Scientists have found over 700 different species of bacteria living in human mouths.
Don’t panic just yet. Spit out that bar of soap and we can talk this through.
While it’s true that a single 10-second kiss might transfer as many as 80 million bacteria to your mouth, what really matters are which bacteria are being shared.
The vast majority of oral bacteria are harmless. They’re just looking for a nice, comfy place to live, and they’re too polite to cause any damage. Some of them are even beneficial, playing a vital role in promoting healthy teeth and digestion.
Don’t relax just yet, though -- even a small minority of harmful bacteria can cause major problems with your smile. What’s worse, it’s the worst offenders that are also the most contagious.
The Worst Offenders:
Streptococcus mutans is the strain of bacteria that makes virtually all of the other oral infestations look like Boy Scouts by comparison. These guys are relentless, camping out in the cracks and crevices of your teeth, gobbling down carbohydrates in your food and churning out tooth-dissolving acid.
You know those fuzzy “sweaters” on your teeth that appear when it’s been a bit too long since your last brushing session? That’s what we in the dental health biz call “plaque film,” and it’s basically an enormous housing complex for bad bacteria. Strepococcus mutans are the primary culprits in laying it down.
The worst news of all is that the standard “brushing and flossing” advice will do comparatively little to protect your smile from these icky invaders. You can scrub away the plaque, but that does relatively little to rid your mouth of the bacteria creating it in the first place. You can tell by the way the plaque keeps coming back.
If you’ve been a diligent brusher and still find yourself with the occasional cavity (or worse!), there’s a good chance it’s because you’re not taking the right steps to combat the Streptococcus mutans invading your smile.
This oral health menace doesn’t usually hang around in a healthy mouth, but when this particular strain does show up, it’s been heavily linked to periodontitis.
If that word periodontitis is making you nervous, than you’ve got good instincts. It’s a serious disease that’s not only terribly painful, but can lead to the permanent loss of teeth.
Periodontitis starts in the gums, weakening the bone and tissue supports for your teeth. It wears away at your support structures for your teeth, leading to pain and the loosening or even loss of teeth.
What’s In Your Mouth Matters - And Not Just For Your Smile
You may think of your mouth as being “inside” your body, but the truth is that your mouth has more contact with the outside world than any other part of your body except for your hands.
Generally speaking, your body’s natural defenses do a great job protecting your body from invaders. However, mouth sores, oral infections, and even a poorly-timed dental procedure can give harmful infectious bacteria an on-ramp into your bloodstream, and from there they can spread to just about anywhere in your body. Oral bacteria have been found responsible for infections in the lungs, eyes, and even heart attacks, to name just a few.
Most of the time, this kind of infection is slowed down or stopped by your body’s natural immune systems. However, if your defenders against bacterial invaders happen to be slow on the draw one day, these harmful bacteria in your mouth can find a hidey-hole somewhere to settle down and multiply, causing infections and permanent damage to your liver, kidneys, bones, lungs, and even your brain.
That’s where the plaqye film comes in - it’s the perfect little hidey-hole for these delinquents.
If you’re regularly feeling plaque on your teeth, it means you’re living with cavity-causing oral bacteria.
Brushing your teeth is great at getting rid of plaque buildup, but it’s at best an incomplete solution. Why? Because brushing does relatively little to rid your mouth of the harmful bacteria that create plaque and cause cavities.