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The Backstory on Biofilm

If you were ever grossed out by the idea of eating yogurt because it's pretty much a tub full of bacteria and other micro-organisms - get this: your mouth houses at least 700 different species of bacteria. You're welcome :D :D :D

You may be familiar with 'biofilm'. Even if you've never heard of it, you might have encountered it:

  • The 'slime' on rocks by the ocean

  • The 'slime' inside of your drain pipes

  • And the plaque on your teeth

Biofilm is basically a collection of living micro-organisms that often grow and thrive in warm, moist areas. Not all of the bacteria are bad - but with respect to your oral health, some can definitely contribute to inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), bad breath, and cavities. The good guys are collectively known as 'probiotics' and not only do they combat these issues of inflammation, halitosis and decay, but they can also protect against yeast/fungal overgrowths like candidiasis (aka oral thrush) as well as kick-start the digestive process.

Which means that if we want to achieve good oral health, it's a good idea to minimize or control the organisms causing dental problems and at the same time, try and support your probiotics.

Read on for some of our top tips:

  • Brush and Floss twice daily - for two minutes each time. We know, we know - we say this a lot...but we only do it because if you're effectively brushing and flossing with good technique, it really works to protect your teeth and gums. And it doesn't matter so much whether you're using a manual brush or an electric one - what matters is that you pay attention to the gum line, to every single tooth and the spaces in between each tooth. Daily hygiene rituals will help to prevent build-up of biofilm - which sticks to your teeth as plaque. And if you don't get the plaque at this point, it can irritate the gums to cause inflammation and when the bacterial cultures gobble up sugars that you consume, it releases acid that can cause decay. Then, if you leave the plaque on your teeth long enough, it starts to harden into tartar or calculus and at this point, you will not be able to get rid of it without a professional (i.e. Try our team of dental professionals)!

  • You may want to consider staying away from anti-bacterial toothpastes though. One reason is that they aren't very selective as to which bacteria they kill, so by using them, you're killing the good guys as well. On a much more serious note and on a much larger scale of impact, they might also be encouraging the evolution of superbugs - anti-biotic resistant strains of bacteria. Read about that here.

  • For the spots you missed (with your oral care at home) as well as the hard, stuck-on tartar/calculus, follow up with routine hygiene visits at our office so that we can remove the bad guys - before a small problem turns serious. And stick to the schedule recommended by your dental provider - depending on how susceptible you are to gum disease, decay, etc, you may need to come more (or less) frequently than your kids/spouse/neighbour/etc. Every person is different, so we all have slightly differing needs.

  • Limit the consumption of sugary foods. And if you have sugary/starchy foods, make sure to rinse your mouth out with water afterwards. Sugars that sit on your teeth are eaten by the bad bacteria, which release acids that damage your teeth (as mentioned earlier)!

  • Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper. This can effectively get rid of a lot of the bacteria living there - remember, your tongue isn't a flat surface and microorganisms can be living in those nooks and crannies.

  • Remember to change to a new toothbrush - at least every 3 months or whenever the bristles wear out and whenever you get sick. Like with your mouth, biofilm collects onto your brush and especially if you get sick, the bad bacteria can reproduce and make you sick again. Check out the study on that here. In addition to that, if you store your brush near the toilet, near your family's toothbrushes, or it is touched by someone with contaminated hands, there's a risk for bad bacteria to mingle and some of it to be pathogenic to you. People aren't born with the microorganisms that cause gum disease - but they can be passed on by sharing eating utensils or toothbrushes.

  • Consume fermented, probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt (:D), kefir, miso - basically, all the good foods that have happy bacteria. Please note, many ferments are acidic - so remember to take a good rinse of your mouth with water after eating. Also consume pre-biotic-rich foods, which help feed your good bacteria. Think of getting foods like sunchoke, garlic, onion, asparagus and banana.

  • Drink tea - the catechins and polyphenols may help to control populations of cavity-causing bacteria - which means less bad bacteria in your biofilm. Read more about that here! According to that same study, the tea may also inhibit the production of acids that also harm teeth. So, that's definitely a win-win!

  • If you already have a condition like bad breath, periodontal disease, or cavities, etc, make sure to book your examination with our team of dentists so that we can either resolve the issue completely, get you back on track or help you take action to prevent the conditions from getting worse.

Even though you can't really see the biofilm in your mouth because it's a clear coating, it's in your best interest to have the bad bacteria under control so that your health-supporting probiotics thrive. Since health and disease can't just be isolated to your mouth, there's always a potential of problems exacerbating and being a systemic issue in your body. For example, there are studies which suggest a link between gum disease and diabetes, gum disease and Alzheimer's disease, poor oral health and heart health - so biofilm is just one layer to consider, when looking to improve your oral health, as well as your overall health.


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