NPR Podcast Explores Mouth Bacteria
**This post summarizes an NPR podcast: Researchers Explore Bacteria
This podcast discusses microscopic ecology – specifically, how the bacteria in the mouth affect the future of ones teeth, i.e., whether the teeth will fall out or stay pearly white. It is an important field of research that will help people and dentists to determine how to best take care of their teeth.
What Has Been Learned About the Bacteria So Far
There are ten to fifteen million bacteria present in the mouth, with seventy-five to one hundred different species of bacteria. In the past, it has been hard to study the bacteria, because typically the bacteria die once outside the body. However, new revolutions in science and genetics have allowed scientists to more thoroughly study these bacteria.
Scientists now know that the different species of bacteria congregate in different areas of the mouth. For example, there is a certain species that centers at the sides of the tongue and others that stay between the teeth and the gums, in the “gingival pocket.” The gingival pocket has many different types of bacteria, in different shapes and sizes, that move at different speeds. Each type of bacteria performs a different function, which can have positive or negative consequences for the teeth and gums.
The ones that scientists believe we should worry about are the fast-moving bacteria shaped like corkscrews and propellers (other bacteria are shaped like rods or are round “cocci”). These “bad” bacteria, if they can find a place to attach inside the mouth, can rot out one’s gums and teeth. The interesting finding that scientists have discovered, however, is that, in people with healthy mouth ecosystems, the “bad” bacteria cannot find a way to attach inside the mouth, because the healthy mouth is shielded by a “thick forest of [other types of] bacteria.”
How We Can Apply What We’ve Learned
These findings about mouth bacteria are very interesting in that scientists can use them to help dentists and regular individuals promote better oral hygiene. They can also use their methods to study the microscopic ecologies of other parts of the body, for example, in the nose, on the skin, and in the gut (i.e., stomach and intestines). All of these studies will center on how to promote healthier ecosystems in the body and how, if possible and helpful, to inject the healthy bacteria in the mouth and body to maintain good health and prevent disease.
Dr. Coleman is a leading cosmetic dentist in the United States, as well as an international lecturer in dental techniques and technology. With a great sense of humor and a sense of compassion for others, Dr. Coleman takes pride in improving the lives and smiles of his patients. To learn more about Dr. Coleman or his practice, visit his Facebook and Twitter pages!