I speak about it quite a bit in videos and on socials, but what exactly is the oral microbiome?
The oral microbiome is the collection of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa, that inhabit the mouth. These microorganisms interact with each other and with the human body in complex ways, influencing oral health and contributing to overall health.
The mouth is the entry point for food and drink, and it is constantly exposed to a variety of environmental factors such as temperature, pH, and the presence of different substances. The oral microbiome plays an important role in protecting us from harmful microorganisms, aiding in digestion and the absorption of nutrients, and maintaining a healthy balance of microorganisms in the mouth.
It can be divided into two groups: the resident microbiome and the transient microbiome. The resident microbiome consists of microorganisms that are adapted to live in the mouth, such as Streptococcus mutans, which is responsible for dental caries (these cause cavities, tooth decay etc). The transient microbiome consists of microorganisms that are present in the mouth temporarily, such as those introduced through food or drink.
The oral microbiome also plays a key role in the development of oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease. When the balance of microorganisms in the mouth is disrupted, harmful microorganisms can proliferate, leading to dental caries or periodontitis, which can result in tooth loss if left untreated.
Maintaining a healthy oral microbiome is important for overall health. Good oral hygiene practices such as brushing, flossing, using interdentals and tongue scrapers can help to remove harmful bacteria from the mouth and prevent the development of dental diseases. Eating a balanced diet and avoiding sugary and acidic foods can also help to promote a healthy oral microbiome.
Additionally, regular dental checkups and cleanings can help to identify and treat any oral health problems before they become more serious.
The oral microbiome can get damaged in several ways, including:
- Poor oral hygiene: Inadequate brushing and flossing can lead to the buildup of bacteria in the mouth, which can disrupt the balance of the oral microbiome.
- Unhealthy diet: A diet high in sugar and processed foods can promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, while a diet rich in fiber and whole foods can support the growth of beneficial bacteria.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics can kill off both harmful and beneficial bacteria in the mouth, leading to an imbalance in the oral microbiome – however, I’d like to point out that antibiotics are needed in very many cases in order for us to heal and rid ourselves of infection.
- Smoking: Smoking can damage the tissues in the mouth and disrupt the balance of the oral microbiome.
- Alcohol: Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to a decrease in the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the mouth.
- Certain medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as diabetes and autoimmune disorders, can affect the balance of the oral microbiome.
Overall it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene habits and a healthy lifestyle to promote a healthy oral microbiome.