THE MINIATURE WORLD INSIDE YOUR MOUTH
Where bacteria run the show.
We don’t tend to think about our mouths as a home, but for trillions of tiny microorganisms that’s essentially what it is. Your lips, tongue, and inner cheeks are a diverse neighbourhood of tiny bacteria, happily living their lives and in many ways helping us live ours.
When you think about it, it’s not so surprising that the mouth makes a good home for these bugs. It’s warm and moist – ideal bacteria-growing conditions. But before you go trying to get rid of what sounds like a rather unpleasant mouthful, don’t worry: they are absolutely normal. Everyone has them, and everyone needs them. Or at least some of them.
Biofilm, and other oral surfaces, can be affected by what happens to the mouth.
The bad and the beautiful
There are over 700 species of bacteria in the mouth – and with so much variation, there’s bound to be both heroes and villains in the mix. The oral bacteria we think of as ‘bad’ bacteria are present all the time, even in healthy mouths, but they’re kept in check by the presence of good bacteria. A good balance of the two helps us keep our teeth and gums healthy.
Home sweet home
So where are all these bacteria hiding? Microorganisms spread themselves across all the different surfaces of the mouth: on the tongue, teeth, inner lips, and gums. Indeed, different types live in difference spaces. Some love to hide in cavities; others are fonder of the tongue. This is partly to do with the various fluids available in different parts of the mouth, such as the different proteins and other nutrients in your saliva.
It’s also to do with the kinds of surfaces provided. Teeth are a particular favourite. They are in fact a pretty unique part of the body, being our only naturally non-shedding material. Every other surface (think skin, nails, and hair) is continually shedding tiny parts of itself. Because the teeth in contrast are more stable, they provide an ideal ground for bacteria to live undisturbed. The microorganisms that cover teeth create what’s called a ‘biofilm’ – a kind of major housing development for bacteria in the mouth.
A tiny world in balance
Biofilm, and other oral surfaces, can be affected by what happens to the mouth – and this in turn alters the balance of bad to good bacteria.
Any major dental work can be a disturbance to the normal oral microbiota, likewise having dentures or braces. What we consume can also have a big impact on the microbial environment. Sugary foods, acidic drinks (even sugar-free kinds), and smoking can all change this oral environment, potentially making it harder for good bacteria to remain and keep bad bacteria from flourishing.
As a result, maintaining good oral hygiene a bit more complicated than previously thought. Rather than just eradicating all bacteria, it’s better to work to support a healthy oral setting and maintain nature’s balance. Zendium toothpaste works in harmony with nature to create a happy home for the good bacteria, while gently getting rid of the bad.
For many microbiologists, understanding and positively influencing bacteria is the future of science and medicine. Doing a few simple things to look after the ones in our mouth is a good first step.