Although you might cringe at the thought of germs hiding in your mouth, it’s home to 500 to 650 different species of oral bacteria. They live in biofilms that cover your teeth, tongue, cheeks, and other tissues. While many people view all bacteria as bad, some are crucial for a healthy smile. The amount of harmful pathogens in your mouth fluctuates throughout the day. Here’s what you need to know about the number of bacteria in your mouth and how you can control it.
Oral Bacteria and Your Smile
Every mouth is different, so the exact number of bacteria varies for everyone. However, researchers conducted a study to find out how much bacteria are in the average mouth. They harvested plaque from every tooth surface, which weighed an average of 10 mg. Since teeth only account for 1/20 of all oral surfaces, researchers multiplied 10 by 20 to find the overall biomass. If 1 mg of oral biomass contains an average of 100 million microbes, multiplying it by 20 provides the entire number of bacteria in the oral cavity, which is about 20 billion.
Bacteria colonies can get out of control quickly if the environment is right. Researchers have found that certain species can double their numbers in under 20 minutes in a Petri dish. However, your mouth isn’t a controlled environment. As a result, many things affect oral bacteria levels, like drinking water or swallowing your spit.
Controlling Oral Bacteria
You can promote a balance between good and bad bacteria with the right oral hygiene routine. Brushing your teeth removes plaque and cavity-causing bacteria from your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush and nonabrasive toothpaste to brush for 2 minutes at least twice daily. They also recommend flossing between each tooth daily to remove anything left behind by your toothbrush to prevent infections.
A healthy diet also contributes to the correct balance. Limit your consumption of sugary foods and drinks, which feed oral bacteria and erode enamel. It’s best to drink water whenever possible to stay hydrated and keep your mouth moist. A dry mouth creates a great breeding ground for bacteria. Drinking plenty of water will limit bacteria growth while also cleaning your mouth in between brushing and flossing.
Don’t forget to visit your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and checkup. They’ll monitor your dental health to detect anything concerning early, like cavities or gum disease. You won’t have to hide your teeth because you’re insecure about a germy smile. Your dentist will create the personalized plan you need to keep your mouth clean and your breath fresh, so you don’t have to think twice before showing your pearly whites.
About Dr. Jasmine King
Dr. King achieved her dental degree from The University of Tennessee College of Dentistry and has pursued advanced education annually. She is a member of various professional organizations, including the American Dental Association. If it’s time for your next cleaning and checkup, contact our office today to request an appointment.