Did you know your mouth is home to a variety of bacteria? Although the thought might make you cringe, not all species are bad. Your mouth relies on a balance between different bacteria to stay healthy. Researchers have painstakingly studied oral bacteria to determine how many are present in the mouth at any given time to develop a strategy to neutralize those that are detrimental to dental health. Here’s what you need to know about limiting the growth rate of bad bacteria to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
How Many Bacteria are in My Mouth?
Every surface in your mouth hosts bacteria, including your teeth, gums, tongue, and cheeks. With such an abundance of bacteria, researchers had to develop a unique method to count the number of species and their rate of growth. Scientist Dr. Walter Loesche created a harvesting method to learn more about the microbes and found there are between 500 to 600 species in the mouth.
Researchers collected plaque from every tooth surface and discovered each to have an approximate weight of 10 mg. Since the teeth only comprise about 1/20 of all oral surfaces, they used a simple math equation to find the biomass. With every 1 mg of biomass containing an estimated 100 microbes, they were able to multiply the number of each one by 20. As a result, they concluded there are about 20 million microbes in the mouth.
How Fast Does Bacteria Grow?
Researchers know each species of bacteria has various growth rates. It was previously determined some can double in number within 20 minutes if the environment is ideal. To find average bacteria levels in the mouth, they considered certain factors that can affect the rate of growth, such as swallowing or drinking a glass of water, which can cleanse the mouth. Researchers concluded some bacteria can double in number as much as 5 times in 24 hours.
How Can Bacteria Growth Be Controlled?
To keep harmful oral bacteria at bay, committing to your oral hygiene is crucial. The American Dental Association recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothbrush to clean the teeth at least twice a day. Clean all surfaces of your teeth and tongue for at least two minutes each session. Nightly flossing is recommended to remove bacteria left behind by your toothbrush. An antimicrobial mouthrise can also kill any lingering bacteria.
Promote a Healthy Smile
Besides committing to your oral hygiene at home, don’t forget to visit your dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning and checkup. They will remove any tartar buildup that can harbor bacteria. Your dentist will also monitor your oral health to look for any issue bacteria might have caused, like tooth decay or gum disease.