You can’t see them, taste them, or feel them, but you can’t live without them. Give up?
No, it’s not Starbucks points. It’s bacteria. Bacteria are everywhere, but you might be surprised to learn about how many you carry around in your mouth every day. Yes! That same mouth you eat and drink with and use to kiss your significant other and kids.
How dirty is a human mouth? Do you need to worry about what all those bacteria bacilli are up to?
Some of my best friends are bacteria!
Bacteria love warm, wet places, so the human mouth is the perfect breeding ground for them.
There are between 700 to 1000 different types of bacteria that typically make themselves at home in your mouth. Although many of these are harmless, that’s still a lot of potentially harmful bacilli which are looking to set up camp and possibly harm your oral and overall health.
Cavities and gum disease are both caused by the build-up of harmful bacteria in the mouth. Furthermore, dangerous conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes have been tied to inflammation that starts with the bacteria in the mouth.
But, not all bacteria is bad! We need some of these bacteria (probiotics) to aid in digesting our food and to keep fungus in check.
Fun Fact: Have you heard that a human’s mouth is actually dirtier than a dog’s mouth? Is that true or just an urban myth? Actually, both are pretty germ-filled places! But because bacteria are specific to each species, a kiss from you can do more harm to another person than a big, wet one from your dog. Your germs will feel right at home and move right in, while the majority of the doggie germs will be left out in the cold.
How Dirty is Human Saliva?
Beyond being kind of yucky and embarrassing when you drool on your pillow at night, saliva is a good thing. It is mostly made of water and is used by your body to digest food and protect the health of your teeth and gums.
There are four common bacteria found in human saliva, and some of them are harmful:
- Staphylococcus epidermidis & Staphylococcus aureus – This one can often cause infection in those who have compromised immune function, but in general, it is not a major problem causer
- Streptococcus – This is the devil that turns sugar into harmful acids, which dissolve your tooths enamel and cause tooth decay
- Lactobacillus – The names of these just keep getting worse and harder to understand, and the truth is… they are as horrible as they sound. This one, in particular, transforms into lactic acid, which causes cavities and tooth decay
- Coli – You were warned that these would get worse. This spicy little number is usually prevalent in the intestines, but a small number have been found in the mouth and function as a potential pathogen
Keeping Your Mouth Clean
We learned not all bacteria is the same. Some are good, and some are bad. The trick is keeping the right balance between the two!
The tried and true way to keep the harmful bacteria within your mouth from negatively impacting your oral and whole body health starts with the basics:
- Brush after each meal
- Floss morning and evening
- Use antiseptic mouthwash
- Keep regular scheduled checkups and cleanings with your dentist in Longmont, CO
- Eat a healthy diet with a good variety of nuts, fruits, and vegetables
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2016 and has been completely revamped for comprehensiveness and timeliness.