Oral Ecology

There are bacteria found in our mouths which are found in few other places. The ecology of the human mouth refers to all of the organisms that dwell within it. In this respect, our mouths are like a foreign planet. There are good bacteria and bad bacteria and a watery, hot, and humid climate which makes the perfect environment for both of them to thrive in.

In every human mouth, there are two primary ecological components: bacteria and saliva. Even those with the cleanest mouths can be expected to have between 1,000 to 100,000 bacteria living on each tooth. These bacteria do not all belong to the same species. On average, 500 or more species of bacteria will live in any given mouth. The bacteria which dwell in our mouth have the potential to be devastating, but they also serve a vital role in keeping our mouths healthy by keeping “bad bacteria” from overwhelming our mouths.

Oral ecology is of particular importance to some dentists and biologists. By seeking to understand how all of the species interact and the symbiotic relationship they have with saliva, we can better understand how to treat conditions which affect the mouth. Their particular area of focus tends to be on the prevention and treatment of gum disease (http://www.northmiamibeachdentist.com/dental-services/periodontics-gum-disease/).

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s a campaign was launched to reduce tooth decay by promoting brushing and flossing and by adding fluoride to the water supply. Researchers had singled out a specific species of bacteria that was causing cavities. When fluoride is added to water, then an individual drinks it, the fluoride bonds to the tooth enamel making it harder for bacteria to attach themselves.

Currently, about 51% of children in the United States, under the age of 12, have no sign of tooth decay. This is a promising number until you think about the remaining 49%. If fluoride works so well for some children, but not for others, then the oral ecology of those children may be the culprit.

Thanks to the research that has been conducted over the past two decades, we know that the bacteria primarily responsible for periodontal gum disease are anaerobic, meaning they do not need oxygen to survive. Scientists devoted to the study of oral ecology have discovered roughly a dozen species of bacteria that cause infections and tooth decay. Left untreated, serious dental procedures may become necessary to fix the condition (http://www.northmiamibeachdentist.com/dental-services/endodontics-root-canal/).

More importantly, though, they have begun to understand how these bacteria colonize and how they are transferred. Biologists and biotechnologists have also discovered how these bacteria interact with each other. These discoveries have the potential to lead us to safe and effective ways to remove harmful bacteria before they do permanent damage.

Saliva acts as our mouth’s wash cycle, removing all of the extra bacteria and particles we don’t need. For people with reduced saliva production, there is limited natural defense against bacterial growth. The field of biotechnology is attempting to create synthetic saliva for those who do not produce enough. It will effectively act as a sluice to remove bacteria before it can take up residence.

Our mouths are a delicate and fragile ecosystem. It is not just how we maintain our mouth which is important, but also the quality of the food which passes through it. Decades may pass before we know the true impact of GMO’s and processed food on our bodies as a whole. But, some foods, particularly sweet and sticky foods, are clearly bad for your oral ecology. These foods should be avoided whenever possible to preserve the health of your mouth.

Before treating gum, tooth, or other oral problems consult with Dr. J.J.Edderai. A dental check-up every three months will allow Dr. Edderai and his hygienists to keep a watchful eye on your oral health and prevent cavities before they start. For answers to some of the most commonly asked questions, visit my FAQ page at http://www.northmiamibeachdentist.com/faqs/.

Copyright Dr. Jean-Jacques Edderai -2015

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