Wellness

What You Should Know About Oral Bacteria

Close-up of dentist pointing at x-ray image of teeth at dental office.

Did you know there are more than 700 different species of germs in your mouth? Most germs are harmless. They are digested along with food and killed by stomach acids. Others are destroyed by enzymes in saliva. However, several types of bacteria can create oral health problems. They attack tooth enamel, causing decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Here is what you should know about oral bacteria.

Daily brushing and flossing

Dental professionals encourage adults and kids to brush twice daily – after breakfast and at bedtime – and floss once each day. Establishing these oral hygiene habits help keep teeth and gums healthy. Brushing and flossing removes food particles and harmful oral bacteria that can cause tooth decay.

Scientists at Colorado State University studied the benefits of flossing to remove oral bacteria. They collected cells from inside the mouth of 366 individuals – 181 adults and 185 youth ages 8 to17 – all of whom claimed to brush their teeth. Participants who flossed their teeth had lower microbial diversity in their mouths than those who did not floss. Researchers believe that flossing helps remove harmful oral bacteria that causes inflammation and disease.

Regular dental care

Daily brushing and flossing remove only two-thirds of the plaque and bacteria on your teeth. That is why it is essential to schedule dental exams and professional cleanings once or twice a year. During the appointment, the hygienist will clean off plaque that causes decay and gum disease. Also, the dentist will check your mouth for signs of oral health issues.

The Colorado State researchers also reviewed the oral health of adults who had gone to the dentist in the three months before the study. These participants had lower evidence of oral bacteria that causes periodontal disease than those who had not visited the dentist in 12 months or longer.

Eat and drink healthily

Another key to keeping your teeth and gums healthy is to eat nutritious foods and treats, such as the following:

  1. High-fiber fruits and vegetables – According to nutritional experts, high-fiber foods work with oral saliva to keep teeth and gums clean. These include pears, strawberries, avocados, apples, raspberries, bananas, carrots, beets, broccoli, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts.
  2. Dairy products – Cheese, milk, plain yogurt, and other dairy products contain calcium and minerals that help protect and rebuild tooth enamel.
  3. Water and tea – Drink plenty of fresh water to rinse away food particles and keep oral tissues moist. Also, enjoy green and black tea, which can kill oral bacteria and acids that attack tooth enamel.
  4. Fluoride – Drink water with fluoride to strengthen teeth and brush with a fluoride toothpaste. Did you know some foods are enriched with fluoride? These include some poultry products, seafood, cereal and dehydrated soups.
  5. Sugarless gum – Starches and sugars from foods join with harmful oral bacteria to attack tooth enamel and cause decay. The Oral Health Foundation says chewing sugarless gum increases the flow of saliva in the mouth. Saliva naturally removes food particles from teeth and gums to keep them clean and healthy.

Healthy teeth and gums are essential to enjoying everyday life. Find out how to take good care of your oral health to protect your smile.