A Moment of Science

Bacteria Loves Your Mouth

Did you know that there could be more bacteria living in your mouth than there are people on earth?

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Photo: Toni Blay (Flickr)

Take good care of your teeth and you won't have any cavity-related problems.

Did you know that there could be more bacteria living in your mouth than there are people on earth?

Bacteria Making Home

Bacteria love our mouths because the livin’ is easy–there’s plenty of food and water, and a fairly constant temperature of 95 degrees. The vast majority of these bacteria don’t cause any problems. Some even do community service, cleaning out the food between our teeth without harming the teeth at all!

Mutans

But there is one type of bacteria that wreaks havoc in the mouth by causing cavities. Like most people, the bacterium streptococcus mutans loves to eat sugar. In the process, it converts sugar to an acid that corrodes teeth and causes cavities. Saliva can neutralize some of that acid and prevent it from damaging teeth.

But these days, most of us eat so much sugar that our saliva can’t neutralize all the acid that streptococcus mutans produces.

What’s A Sugar Addict To Do?

If you brush and floss every day, that physically disrupts the colonies of bacteria enough to keep the populations under control, somewhere between one thousand and one hundred thousand per tooth. The fluoride in toothpaste and tap water hardens tooth enamel, making it more resistant to the acid produced by streptococcus mutans.

Fluoride also helps saliva repair parts of the tooth that have already been damaged by the acid. And, last but not least, it helps not to feed the critters too much of their favorite food: sugar!

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