It may be hard to imagine, but your mouth is a habitat for at least 700 different species of bacteria. These bacteria are not all harmful, and so long as they remain in balance even disease-causing bacteria can be okay. It’s when they get out of balance that your teeth and gums can begin to suffer damage, resulting in cavities and periodontal disease.
Your Teeth Offer Many Environments
Many bacteria prefer to live on your teeth. The hard surface is easy for them to cling to and create their biofilms on, which we usually call plaque. However, not all parts of your teeth are equally good for all bacteria. The areas between your teeth tend to have less oxygen, and are relatively safe from abrasion by your teeth and brushing, making them an ideal place for anaerobic bacteria–those that don’t need oxygen to live. Anaerobic bacteria are more likely to produce compounds that give off strong smells, so controlling bad breath begins with careful flossing.
On the crown of your teeth, though, the abrasion and oxygen tend to facilitate different types of bacteria, mostly aerobic.
Not All Bacteria Produce Acid
We know that some bacteria produce acid, which can destroy tooth enamel. However, some bacteria not only don’t produce acid, they eat it. Some even give off hydrogen peroxide when they eat acid, which doesn’t work as an effective whitener, but it does keep away some of the worst bacteria.
To keep your mouth healthy, it’s not necessary to eliminate or even reduce bacteria, it’s often just about keeping them in balance.
A High Sugar Diet Leads to Imbalance
Unfortunately, our modern diet does not foster a balanced population of the diverse bacteria that should live in our mouths. The high levels of sugar in our diet makes it easy for organisms that feed on sugar to thrive. They can often crowd out other bacteria, including those that eat the acid byproduct.
To limit the imbalance caused by sugary foods, you should reduce between meal snacking. When you do eat a sugary snack, drink a glass of water afterward to rinse sugary residue from your mouth.
Cleaning Your Teeth Keeps Bacteria in Balance Below the Gumline
Around all your teeth are tiny pockets where bacteria can grow out of the reach of your toothbrush and dental floss. You can brush all you want, but you can’t really get this part of your mouth clean. The good news is, you don’t have to. This small, specialized ecosystem exists in balance with the larger ecosystem on your teeth. If you keep your teeth clean with good brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits, it prevents the growth of bad bacteria even where you can’t reach.
Preserve the Ecosystem in Your Mouth
To keep a healthy ecosystem in your mouth, with all the bacteria you want and none of the ones you don’t, you need to practice good oral hygiene. This includes the work you do at home, of course, but also regular dental visits that can provide cleaning you can’t get at home as well as give you new tips on promoting healthy bacteria and getting rid of unhealthy ones.
At Rice Dentistry, we use the most advanced technology available in treating gum disease. This includes genetic testing of the bacteria in your mouth to determine whether the ecosystem in your mouth is in balance or is being overrun by dangerous bacteria that cause disease.
To talk to us about your optimal oral hygiene routine, please contact Rice Dentistry in Irvine, California.