The mouth is a weird place. Like a rainforest, it’s dark, damp, and a little bit mysterious, supporting between 500 to 1,000 different types of bacteria. In fact, if you were to count the number of bacteria living inside your mouth at one time, that number would probably be close to the total number of humans on the planet, somewhere between 6 and 8 billion. With so many of these guys hanging around, it begs the question: what exactly is their purpose?
Bacteria Are Our Friends (Sort of)
The relationship we have with our bacteria is similar to the relationship we have with our coworkers. Even though it sometimes feels like we’re stuck together, for the most part, we’re all working toward a similar goal. Just like humans, bacteria want to live, procreate, and ensure the survival of their species, and we help them achieve this goal through symbiosis, or “a mutually beneficial relationship between organisms.”
Even though many of the connections between mouth bacteria and other components of the body have yet to be discovered, some of the more obvious functions of our mouth bacteria include pre-digestion. Several strains of bacteria found in saliva help to break down certain nutrients found in our food before it even reaches the stomach. Some bacteria can even send messages to other bacteria found in the stomach, informing them that certain types of food are on the way.
Does Bacteria Have “Bad Guys”?
Some mouth bacteria gets a bad rap. Streptococcus mutans, for example, are often blamed for cavities, gum disease, and the like. While these and others do cause a host of problems in the mouth, blaming them would be like blaming a baby for a messy diaper. Much like the haggard barista slinging espresso, streptococcus mutans are only doing their job. When they encounter sugar or simple starches that can easily be turned into sugar, they feed on this energy source, rapidly multiply, which can crowd out other bacteria species, and produce an acid by-product that can erode tooth enamel and cause gum inflammation that can eventually lead to periodontitis.
Work to Create a Better You
Bacteria isn’t good or bad, not even Streptococcus. They’re just doing what they have to survive. To ensure that your mouth’s microbiome remains diverse, happy, and healthy, don’t blame the bacteria. Instead, eat a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and limited sugar. The American Heart Association and several others suggest eating no more than 25g of sugar a day, which is less than one coke of vanilla latte. Any more can not only affect your bacteria, but your body as well.
Visiting your dentist every six months for a check-up is another step you can take to keeping your mouth healthy. In this way, your dentist can inspect your mouth and ensure that any complications are taken care of before they become bigger problems.
Are you looking for a dentist in Wichita Falls, TX? Please call 940-322-2252 or contact us today for an appointment at StarImage Dentistry, where we use the most advanced techniques to achieve great results for our patients.