporting plaque buildup. A healthy mix of both kinds of bacteria keeps your mouth at a healthy, stable balance.
4. Good oral health means good overall health.
The connection between your oral health and your overall health is closer than you may realize. Your mouth is a conduit to the rest of your body, as you breathe, drink, and eat throughout the day. If harmful bacteria or pathogens are left unchecked in your mouth, they can travel throughout the rest of your body and result in:
- Endocarditis — An infection in the inner chambers of your heart chambers and valves
- Pneumonia — A respiratory infection in your lungs
- Pregnancy and birth complications — Untreated periodontal disease in pregnancy may contribute to low birth weight or preterm birth
5. Your overall health could impact your oral health.
This connection works both ways: while the bacterial microbiome can affect your overall health, some health conditions can even be diagnosed through your oral health. Early signs of osteoporosis are often seen through tooth displacement and tooth loss. Diabetes patients often suffer from poor periodontal health as a result of an inability to control blood sugar, promoting an overgrowth of bad bacteria and pointing to poor insulin management.
Understanding the link between bacteria and your health is the first step in maintaining a strong oral healthcare routine. In some cases, it may even help you avoid or diagnose larger health complications down the road, supporting overall health in the process. If you have questions about how your good and bad bacteria interact within your mouth, reach out to your dentist to learn more!
Schedule a consultation or a checkup with TruBlu Dentistry in Burbank, Chicago, or Hegewisch today!