Though you can’t see them, there are thousands of colonies of bacteria , each comprising millions of these little microbes, inhabiting the various parts of your body. Your body is the host to these sometimes parasitic and sometimes beneficial microorganisms. While many bacteria exist on the exterior surfaces of your body and in the nooks and crannies, like beneath your fingernails, and the vast majority of your body’s bacteria live in your gastrointestinal system, any moist, warm, enclosed space in your body is likely to harbor bacterial colonies. And one of these moist, warm, enclosed spaces where bacteria flourish is in your mouth.
Some of the bacteria living in and on your body pose no threat to your health and are merely riding along in your body doing their things while you do yours. They are neither harmful nor harmless, but have little effect on your body. Other bacteria are actively beneficial to your body and its processes, metabolism and digestion and the boosting and support of your immune system.
But many people assume all bacteria, “germs,” are harmful to your system, and in a lot of cases, they’re right. While a good number of the bacteria living in your gastrointestinal system can be either neutral or beneficial, bacteria in mouth are almost all pathogenic and contribute to oral health problems when allowed to exist unchecked.
Of the types of bacteria that prefer living in your mouth, some will prefer to reside on the skin of the insides of your cheeks, or on your tongue or the surface of your gums. Others will choose to take up residence in gingival crevices, which is the margin where the teeth come out of gums. And still others prefer to live on, between, or in the teeth.
One very common symptom of an unchecked bacterial colony in the mouth is dental caries, or cavities. Fostered by acids and sweets left on the surfaces of teeth without removal, the bacteria that live on and between the teeth begin to help break down the surface enamel of the teeth, eventually creating a cavity. Then the cavity itself can be inhabited by bacteria, and further erosion will occur until you’ve visited your dentist. Gum disease, or gingivitis, is also thought to be helped by the destructive habits of bacteria in mouth. Proper brushing habits, rinsing your mouth after you eat or drink anything with sugar in it, and regularly rinsing your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash can help reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth, promoting better oral health and fewer problems in the future.