Microbiology involves studying microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites along with their interactions within host bodies. This has revolutionized dentistry. It has transformed how we diagnose and treat oral disease. The oral cavity is home to a rich and diverse microbial community, encompassing more than 700 bacterial species that inhabit the hard surfaces of teeth and the soft tissues of the oral mucosa. With the aid of microbiology and advanced technology, we have made significant progress in understanding the intricacies of the oral microbiome and have gained fresh insights into its function in both wellness and illness. Thus, the study of microbiology plays a crucial role in dentistry because it aids in understanding pathogenic causes for oral disorders and devising preventive and therapeutic measures to combat them.
Scientists view the human organism as a ‘superorganism’ that is not distinct from its microbiome. This means that the bad and good bacteria make up the body, and the balance of these bacteria is crucial to maintaining good health. This includes the health of the mouth. Since microbiology is the study of these bacteria, it is important to dentistry.
Many oral diseases are caused by microorganisms. These diseases are caused by the imbalance of the microbiome of the mouth, which happens when the mouth is in dysbiosis (or a disruption in the bacterial balance, alterations in bacterial metabolism, or shifts in the bacterial distribution throughout the gut). During dysbiosis, bacteria linked to disease can flourish to a significantly greater extent than they typically would under healthy circumstances when they exist as minor and harmless constituents. These bacteria cause tooth decay because they produce acids that dissolve the enamel, leading to cavities forming in our teeth. Understanding the microbiology of the mouth allows dentists and healthcare practitioners to devise preventive and therapeutic measures, such as fluoride treatments or antibacterial agents, that will ensure effective prevention and therapy strategies against dental caries. These only work because the disruption of the plaque is not naturally shed since the teeth are hard surfaces, whereas the rest of the mouth sheds regularly.
Another disease of the mouth, periodontal disease – which is characterized as a chronic bacterial infection that affects the supporting tissues of teeth – is also driven by this same type of microbial dysbiosis. Plaque buildup on the teeth triggers gingivitis, but this alone is insufficient to progress to periodontitis. The immune response and biofilm interactions play a critical role in advancing from gingivitis to periodontitis. A dysbiotic microbial community can weaken the host response, leading to uncontrolled inflammation and tissue damage. The inflammatory changes in the periodontal environment create ideal conditions for anaerobic and protein-dependent bacteria to thrive and shift the microbiome from symbiosis to dysbiosis. Inflammation causes ulcers in the skin in your mouth near the gums, which can lead to bleeding and provide nutrients for periodontitis-associated bacteria to grow and thrive. The dysbiotic microbiome destroys tissue by triggering an uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, which feeds bacteria with new nutrients and creates a cycle of disease. Understanding the microbiology of periodontal disease is critical in devising effective treatment plans such as scaling and root planing, antibiotic therapy or surgical intervention plans for successful management.
Microorganisms play a critical role in the formation and maintenance of dental biofilms, complex microbial communities that form on teeth or other oral structures and provide shelter for bacteria to survive and avoid immune response by the host body. The oral microbiome is established and maintained by host and microbe factors that are not fully understood. Resident bacteria have both pro- and anti-inflammatory activities that help maintain homeostasis at heavily colonized sites like the oral cavity. Acute infections of the oral mucosa are rare due to the interplay of the host’s immune system with its microbial symbionts. Both saliva and the gingival fluid provide nutrients for microbial growth and contain components with antimicrobial activities. Saliva, in particular, contains enzymes and proteins that help maintain a balanced microbiota and protect against caries. Proteins from saliva and other sources form the thin skin of the mouth, which protects the tooth surfaces against acid attacks and modulates’ attachment of bacteria to dental and epithelial surfaces. Saliva also helps to control biofilm build-up and activity. Knowing about the microbiology behind dental biofilms helps dentists create strategies to prevent or control oral diseases effectively, such as regular dental hygiene practices, antimicrobial agents and mechanical removal of biofilms.
As you can see, though it may seem strange that microbiology is related to dentistry, it is actually extremely important when it comes to the health of the mouth and oral hygiene. Knowledge of the biofilm and the microbes that thrive in the mouth can help dentists to advise their patients on how best to help dental issues or maintain a healthy mouth.
If you feel that you are suffering from an imbalance of the oral microbiome, call us at (865) 248-2199, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.