The oral cavity harbors a rich and complex microflora, unique to everyone: one milliliter of human saliva contains approximately 100 million bacteria. The oral cavity is favorable for a variety of bacteria, where more than 700 species can be detected. Oral microflora evolves with age: at birth, the infant mouth is sterile but within hours is colonized with streptococci. With the appearance of first teeth, new niches are available for bacterial colonization, and new bacterial species colonize the surface of the dental enamel, forming dental plaque, while other anaerobic bacteria colonize gingival crevices. During puberty, changes in hormone levels alter oral microflora to transition to an adult oral flora. The oral microflora becomes more and more diverse over time until it reaches an equilibrium and remains stable, although some external factors can alter this balance.
THE ORAL FLORA, A FRAGILE EQUILIBRIUM
Under normal conditions and with proper oral hygiene, the oral flora is balanced and works as a natural defense system against opportunistic bacteria. However, this balance can be altered by lifestyle factors, illnesses or physiological factors which disrupt the oral microflora. Poor dental hygiene, a diet rich in sugar, smoking or alcohol consumption, can have a significant impact on the oral microflora. The use of certain medications and some illnesses are also consequential.
ORAL HEALTH MEANS MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY SMILE
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), oral health is defined as a “state of being free from mouth and facial pain, oral diseases and disorders that limit an individual’s capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking and psychosocial well-being.” To mark the WHO global initiative World No Tobacco Day, here is a list of best and worst oral health practices that should be taken seriously, as a good oral health contributes positively to physical, mental, and social well-being… and this is definitely one of the reasons to quit smoking.
DOS – BEHAVIORS THAT GREATLY IMPROVE ORAL HEALTH
- Brushing teeth twice daily for at least two minutes contributes to removing dental plaque.
- Using fluoride, as found in toothpaste, community water systems and in some mouthwashes as it could be effective in tooth cavity control.
- Flossing daily to clean gaps between teeth.
- Visiting a dental care professional regularly.
- Drinking water instead of sugar-rich sodas and juices keeps the mouth hydrated by helping create saliva and allows to wash away food debris stuck in-between teeth.
- Eating fruits and vegetables and whole food filled with minerals and vitamins, such as calcium, vitamins C and D, for teeth re-mineralization and support of gum and teeth health.
- Consuming dietary supplements which support oral health, such as specifically documented probiotics.
- Consuming sugar-free chewing gum that stimulates salivary flow from mastication.
DON’TS: BEHAVIORS THAT GREATLY IMPAIR ORAL HEALTH
- Smoking can increase acidity of saliva which can participate in demineralization of teeth enamel. Smoking can also deplete oxygen in the oral cavity, favoring the growth of anaerobic bacteria. And on top of that, it can cause teeth to yellow and cause bad breath.
- Opting for a high sugar diet sets the stage for oral cavities.
- Drinking alcohol can reduce salivary flow rate, hence reducing its antimicrobial properties and disturbing microbiome balance.
- Impaired quantity of saliva increases the risk of having tooth decay and gum diseases.
- Illnesses and use of medication: it has been estimated that more than 100 diseases and 500 medications have oral manifestations.