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Your mouth: home to billions

As a diligent tooth-brusher and dental patient, you no doubt already know that most of our dental woes are caused by bacteria, but have you ever stopped to wonder exactly how many bacteria there are living in your mouth?

Well a scientist called Dr Walter Loesche from the University of Michigan, USA, did. Researchers harvested the plaque from every single tooth (which is only some of the areas that plaque grows on). The harvest weighed 10 micro-grammes. Multiply that by 20 to get the biomass for your entire mouth – your tongue, cheeks, and so on. One micro-gramme of this biomass contains about 100 million microbes, of which there are 500-650 different species.

Inside your mouth, there are about 20 billion microbes happily eking out an existence in what scientists have termed the oral microbiome. It sounds crowded in there, but don’t panic. You are not about to choke on oral microbes.

Every time you swallow your saliva, you swallow microbes too, and you swallow about 1 litre of saliva every day. So, even though, in ideal conditions, your oral microbes are dividing every 20 minutes, you swallow about 100 million of them with every 1000th of a litre of saliva.

Of course, bacteria don’t want to go to a watery death in your digestive system, which is why they have developed strategies to stay in your mouth for as long as possible. By clinging onto the surface of your teeth in a sticky film known as plaque for example. Great for them, not so great for your teeth.

The bacteria in plaque give off acids as they feed on the sugars in your mouth. These acids are pretty concentrated when they appear (although they do get diluted by your saliva) and this eats into your dental enamel and also irritates and inflames your gums.

At De-ientes Dental, your dentist in Golders Green, we see what happens when people ignore plaque, and don’t come to the dentist for regular check-ups and deep cleans with the hygienist.

You can’t ever stop plaque from being there, but you can help keep it in check with regular brushing and avoiding high sugar foods.

See you at your next check-up!


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