Whenever I think of bacteria, I think of those super-magnified pictures we see of microscopic organisms that look like little bugs. I don’t like bugs of any size. Fortunately, I don’t have any such pictures to go along with my article, today, but if what I’m about to tell you creeps you out—even without the pictures—I’m afraid there’s not much I can do about that. The truth isn’t pretty.
There are between 10 and 15 billion (that’s ‘billion’ – with a ‘b’) bacteria from over 600 bacterial species present in your mouth at any given time. The variety, type, and amount of bacteria vary from person to person meaning no one person has the exact same bacterial conditions as someone else. Think of it as your own personal oral-bacterial fingerprint – now don’t you feel special?
Bad Mouth Bacteria
While there is good and bad bacteria, most bacteria in the mouth is considered harmful. It is when the good bacteria is overrun with bad bacteria that bad things like cavities, gum disease, periodontal disease, bad breath, and abscesses. The sides, tip, and top of the tongue, cheek, palette, teeth, and gums all carry a different variety of bacteria.
But, as we have seen in my article, “Gum Disease and Other Health Conditions,” bad dental bacteria have been found to adversely affect other organs and systems if the bacteria spreads. Neisseria (syphilis), treponema (gonorrhea), and Yersinia (associated with fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and implicated in reactive arthritis) are just some of the types of bacteria in your mouth. No one knows yet how the presence of these bacteria affects the development of other conditions.
A couple of mouth-specific bacteria have also been found in the plaque clogging arteries.
Good Mouth Bacteria
On the good side, scientists have discovered three types of bacteria that reside on the tongue that are believed to be responsible for fresh breath. It is also known that certain foods that stimulate saliva production (eg: cheese) can help fight the bad bacteria that causes cavities.