Oral Health Basics

The Effects of Bacteria

Oral Health

What does your mouth say about your overall health?

Is your Oral Bacteria putting your Systemic Health at risk?

Hundred’s of different types of bacteria colonize the oral cavity. Some bacteria are beneficial, some are neutral, and some cause infections of our teeth or gums. When these “infection causing bacteria” are left undisturbed, your body responds with inflammation. A variety of diseases all throughout our body are being associated with either the specific oral bacteria, or the subsequent inflammation.

Here’s a peek at a few common oral bacteria, and the systemic conditions they (or the inflammation associated with them) may cause. Research is ongoing to bring clarity to the oral-systemic link. One thing is clear, we need to improve our oral health!

Fusobacterium Nucleatum


Colorectal Cancer, Appendicitis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Atherosclerosis, Cerebral Aneruysm, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alzheimers, Preterm Birth, Stillbirth, Neonatal Sepsis, Preeclampsia, Lemierre’s Syndrome, Respiratory Tract Infection.

Oral: Bleeding and bone loss (Periodontal Disease)

Streptococcus mutans


Prosthetic Joint Infections and Heart Attacks (Maybe Strokes, too)

Oral: Cavities and Biofilm Initiator

Porphyromonas gingivalis


Cardiovascular Disease, Macular Degeneration, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Infertility, Aspiration Pneumonia, Pancreatic Cancer, Colon Cancer, Alzheimers, Prostate Diseases

Oral: Bleeding and bone loss (Periodontal Disease), causes other oral bacteria to be more pathogenic

Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans


Rheumatoid Arthritis, Aspiration Pneumonia

Oral: Bleeding and bone loss (Periodontal Disease)

Staphylococcus aureus


Infective endocarditis, Prosthetic Joint Infection, Systemic Staph infection

Oral: No specific conditions

The Solution

Three keys to a healthier mouth and healthier YOU!

1: biofilm (plaque) disruption

Biofilm (a.k.a. Plaque) is a group of bacteria that work together to ensure their survival. We need to break up the biofilm before we try to kill the bacteria. Some studies show that bacteria in biofilm is 500 times more difficult to kill that bacteria outside of a biofilm colony.

Biofilm thrives where our teeth do not get cleaned regularly (between our teeth, under our gums, around crowns/braces/implants, etc). Biofilm is also found on our tongue, cheeks and tonsils! Depending on what type of bacteria are in the biofilm, and how your body’s immune system deals with the bacteria, will determine whether we see an infection (bleeding!) or not.

See your Dental hygienist to remove the biofilm that has become securely attached to your teeth, and identity areas where your biofilm is thriving.

Products we love to break up biofilm

  • Sonic Toothbrush
  • Floss (cleans up to 3mm under gums)
  • Water Flosser (cleans up to 6mm under gums)
  • Interproximal brushes
  • Tongue scraper

Ask your Dental Hygienist for specific recommendations for you!

2: reduce the bad bacteria, encourage good bacteria

There are a variety of products available to improve our oral health, each with their own pros and cons. Rather than talking about specific brands, you should learn to identify the Active Ingredient! The following is a list of the commonly used active ingredients and their common pros and cons.

Many of these products are intended to kill the bacteria. Current research may change how we approach improving the oral micro biome. It may not be better to kill all of the bacteria, after all, there are good bacteria in our mouth, too!

Chlorhexidine Gluconate 0.12%
Pro // very effective at killing nearly ALL bacteria
Cons // RX only, stains teeth, also kills beneficial bacteria
Available as Rinse or varnish, in the dental office only

Essential oils
Pro // Can be very effective at killing bacteria
Cons // May have high alcohol content and strong taste/burn
Available as Rinse, toothpaste, or on floss.

Cetylpyridinium Chloride (CPC) Strength is important; 0.05% or 0.07%
Pro // At 0.07%, effective at killing bacteria, generally alcohol free
Cons // May stain teeth and alter taste
Available as Rinse (0.05% is considered “cosmetic” while 0.07% is considered therapeutic)

Chlorine Dioxide
Pro // Great way to freshen breath, kills most bacteria, generally no alcohol
Cons // may not kill Strep mutans with a 1 min swish (Strep mutans are bacteria that cause a lot of decay and help biofilm form)
Available as Rinse

Xylitol 
Pro // weakens and kills Strep mutans (BAD bacteria)
Cons // Need to introduce into diet slowly, must be kept away from dogs and ferrets
Available as Rinse, toothpaste, gum, mints, candy, etc.

Oral Probiotics
Pro // Easy to use, improves healthy bacteria
Cons // Research is still early in oral probiotics, use reputable product
Available as tablets

Stannous Fluoride
Pro // Good at killing bad bacteria and strengthening teeth
Cons // may stain teeth
Available in toothpaste

Neutral Sodium Fluoride
Pro // Helps teeth become more resistant to acid attacks (which cause decay)
Cons // Excessive fluoride (especially if ingested) may cause staining of teeth
Available in Rinse, Toothpaste and varnish (at the Dental office)

Alcohol (not necessarily an active ingredient, but an important consideration)
Pro // May help kill bacteria and acts as a preservative
Cons // Avoid if Pregnant, have dry mouth, have a dental implant, use tobacco/alcohol recreationally. It may lower the oral pH after use (a problem for those with an increased rate of decay)
Available in Rinse

Vitamins // May help reduce bleeding, tartar buildup and cavities!
Pro // Vit K2 may help reduce tartar (often paired with Vit D3), generally beneficial
Cons // Vitamins and supplements are not regulated, so you may be wasting money if you are not choosing a quality brand. Check your vitamin levels with your MD, levels too high may cause other problems.

See your Dental Hygienist for in-office options to improve oral health (such as ozone or laser therapy) and for specific recommendations for you!

Examples of the Common products from each category. Start looking at the labels on your products.

  • Essential Oil Rinse: Listerine® Antiseptic Rinse, Tooth and Gums Tonic
  • CPC 0.07%: Crest® ProHealth Rinse (0.07%), Scope (0.05%)
  • Chlorine Dioxide: CloSYS® Rinse, OraCare
  • Neutral Sodium Fluoride: Act® Rinse
  • In office Options: Laser Bacterial Reduction, Locally Placed Antibiotics, ozone therapy
  • Oral Probiotics to boost the good bacteria and crowd out the bad bacteria

Ask your Dental Hygienist for specific recommendations for you!

3: address your body

Did you know… If your body is unhealthy, you’re under stress, sick, immunocompromised (or really anything that stresses your immune system) or your blood glucose levels are high, your Dental Hygienist may see inflammation in your mouth?

Are you having trouble sleeping, or find yourself excessively tired during the day? Your Dental Hygienist can recognize oral signs of a Sleep Related Breathing Disorder!

Reduce your inflammation through healthier food choices
Avoid high inflammatory foods (sugar, refined foods, artificial sweetener…)
Increase Anti-inflammatory foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, green tea, omega-3…)

Current research supports having a healthy micro biome. Talk to your MD or nutritionist about probiotics or choosing probiotic rich foods (i.e. Kefir, yogurt, Icelandic Skyr, sauerkraut, kombucha, etc.)

See your MD to address and control any existing conditions

Reduce Stress

Consider an extra professional cleaning during pregnancy or after an acute sickness; your gums are more susceptible to infection during these times, so it is extra important to have great oral hygiene.

Some ways to reduce inflammation

  • Encapsulated fruit/vegetable juice concentrates may be a great option to improve fruit/vegetable intake and improve health of our gums!
  • Healthy Eating
    • Eat more fruits and vegetables
    • Eat less refined/processed food
    • Add Kefir or other probiotics to your diet
  • MD: Annual Physical