The Oral Microbiome: Scientists Delve Into Your Cavity
There are 700 species of bacteria in your mouth. Impossible for it to not impact your health. Moreso, it’s changing the way we think about dental care.
In the ecosystem of oral microbiome there is certainly healthy bacteria. While some that specifically limit tooth decay for example, equally, there is harmful bacteria known to cause cavities and disease. The community forms biofilm, or dental plaque.
While scientists are still investigating all the mechanisms of oral microbiome we do know that it begins at birth and continues to evolve. There are variables that encourage certain bacteria to thrive; one being at what age you cut your first and second set of teeth.
A big factor in the makeup of your oral microbiome is your mother’s oral health during her pregnancy with you. If she had gum disease, or smoked you’re likely to be born with more pathogens that predispose cavities and unhealthy gums in later life.
The oral microbiome refers to all the bacteria and its genetic material that live in your mouth. The Department of Periodontology at Ohio State University has established that it is separate microbiome from that of the gut. These ecosystems impact upon one another in ways we are just beginning to understand.
Every time you drink a glass of water, you swallow millions of bacteria. Every time you eat, or kiss, different bacteria are introduced.
Not all, but some stay and colonise.
When poor oral hygiene, poor diet, or health issues shift the balance of bacteria, harmful bacteria can take over. This disparity, left unchecked, is the cause of bad breath, cavities, gum disease and even tooth loss.
Researchers are working to understand how healthy and harmful bacteria communicate and influence each other. Biofilms are being created in labs, using the donated saliva of employees, in the replication of all variant organisms of oral microbiome. Culture, diet and sleep heavily influence this ecosystem. The more we know, the better developed treatments and products promoting healthy oral bacteria can be.
From a health perspective, your mouth is the gateway to the rest of you. As the inflammation caused by pathogens or periodontal disease damages the tiny blood vessels in your gums, oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body. Although physiologically there are systems in place to manage these bugs, some species have now been associated with diseases and conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and depression.
Research by the American Academy of Periodontology reveals that diabetics are more likely to contract periodontal disease because of overall susceptibility to infection. It is discoveries like this that encourage scientists to find new and targeted methods to maximise the health of the microbiome in your mouth.
Certain foods, prebiotics and probiotics appear to make a difference. Black raspberries contain phytochemicals that are so effective in reducing chronic inflammation they may eventually be used in possible early stage treatment of oral cancers.
Cavities are helped along by Lactobacillus Acidophilus, a particularly common oral bacteria that live in the nooks and crannies of your teeth. A high bacteria load is responsible for tooth decay, and most specifically in children under twelve years of age.
Odontomyces Viscoses more often is overrepresented in older people as it attacks the cementum, the outer layer of the tooth’s root, which is under dental bone until receding gum lines create this vulnerability.
Streptococcus – of which there are six strains – colonise on the smooth surfaces of the teeth and produce acids that break down tooth enamel. Flossing is the most effective way to remove it.
The Oral Microbiome: Scientists Delve Into Your Cavity
For millions of years, our resident microbes have coevolved and coexisted with us in a symbiotic and mostly harmonious relationship. We are not entities distinct from our microbiome, but rather a ‘superorganism’ or holobiont. Microbiome of our mouth and gut play a significant role in our physiology, health and ability to heal.
The mouth is not a homogeneous environment for microbiota, but offers several distinct habitats for microbial colonisation: teeth, gingival sulcus, attached gingiva, tongue, cheek, lip, and hard and soft palate.
These oral habitats form a heterogeneous ecological system, supporting the growth of significantly different microbial communities. The warm and moist environment suits the growth of many microorganisms with its host-derived nutrients of saliva proteins, glycoproteins and gingival crevicular fluid. The teeth are the only natural non-shedding surfaces of the human body, and in that they provide opportunity for extensive biofilm formation, and a secure haven for microbial persistence. Dental restorations, crown and bridgework, implants and dentures constitute other, and different surfaces that too, influence plaque formation and composition.
Modern lifestyles can disturb the natural balance of our oral microbiome, and dentist now have a clinical goal to re-establish equilibrium by whatever means necessary and appropriate in each patient. It is pivotal for us as patients to embrace the concept of a balanced oral microbiome, and to understand the import role it has, not only in having good oral health but in sound systemic wellbeing.
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