Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!
Hello everyone. It’s Annika, Rick’s hygienist. I wanted a turn at posting in our blog so here you go!
I didn’t use to floss. I was, like many others, satisfied with the clean feeling I got after brushing my teeth. When I would go for my 6 month cleaning and checkup, the hygienist would tell me to floss every day and I would think: “If I eat ribs or corn, sure lady! But every day? I don’t need to do that.” So I would merrily go my way and not give flossing a second thought unless I felt that I had food between my teeth.
Then I went to Dental Hygiene school and everything changed. I learned about what was actually happening in my mouth. While I won’t delve deeply into microbiology in the post, I want to share with you what we are able to learn about your microbiology with a wonderful and educational tool that we have in our office: the phase contrast microscope. It helps us educate our patients by showing them the microbes that inhabit their own mouths.
Disease causing, harmless, and even beneficial bacteria can be found in the mouth. A simple way to differentiate between them is motility, which is the ability of organisms to move or get around. While not all disease causing bacteria have motility, certain pathogenic bacteria do and we can see them swimming around under the microscope. A plaque sample that shows a lot of movement is classified as a high risk slide.
Here are examples of high risk slides from plaque found between the teeth of two different people who do not floss daily:
If we could feel all that movement in our own mouths, not one of us would skip a day of flossing. But these microbes go about their business of breaking down healthy gum tissue and even attacking White Blood Cells, which are part of our body’s defense system, without our ever feeling it. This activity is clearly seen in that second slide.
These bacteria prefer an acidic environment, so an effective way to combat these bacteria is to change the pH in the mouth. We recommend baking soda, since it is alkaline, as a simple way to make your mouth inhospitable to these pathogenic bacteria by increasing the pH of your mouth. You can simply wet your toothbrush and apply a healthy pinch of baking soda to the brush and use that instead of toothpaste. After brushing, floss prior to rinsing your mouth. This will bring the baking soda down between the gum and tooth where those nasty bacteria thrive.
Here is a video of a healthy patient who uses baking soda and flosses daily:
While we do have other, more involved testing tools at our disposal that give us more definitive results, this is an affordable, simple and quick way to get an accurate picture of current microbial activity. It is also a great way to see if what we are doing is working, as we can easily recheck the slide at a later date and determine if there is less motility present in the sample and alter our treatment of home care recommendations as needed. I have also found it to be a great tool to motivate patients to pick up or renew their determination to floss carefully and daily.
Annika Mundus, RDH