What You Need to Know About the Biofilm in Your Mouth
You probably know that plaque is the precursor to tartar in your mouth. Tartar is what happens when the plaque calcifies, drawing minerals out of your saliva to form a crystallized structure. But did you know that the precursor to problematic plaque is called biofilm? This biofilm covers all your teeth each day. Here's what you need to know about it.
- It's Made of Bacteria That Communicate
Bacteria don't really have language like humans, but they have a limited form of communication called quorum sensing. This typically only works when enough bacteria are together in a small enough area (hence the word quorum).
Quorum sensing works by using chemical signaling, and this lets bacteria engage in coordinated behavior rather than every-bacterium-for-itself. This is important because one bacterium by itself can't create plaque on your teeth. But because of quorum sensing, bacteria are able to coordinate their movements and form colonies.
- Diet Can Influence the Bacterial Balance
You've heard that sugar is bad for your teeth because it feeds bad bacteria. The same is true for refined starches and any other high-carbohydrate foods. How many of these foods you eat, as well as how you eat them and when, can affect the microbiome in your mouth.
If you think about each bite as producing a meal for these bacteria that allows them to attack your teeth with acid for about 20 minutes, you can see why frequent snacking on such foods could be problematic. If you must eat a snack, eating it all at once is best. This gives bad bacteria fewer chances to proliferate, creating acids and crowding out more beneficial species.
- It's Not All Bad
Biofilm may sound like a negative thing since it means a layer of bacteria on your teeth. However, some biofilms are more harmful than others are. This really depends a lot on the types of bacteria present.
Many bacteria in your mouth are beneficial, and the structure that supports a biofilm actually comes from your saliva. Saliva proteins form a layer over your tooth surface called a pellicle, which is what bacteria hang on to form a colony. So the important thing is to encourage non-pathogenic bacteria to proliferate here, rather than acid-forming bacteria.
If the biofilm is thin, alkaline, and made up of beneficial or benign bacteria, the biofilm not necessarily a bad thing. It can even act beneficially to partially shield enamel from acids in food. Problems typically arise when pathogenic bacteria move in and build up structures to protect them from your saliva, then start to produce acids and eat away at your enamel.
- Some Products Can Reduce Plaque Formation
A variety of methods reduce plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth. Oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) is a huge one, along with periodic professional cleanings. But minimizing the amount and thickness of plaque that forms can make removing what does show up more effective. Xylitol helps by making it harder for bad bacteria to form a biofilm.
Many products on the market today claim to help reduce buildup in the first place so you have less plaque to clean off when brushing your teeth.
Some products, for example, may help to disrupt quorum sensing so that pathogenic bacteria can't build their plaque and tartar structures as quickly and effectively. Two natural substances that may help disrupt quorum sensing include turmeric (or, more specifically, the curcumin in the turmeric) and clove.
Additionally, toothpaste with arginine in it may help to feed alkalinity-loving bacteria in your mouth, tipping the balance in the biofilm away from plaque-forming and acid-producing bacteria.
As you can see, this is not as simple as just scrubbing away every bacterium in your mouth and taking regular swigs of antibacterial mouthwash. Your mouth is a complicated place, but the good news is that not all the bacteria are bad.
Reprint FrisingerDental.com Author Unknown