Say Hello to Your Little Friends

Dental care tips

I’m going to tell you something, something you may not want to hear. Please don’t freak out:

Your mouth is teeming—literally teeming—with bacteria.

No matter how much you brush, no matter how much you floss, no matter how much mouthwash you use, no matter how many oral care tips you read in articles just like this one… your mouth will always be teeming with bacteria.

And that’s a good thing.

Oral disease doesn’t happen because bacteria are present in your mouth. It happens because either the wrong kind of bacteria is present, or the wrong amount of the right kind of bacteria is present. A mouth that contains the right amount of the right kinds of bacteria is the best first line of defense against not just tooth and gum disease, but also diseases that can affect many other systems in the body.

The trick becomes knowing how to take care of your teeth and gums without upsetting the balance of beneficial bacteria. And in order to do that, it helps to know a little about how certain oral diseases work.

Cavities, for instance, are not caused by old food sitting in your teeth. Nor are they caused by bacteria “eating” your enamel. Cavities (also called dental caries) happen when a certain strain of bacteria in your mouth (streptococcus mutans, or S. mutans) has increased access to sugars and other complex carbohydrates. S. mutans eats the carbs and excretes acid, and it’s that acid that eats through the enamel of your teeth.

So does taking care of your teeth mean eradicating S. mutans from your mouth? The truth is, we don’t yet know all the ways the myriad species of bacteria in our mouth interact. By removing one component, we upset a delicate balance and cause changes we could never possibly predict, similar to the unforeseen and unknowable consequences of removing one particular species of animal or insect from a given environment.

The best way to prevent S. mutans from creating its enamel-destroying acid is to limit its food source. And that means avoiding overly sugary foods and brushing and flossing regularly to remove any hidden splotches or pockets of food.

Healthy, beneficial bacteria can help keep the unhealthy, destructive bacteria in check. They can also protect against toxins and even some encapsulated viruses. Ironically, these bacteria may know how to take care of your teeth and gums—and how to keep your teeth healthy—better than we ever will. Visit here for more.

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