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Your Mouth on Bacteria

By Jill Feilmeier on April 4, 2013 in Dental Health

Dentist working on a child

You have more than 600 species of bacteria in your mouth! That's right – 600!

Yep, it sounds awful, but don't panic. Most of the bacteria are harmless and some are even good for you.

Keep in mind, I say MOST. Some bacterial species – Streptococcus mutans in particular – are responsible for tooth decay. The decay-causing bacteria mix with saliva to form a sticky, naturally occurring film, called plaque. The bacteria form acids, which become part of the plaque layer. If that plaque isn't removed, the acid dissolves the tooth's enamel and this is what leads to cavities.

When it comes to tooth loss, the primary culprits are decay and periodontal disease. Tooth decay, the gradual breakdown of the tooth's enamel and interior tissue, can cause cavities and, eventually, the death of a tooth. Gum disease attacks gum tissue, ligaments, and bone that support the teeth. Both of these conditions happen when the growth of bacteria is not controlled.

Most of us can keep bacteria in check with simple home care. But some people have less resistance to oral bacteria. You might have gum disease despite your preventive efforts. If that's the case, a dentist can come up with treatment options for you.

Keep your bacteria at bay. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss once a day and replace your toothbrush about once every three months. These simple steps will help you win the battle against tooth decay!