The Importance of a Healthy Oral Microbiome
What exactly is an oral microbiome?
The oral microbiome is a colony of over 700 species of bacteria living in your mouth. This microbiome is distinct from those within the gut and the skin, thanks to its warm temperatures, moist environment, and unlimited access to nutrients. It exhibits the greatest diversity in terms of its microorganisms, which include not only bacteria but also fungi, protozoans, viruses, and archaea. Microbes live on the teeth, in the gums, on the tongue, and in the roof of the mouth, as well as in the oral tissues.
Susceptibility to disease
While some microbes are harmless, many can cause life-threatening illnesses if left unchecked. Studies now show that the health of the oral microbiome is linked to not only infections but also cardiovascular disease. Patients with active tooth infections are almost 3 times as likely to suffer from diseases such as coronary artery disease. Immune failure is also a risk for those with higher levels of plaque buildup. Other systemic illnesses linked with an unhealthy oral microbiome include diabetes, cancer, bronchitis, and poor pregnancy outcomes (preterm deliveries).
What can be done to help keep the oral microbiome healthy?
With 77% of US citizens struggling with periodontitis, there is an urgent need to focus on oral health. It’s well known that consuming carbohydrate-rich diets, drinking coffee and smoking can all take a toll on the teeth, but it’s also important to stress the role your dentist plays in making sure the mouth is free from pathogens.
Biofilms (plaque) found in the roots of the teeth are responsible for over 80% of oral infections leading to wider health problems. This biofilm as well as hidden dental calculus (tartar) has to be systematically removed during your oral cleanings using advanced technology. Your dentist should have at their disposal salivary diagnostic tests, a phase-contrast microscope, and an air-polishing device with glycine or erythritol to remove bacteria buildup. Only a meticulous, detailed approach will be sufficient to protect the oral microbiome’s well-being and thus your longevity.
What is the takeaway?
While it may be unsettling to think about the oral microbiome and its millions of inhabitants living right under your nose, it’s good to remember the microbiome is just part of the magical and intricate machine known as the human body. Health means balance, upkeep, and tenacity, so it’s important that you choose a dentist who understands the complexity of oral care and is willing to deliver procedures that go beyond the status quo. Your mouth will thank you for it.