Biofilms and Your Mouth


Biofilms and Your Mouth

What are They?

Bio = living

Film = a sticky layer.

Biofilms are groups of bacteria that live in a moist environment. Biofilms can be helpful or harmful, depending on where they are found. They can be helpful on rocks in a stream because it can form the base of a food chain. A harmful example is when you get an antibiotic-resistant infection around a prosthetic hip joint.

In the mouth, biofilm is a fancy word for plaque. There are good bacteria in your mouth that help compete with fungus and bad bacteria. In a biofilm, bacteria are more protected from things like Listerine and antibiotics. We don’t want the bad bacteria to be protected, so we need to encourage good bacteria and properly disrupt biofilms (plaque).

How can it affect me?

Biofilms in your mouth (plaque) protect the more destructive forms of bacteria associated with gingivitis and periodontal disease. Left undisturbed, your plaque becomes more organized, sticky and harmful. Biofilms are harmful because they cause destruction of your gum tissue and bone surrounding your teeth, both directly and through the reaction caused in your immune system.

Many studies have shown the link between chronic inflammation in the mouth and its association with inflammation in other organ systems, such as in diabetes and heart disease.

How can I affect it?

One of the main goals with careful daily home care, ie, careful and thorough brushing and flossing, is for you to disrupt the growing bacteria so that it cannot get to this organized stage (biofilm) that leads to problems. Regular visits with your hygienist allow us to remove the hard tartar that is harboring these disease-causing biofilms.

New products on the market try to weaken the biofilm in different ways. There are now probiotic lozenges that use natural competition to crowd out the bad bacteria. GUM PerioShield is a mouth rinse that coats the teeth and tissues and targets the bacteria’s ability to secrete the sticky substance that helps form the biofilm. Waterpiks help remove biofilm in deep pockets, where they are most protected.

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