3 Science-Based Facts About Oral Bacteria 

Bacteria are present throughout the body, and new research shows a diversity of oral microbiomes that plays many roles for the health of teeth, gums, and mouth. Bacteria often have strong biogeography – that is, some bacteria are abundant in specific locations while absent from others — yet when applying microbiology to therapeutics or probiotics it’s important for the right bacteria to be in the right place so it can help mouth health. Many dentists, such as this Ottawa downtown dentist, are focusing on new treatments with the new findings. Here are three solid scientific facts we know about this microbiome.

  1.     There Is Impressive Variability In Oral Bacterial Subpopulations

The mouth has many subpopulations of bacteria that do many things. In a new study published in Genome Biology, researchers at Harvard University examined the human oral microbiome and were surprised at the variability in bacterial subpopulations occupying certain areas of the mouth. 

“As microbial ecologists, we are fascinated by how bacteria can seemingly divide up any habitat into various niches, but as humans ourselves, we also have this innate curiosity about how microbes pattern themselves within our bodies,” said lead author Daniel R. Utter, PhD candidate in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University. The mouth contains a surprising number of site-specific microbes in different areas. For example, the microbes found on the tongue are different from the microbes found on the plaque of teeth. “Your tongue microbes are more similar to those living on someone else’s tongue than they are to those living in your throat or on your gums!” said A. Murat Eren, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago. “The mouth is so easily accessible that people have been working on bacteria from the mouth for a long time,” said co-author Jessica Mark Welch, associate scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory. In the future, understanding the microbiome will help develop better gum and teeth health.

  1.     Genes Affect The Biome And Immune System

Our genes determine partially which bacteria live in our bodies. Studies on humans and research with animals have confirmed that our microbiome is partly hereditary. Another association was found with variants of the C-type lectin genes. These genes code for receptors that recognize different types of bacteria and fungi, and they guide the immune response to these microorganisms. Since the receptors are part of the innate immune system, we better understand how the immune system reacts to gum and tooth disease.

  1.     The Oral Biome Affects Overall Health

“Every time you swallow, you are seeding your gastrointestinal tract with bacteria, fungi, and viruses from your mouth—140 billion per day, to be exact,” says Cass Nelson-Dooley, MS, an ethnopharmacologist who has studied the oral microbiome. This is one reason that the high occurrences of oral diseases like cavities or gum disease is sometimes considered a confusing disease, because oral issues weren’t common in historical times before the modern diet emerged.

The mouth has a variety of micro-environments that host a myriad of bacterial populations. Current research is paving the way for new ways for dentists to treat mouth and gum diseases, and it all has to do with understanding the microbiome.