There are around 700 species of bacteria that can be found inside the human mouth. But a person can entirely host 34 to 72 various species. Many of these bacteria cannot bring any harm to our body. Some of them are also beneficial bacteria that can help with our digestion system and others are protecting our teeth and gums. However, there are species of bacteria that we should get rid of because they can be the cause of gum disease and tooth decay.
Most Common Harmful Bacteria
Among those hundreds of species of bacteria in our body, there are 2 types that are common to everyone.
- Streptococcus mutans – you may have heard about these bacteria because your dentist has mentioned it during your dental visit. These bacteria stay in your mouth and they are being fed through the starches and sugars that you eat every day. The presence of this bacteria inside your mouth may not sound bad. But these bacteria produce enamel-eroding acids that can cause tooth decay. This is the reason why we need to get rid of these bacteria inside the mouth.
- Porphyromonas gingivalis – this type of bacteria cannot live in a healthy mouth. But if it does appear, it can be linked to a dental condition called periodontitis. This serious and progressive disease can affect your mouth’s tissues and the alveolar bone that is supporting the teeth. If periodontitis will be left untreated, it can start tooth problems that could lead to tooth loss.
Causes of Bacteria in the Mouth
Different types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi can be collected by your oral cavity. Most of them are needed to be there to make up the standard flora of your mouth. If they come in small quantities, they can be harmless. But if you are one of those people who loves sweet and enjoy every bite of cakes and chocolates, you in increasing the number of bacteria that produces acid. When there is a high amount of acid inside your mouth, your tooth enamel can be dissolved easily and this will lead to dental cavities.
There is a long list of causes of bacteria in the mouth. But the most common are:
- poor oral care
- high consumption of foods rich in sugar
- medications that decrease the amount of saliva inside the mouth
- genetics or family history
- infections like AIDS or HIV
- hormonal changes
- heartburn or acid reflux
When one or more of these causes are present in your lifestyle, your mouth may be a home for many bacteria and you are at a high risk to develop different mouth diseases.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Bacteria in the Mouth
To determine whether you have dental and/or oral problems, your dentist will conduct a dental examination. During this examination, your dentist will closely check the following:
Some of the steps that your dentist might do are:
- to get a more accurate diagnosis, your dentist may need to scrape your teeth using some dental tools or instrument
- the dental clinic’s technician might conduct X-rays for your mouth so you can see a better image of your teeth. You need to inform your dentist if you are pregnant since X-rays must not be done with pregnant women.
- a probe is a tool that will be used by your dentist to measure the gum pockets. This tool will help in determining whether you have a receding gum or gum disease.
- when your dentist can find abnormal lumps, lesions, or growths inside your mouth, she may recommend performing a gum biopsy. To conduct the biopsy, your dentist will extract a small amount of tissue from the lumps and it will be sent to a laboratory to undergo a microscopic examination. This way, your dentist can determine if there is a presence of cancerous cells.
In those cases where a patient is suspected of oral cancer, imaging tests may be recommended by the dentist to see if the cancer cells have spread to the other part of the body such as throat and nose. The included tests are:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
Treatment for Oral and Dental Problems
Taking good care of your teeth is not enough if you want to keep it healthy. You will need to undergo professional cleaning and it must be done twice a year. A regular appointment with your dentist can help prevent the possibility of mouth disease. If your dentist can see the signs at the early stage, she can recommend necessary treatments that will relieve your dental problem.
How to Minimize Bacteria in the Mouth
Once the oral bacteria have stayed inside your mouth, you cannot get rid of them on your own. But there are possible ways to manage and control their numbers. Good oral care can stop the increase of the bacteria. As much as possible, brush your mouth every after meal and floss at least once every day so you can remove the remaining foods in your mouth. You can use an antibacterial mouthwash to boost the effectiveness of your oral care.
Your diet can also help in managing and controlling the number of bacteria in the mouth. You need to avoid eating sugary and starchy foods since they are the main foods of harmful bacteria. It is advised that you consume foods that can help in keeping your mouth and teeth healthy.
Risks of Having Bacteria in the Mouth
There are many risks when it comes to bacteria in the mouth. When you leave this bacteria untreated, it can be the cause of gum disease, tooth decay, viruses, and other mouth infections. There are infections that can be avoided with good oral care and could only last for days. But there are other dental conditions that can be more serious and they can last longer.
1. Dental Caries
Aside from being the most common oral infection, dental caries is the number one result of tooth decay. This condition is common for children under 12 years old and it tops the causes of tooth loss. Dental caries happens because of the presence of bacteria called Streptococcus mutans.
Gingivitis is a medical term that is used to address the early stage of gum disease. There are various species of bacteria that can cause gingivitis. This means that if you have this oral condition, your mouth may be housing different types of bacteria. Due to the toxins produced by these bacteria, your gums will show reactions such as swelling and inflammation and can lead to bleeding when you are brushing your teeth.
3. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
This oral condition is common with toddlers and school-aged children. Hand, foot, and mouth disease will start with sore throat and fever that will last up to 2 days. Then after this, you will find painful blisters on the cheeks and inside the tongue of the child. Other parts of the body such as soles, buttocks, and palms can also have these blisters. This infection often lasts 3 days and will eventually disappear.
This oral disease is related to hand, foot, and mouth disease and is a common infection to children between 3 to 10 years old. Herpangina usually happens during fall and summer. The primary symptoms of this infection are sore throat, fever, and difficulty with swallowing. Herpangina is a condition that can last between 3 to 5 days.
Candida albicans is a naturally occurring fungus inside a human mouth. But if this fungus increases, it can cause an oral infection called trush. Treatments of trush may include antibiotics and chemotherapy, and this infection is common to people who have HIV.
6. Canker Sores
This is a lesion that can be formed on your gums or other mouth tissues. They are called aphthous ulcers and common in both children and adolescents. There are no clear causes of canker sores. But immune problems, hormones, and stress can trigger this condition.
When to Seek Medical Attention
This is the best time to evaluate your oral hygiene and determine whether you are doing your best to keep your mouth healthy. If you find the need to change your lifestyle, you must be ready to do it. Brush your teeth and tongue more often, start using dental floss and antibacterial mouthwash, establish a diet that is good for your oral health, and drink plenty of water.
If you find any problem with your oral health, you have to set an appointment with your dentist immediately so you will know your real problem and undergo the needed treatment. If your dentist can see a more serious condition aside from oral infections, she may ask you to talk to a specialist or physician.