Tooth decay and microbes

Teeth problems? It’s not the cakes, bakes and biscuits… It’s all about your microbes

Bleeding mouth, plaque overload, receding gums, sensitive teeth? Join the 70% of us that will – or are already - suffering from periodontal problems. On average we each have around 500-600 different bacteria multiplying happily inside our mouths, behind the closed wall of our lips. Only 10% of those, however, are harmful to us in anyway, and only three, based on scientific research, are linked to more serious teeth issues.

Streptococcus mutans is the worst of that bunch, which feeds on the residual food matter that gets stuck between your teeth after you have eaten. It thrives on any sort of sugar, natural or processed, and excretes a form of lactic acid that destroys the enamel that protects and strengthens the tooth’s outer wall.

Tooth problems are not down simply to the effects of sugar. Sugar is a secondary problem. The number one slot goes to the bacteria themselves, the rogue invaders breaking down the enamel on your teeth and destroying your gums in the process. It really is that simple. Control the number of bacteria and you will sort many of your teeth related issues.

Bacteria and their biofilm

What is a biofilm? And why do we not hear more about it when it seems to be THE key to successful dental hygiene. Even the word ‘biofilm’ sounds like something out of a horror movie. A thin slimy coating of invisible slickness that covers all of your teeth, inhabited by billions, if not trillions, of minuscule invaders. Multiplying daily. Fed by sugars.

We tend to take the state of our mouths entirely for granted - and yet we really shouldn’t. Treponema denticola and Porphyromonas gingivalis are the harmful bacteria that inflame your gums: causing them to recede, exposing the bone and connective tissue that hold your teeth firmly in place and finally attacking the nerves deep inside. Lift up your upper lip and look closely. It’s not something we tend to do and you may be in for something of a surprise. Possibly not a nice one. Are your gums red or swollen? Do they bleed when you brush them at night? Are parts of your teeth that used to be nicely covered by the gum now on show? Wobbly teeth? You may have periodontal problems that need serious sorting.

‘Brush better; floss more’ is usually the cry of your frustrated dentist

Who amongst us has seriously lasted longer than a day or two, however good the initial intentions? Tooth hygiene is simply not fun and takes up far too much time spent more happily digging in the garden, hanging out with friends or catching up with Instagram or Facebook posts.

But tooth decay is a sign your mouth is under attack. And those bacterial marauders don’t play fair. It’s all-out war, not mutual side by side cohabiting, and unless you pay attention, in the long run you don’t stand much of a chance.

So what to do?

Dental Don’ts

Don’t use fluoride: Tempted by the smiling pretty dentist on the TV ad? Please don’t invest in a fluoride filled toothpaste brand owned by one of the ’bought up the world’ household names that seem to have an advertising budget the size of Brazil. As she tells you it will strengthen your enamel and whiten your teeth, alongside a whole host of other miraculous benefits, be wary. Fluoride is a known carcinogen, and the very last thing you should be putting into your mouth on a daily basis, let alone twice a day, every time you brush your teeth. It is highly toxic: to your brain, your kidneys, your bones, your thyroid and your pineal gland.

Mull over the mouthwash issue: Please read the label, and remember that everything you put in your mouth moves rapidly into your bloodstream. Commercial mouthwashes are full of chemicals, and some of them, Listerine in particular, of alcohol that dries out your mouth, allowing the entrenched bacteria to multiply exponentially.

Brush softer: Too abrasive with that toothbrush and you can damage your gums even further. Brush carefully, slowly and thoroughly. Each of your 32 teeth has five sides to focus on with brushing and flossing – front, back, sides and upper surface. Don’t miss half of it by skimming over the surface and missing the trickier to access areas.

Dental Do’s:

Microbe control is the only answer... There is no doubt about it. If you want happy, healthy teeth into your older years, you simply have to spend the time, and brush each and every tooth regularly each and every day. Consider that you have entire colonies of bacteria overrunning your mouth. Crowd control is what it’s all about. Make dental hygiene a daily habit and spend 5 minutes or more ‘toothbrush time’ to keep their numbers well in check.

1 Tongue scrape: First thing in the morning, before you swallow down the night’s bacteria build up with a glass of water or a cup of tea, get tongue scraping. The white film that sits on top of your tongue is filled with bacteria. Spend at least 30 seconds scraping, and spit it out. Don’t swallow it down.

2 Get brushing: Your toothbrush is your number one tool for sabotaging that biofilm. It takes at least two minutes to clean all the surfaces of your teeth thoroughly and correctly. Not too hard – even a soft pressure will do the job. And make sure it’s the last thing you do at night.

3 Buy a sonic toothbrush: These are electric toothbrushes that give off transonic waves which wipe out the fimbria, the tiny filaments that microbes use to attach to the enamel of your teeth. Phillips Sonicare and Braun make good quality products.

4 Floss, floss, floss! Take another minute each day to clean out those difficult to reach areas between your teeth. Reduce the opportunity for a bacteria sugar feast.

5 Invest in an air irrigator: This is the most fun you can have with tooth cleaning. It’s basically flossing with water and air and it’s quick, easy and thoroughly satisfying. Aim the waterjet between your teeth rather than at the gum. Work your way round each tooth and the whole procedure should take you less than a minute. Phillips Sonicare again, and Viajet Pro Irrigator has add-on heads that can be used to clean out those hard to reach pockets.

6 Find the right toothpaste: It doesn’t seem to make logical sense to have the sugar substitute Xylitol in a toothpaste that’s meant to protect you against – sugars! But science shows otherwise. Jannesson (2002) found that over a six month period, using a 10% Xlylitol content toothpaste reduced the levels of cavity-forming bacteria in test subjects' saliva and plaque. Unlike ‘real’ sugar, xylitol isn't converted in the mouth to the acids that eat away at your enamel.

7 Add in a herbal dental powder or mouthwash: Oregano oil has been shown to help with bacterial crowd control. Add two teaspoons to some warm water and rinse. It’s that simple! Oregawash is 100% natural and made from a combination of oregano oil and mastic from Chios in Greece. It is an alcohol and fluoride-free mouthwash with no artificial flavours, chemicals or colouring. Add in the right nutrients too and you can stave off gum disease. Good Gums’ Natural is a specially formulated powder that helps keep your teeth and gums healthy. Dental Miracle in its bright green pot is another 100% natural clean teeth, healthy gums, fresh breath powder to use after brushing.

8 Get salivating: Did you know that on an average day you produce nearly two litres of saliva? The more saliva you have in your mouth, the safer your teeth will be. Saliva is anti-bacterial and protects against tooth decay, gum disease and infection, as well as against that daily onslaught of food triggered acidity that helps your mouth bacteria to flourish. Find the foods that get your mouth juices going and up your saliva levels.


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Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's leading breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health. 

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