Formerly known as the "oral flora", the oral microbiota refers to all the micro-organisms present in the oral cavity. In a healthy state, with good dental hygiene, the composition of the microbiota remains stable with its environment and the host. However, this balance is fragile and can have more or less serious consequences for the human body as a whole. What types of bacteria do we harbor in our mouths? What is the link between oral microbiota and health?
Oral microbiota: definition
Microbes are naturally present in the human body. The populations living in our intestines are referred to as intestinal microbiota, while those living in our mouths are referred to as oral microbiota. These micro-organisms, invisible to the naked eye, are made up of several hundred species of bacteria. They also include viruses, fungi, protozoa and archaea.
Some of these micro-organisms are common to the body's different microbiota. These include the fungus candida albicansThese are found in the oral, intestinal and vaginal microbiota. Others are specific to the mouth, such as aerobic bacteria (which arrive through the air we breathe).
One milligram of dental plaqueThere are an estimated one billion micro-organisms. That's a whole world in our mouths! In their normal state, these microbes live in harmony with their host, our body. In this case, there's eubiosis. On the other hand, when there's an imbalance, the patient has dysbiosis.
The impact of oral dysbiosis on oral health
When the microbiota is in equilibrium (eubiosis), commensal bacteria colonize all surfaces of the mouth. As a result, there is little room for pathogens to attach themselves. If this balance is upset (dysbiosis), opportunistic bacteria proliferate, with an increased risk of causing local infections. At the oral level, an imbalance in the microbiota can lead to a number of problems:
- dental caries;
- a gingivitis reversible (gum infection);
- periodontitis (infection of the tissues supporting the teeth), which can lead to tooth loosening.
The influence of oral bacteria on general health
Many researchers are now investigating the links between the populations of bacteria we harbor in our bodies and our state of health. Indeed, not all microbes have the same influence on our health. Dentists differentiate between commensal oral flora, which play a beneficial role, and opportunistic flora, which can prove pathogenic.
Recent scientific studies have highlighted an association between periodontal disease and general pathologies. Indeed, oral bacteria can pass into the bloodstream, colonizing the whole body and affecting numerous organs: intestine, lungs, heart, pancreas, etc. Periodontal disease has a high bacterial load, which is associated with immune system failure. There is a direct link between periodontal disease and diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and esophageal cancer. In the brain, Alzheimer's disease may also be linked to certain oral microbes. Many diseases actually begin in the mouth.
Factors leading to imbalance in the oral microbiota
The balance of the microbiota remains fragile, however, and is influenced by a number of factors:
- poor oral hygiene;
- poor diet;
- excess sugar or acid ;
- antibiotic therapy;
- the smoking ;
The consumption of sugar outside mealtimes is a good illustration of this process. With each nibble, microbes in the mouth feed on the sugars to produce acids. These acids then attack tooth enamel, leading to cavities.
How to maintain a balanced oral microbiota?
You've already understood that it's essential to take care of our oral microbiota. In fact, it prevents the arrival of bacteria that are much more dangerous to us and stimulates our immune system.
Adopt gestures for impeccable oral hygiene brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and using interdental cleaning aids.
Reduce your intake of sugar as much as possible, as it is your oral cavity's worst enemy. It feeds bad bacteria, especially streptococcus mutansresponsible for cavities and gingivitis.
Avoid daily use of antiseptic mouthwashes. These overly aggressive products encourage the disappearance of good bacteria and the reappearance of opportunistic bacteria. What's more, they contain alcohol, which is a factor in microbiota imbalance.
Visit your dentist at least once a year for a check-up and scaling. Helvident welcomes you to our dental clinics in Lausanne, Fribourg and Aigle. Contact us to schedule your next appointment.