Controlling your biofilm (cleaning the kitchen)

This is the third in a series of posts about biofilms and how they relate to you.

We have learned that biofilm (plaque) builds up on your teeth, or oral appliances, and the net effect is to cause disease, either decay or gum disease. The most common way of removing biofilm in an oral health context is by regular brushing and flossing. You can equate this to the necessity to regularly clean your kitchen surfaces, shower or bath in order to maintain a healthy environment in which to live.

The more regularly this happens, the less opportunity those bacteria have to develop into those teeming cities of goo we described earlier.

Antibiotic Control of Biofilm

Although gum disease can be controlled by proper oral hygiene (toothbrushing, flossing, rinsing), gingivitis (the mildest form) is still experienced by most of the population at some point in life; a smaller proportion (30% to 40%) experience periodontitis (the severe form). Treatment of oral infections such as gum disease and decay requires removal of the biofilm and calculus (tartar) from the teeth and gums by surgical or nonsurgical procedures, sometimes followed by antibiotic therapy. This means that the biofilm needs to be regularly removed by your hygienist or dentist if you want to try to prevent the progress of the disease process. Unfortunately, these infections are not completely responsive to antibiotics. For this reason, oral infections are chronic diseases that require ongoing treatment and daily care by proper oral hygiene measures. Prevention is certainly the best strategy.

Chemical Control of Biofilm

When good oral hygiene practices fail to prevent the development of biofilms, toothpastes and mouthwashes with chemotherapeutic agents can be used. These agents can kill microorganisms in the biofilm. Chlorhexidine, triclosan, and essential oils and minerals–agents proven to kill the harmful bacteria–can reduce the degree of plaque and gingivitis, while not allowing disease-causing microorganisms to colonize.

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