Sorry, “Fighting Biofilms” is not a futuristic wrestling match featuring robots with never-seen-before weapons.
A biofilm is actually a group of microorganisms —bacteria, fungi, or a microbial mix — that live in an organized colony. They like to live in damp places; shower tiles, sinks, river rocks and your mouth. If you don’t effectively fight the biofilms that develop in your mouth, you run the risk of tooth decay and gum disease, along with all the other havoc that dental diseases can create throughout your entire body.
The activity of members in a biofilm are as fascinating as they are disgusting. Right now, the microbes in your mouth are communicating with each other, feeding each other, making new microbes with each other, and fiercely protecting their happily little community by excreting a glue-like substance that enables them to stick to your teeth. Their ferocious devotion to each other makes them very hard to remove from your teeth.
Getting Rid Of Biofilms
Early on, when a dental biofilm is just forming, you can rinse it right off your teeth with a swish of water. 24-hours after the colony has established itself, you need to brush your teeth– properly – to dislodge the biofilm.
Bacterial plaque is the primary cause of 90% of all dental disease. Bacteria secrete acidic waste products. This creates an acidic environment in your mouth that weakens teeth and leads to decay. Over time, without proper oral hygiene and dental care, the plaque clinging to teeth works its way under the gums, resulting in oral infections.
Your best defense is consistent removal of the bacterial plaque. If its left alone for about 48 hours, it begins to harden – this is called tartar – and is extremely difficult to remove by simple brushing and flossing. You need professional cleanings to remove tartar. Even if you do brush regularly, it’s easy to miss tartar that can be lurking between your teeth, in tiny chips and cracks, or just under the gum line.
The vast majority of the population of the U.S. will experience gingivitis (the mildest form of gum disease) during some point in their lives; while 30% to 40% of us will experience periodontitis (the severe form of gum disease). Treatment requires removal of the biofilm and its associated calculus (tartar) from the teeth and gums, and sometimes treatment with antibiotics.
But infections caused by dental biofilms can stubbornly resist antibiotics. Prevention is the best strategy.
Cleaning Mouth Guards and Dentures
Biofilm can also form on dental appliances, such as removable dentures and partials, mouth guards, and night guards. Biofilm on these items also increases your risk for cavities and gum disease.
You may notice a buildup of a white substance on the teeth nearest your partial dentures, or near your dental bridge. This indicates that biofilm is being created. To prevent the film from establishing itself, it’s important to clean dentures and other removable dental appliances regularly and carefully.
Your regular toothpaste is probably too abrasive for use with dental appliances/guards and may create micro-scratches in the denture/appliance material that can provide hiding places for bacteria. Instead, try using liquid dish detergent or hand soap. Pastes and cleansers made specifically for dentures are also fine to use, but they can be expensive.
Use a soft brush. A soft toothbrush or nailbrush is ideal, and you can also use a brush especially made for cleaning dentures. Apply a little bit of the cleanser you choose on a soft brush and rinse your dentures/appliances well with warm (not hot) water after brushing them.
It’s good to line the sink basin with a towel while cleaning dentures or dental appliance. Some of these items can break or get chipped if you drop your slippery denture or appliance in the sink while cleaning it. A strategically placed towel can cushion a fall and keep your appliance intact.
You can also soak your dentures or dental appliance with a commercially available cleaner or look into using an ultrasonic cleaner that is safe to use with your dental appliances or dentures. An ultrasonic cleaner costs about $45 to $60 and cleans even in crevices where a brush can’t reach by emitting high-frequency sound vibrations.
Don’t use bleach. Bleach does kill bacteria but it doesn’t belong in your mouth. And it can break down materials used in dentures and dental appliances, whiten the areas of your appliance that are meant to look like gum tissue, taste horrible and even make you sick.
If you notice persistent mouth odors, a white bacterial film on the part of the appliance that contacts the palate (roof) of your mouth, or redness and inflammation of your palate, contact your dentist promptly.
If you’ve been avoiding seeing the dentist or dental hygienist due to costs, consider dental savings plans.
Dental savings plans are an affordable alternative to dental insurance, providing plan members with discounts on most dental services. As an example, the majority of plans you’ll find on dentalplans.com offer savings of 10%-60% at the dentist.
Dental savings plan members pay a low annual membership fee for access to an extensive network of participating dentists and dental specialists that provide discounts on dental care at the time of service. Since they are not dental insurance, dental savings plans do not have co-payments, deductibles, paperwork hassles or annual spending limits.