Meet Your Mouth’s Pests

Your teeth, gums, and tongue aren’t the only things that inhabit your mouth. Experts compare the ecology of the mouth to a veritable forest, containing over 600 identifiable kinds of microorganisms, and more that have yet to be classified. Knowing your mouth is teeming with bacteria might be uncomfortable, but you might be relieved to know that most of them are harmless. In fact, some may be vital to maintaining your mouth’s ecological balance. Some mouth germs, though, are a cause for concern, since they produce reactions responsible for a number of dental diseases when they’re allowed to run rampant.

Plaque’s Made of WHAT?

The sticky film that covers your teeth from time to time—you might know it as dental plaque—is a byproduct of oral bacteria. When enough of them gather, they form plaque as protection from your saliva, and to make it easier for them to cling to your teeth, gums, and tongue. If you don’t control them, these germs can eventually lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and according to numerous studies, an increased risk of some systemic illnesses. Knowing what plaque contains might exemplify the need to limit plaque with daily brushing and flossing, as well as visiting your dentist at least once every six months for a checkup and cleaning.

Take a Close Look

Streptococcus mutans

As some of the more well-known bacteria in your mouth, S. mutans are the reason why sugar causes cavities. The microbe consumes refined sugar, starch, and other carbohydrates, then metabolizes them into acid that weakens your tooth enamel. As the acid attacks, it also saps your teeth of minerals to prevent enamel from regaining its strength. In time, acid erosion destroys enamel, allowing bacteria to invade your tooth and lead to tooth decay.

Porphyromonas gingivalis

Gum disease is marked by red, swollen, and bleeding gums that also result from a bacterial infection. Some bacteria release toxins that weaken the tissue connecting your gums to your teeth. As they separate, the gums form pockets that house more bacteria. Of special note, however, is the germ, P. gingivalis, which incites excessive inflammation by evading your body’s immune system. If allowed into your bloodstream, P. gingivalis might also cause inflammation in other tissues, making the germ a significant risk factor in heart disease, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, and other inflammatory conditions.

Streptococcus gordonii

Though of the same family as S. mutans, S. gordonii don’t pose a threat to your teeth or gums. Inside your mouth, the germs are largely benevolent. If you develop gum disease and the bacteria are allowed into your bloodstream, then S. gordonii becomes a significant threat to your systemic health. The germ produces a molecule that allows it to mimic a protein that triggers blood clotting. Platelets form around the bacteria to protect them from your immune system, and the excessive clotting can lead to cardiovascular problems, including heart attack and failure.

About Your Southlake Dentists:

As a native Texan, Dr. Gregory Wright opened his private practice in Southlake, TX in 1992. He and Dr. Victoria Heron are happily accepting new patients from Southlake, Grapevine, Keller, Trophy Club, Colleyville, and all surrounding communities. To schedule an appointment, call our office today at (817) 481-7999.