Mouth Bacteria: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

When some people hear the word “bacteria,” images of visits to the doctor after a bad meal come to mind. But when it comes to bacteria in our mouth, the picture is far more complicated than that.

It may astonish you to know that if your mouth were a movie, its title could be: “Mouth Bacteria: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

Knowing which ones are good and which are bad is essential to good oral health. Once you know the difference, you may not be in such a hurry to banish them all with a quick flush of mouthwash.

Good and Bad Mouth Bacteria

A study in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology shows that up to 700 bacteria live in the human mouth, and your mouth may contain between 250 and 300 at any time, depending on various factors. Some of these can cause gum diseases and even transmit contagious illnesses, but others play a significant role in keeping you healthy.

Bad Bacteria

The major cause of bad breath is an abundance of bad bacteria. Your mouth has a built-in “checks and balances” system to protect you against this and other oral problems.

Good Bacteria

These bacteria are essential to good oral health. They produce proteins that help to curb the growth of bad bacteria. According to Healthline, these good bacteria flourish in environments that range from neutral to high PH. Alcohol destroys these good bacteria, leaving one with a dry mouth and not-so-great breath.

Some of the ways the right kind of bacteria are beneficial include:

  • Fights bad breath – good bacteria such as streptococcus salivarius K12 helps to control bad bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Helps food digestion – digestion begins in your mouth rather than the stomach. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that may trigger the enzymatic reaction in saliva that begins the digestion process.
  • Reduces oral disease – healthy bacteria are believed to reduce the likelihood of oral candida and periodontal disease.

Keeping the Right Balance

Instead of trying to eradicate all the bacteria in the mouth, take steps to regulate the growth of bad bacteria. This starts with selecting the kind of foods that promote good bacteria.

Foods that are crunch or stringy – fresh raw fruits and vegetables, celery, apples – help to clean teeth. Another tip is to limit the times you snack. Snacking all day can cause acid attacks that depress the pH balance of your mouth. This promotes the growth of bad bacteria.

Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day are the best way to maintain the proper oral balance. Mouthwash is to be used more sparingly and should always be alcohol-free. High levels of alcohol kill all bacteria in your mouth – good and bad!

Scheduling a dental cleansing twice a year is another important factor in promoting the proper balance of bacteria in your mouth.