I Spy with My Microscopic Eye
Your mouth could be making you sick. This is unfortunate and 100% true. Almost all chronic diseases are inflammation driven and that inflammation could be starting in your mouth. How to find out if you’re at risk? A quick sample of your biofilm viewed under the microscope could reveal a lot.
What is biofilm?
The generic definition of biofilm is a group of things growing on and adhering to a surface. In the mouth, biofilm can consist of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. We have the option of a healthy, protective biofilm or an at-risk biofilm. At risk for not just dental disease, but systemic disease as well. Systemic, referring to your entire body. How do you find out if your biofilm is healthy? A quick peek with the microscope will let you know.
How do you use the microscope in the mouth?
A sample of plaque (that film that feels like a sweater on your teeth) is taken and placed on a slide and then viewed under the microscope. The patient and hygienist get to view it together. Right then and there. No sending off to a lab and waiting for results. The hygienist gives you a tour through your biofilm. She’ll explain what a healthy sample should look like. There will always be things swimming around in there, you are not sterile. That is not the goal. We want there to be an adequate number of good/protective bacteria in there. The hygienist will also let you know if your sample is high risk.
Yikes, my biofilm is high risk! Now what?
High risk means there is an increased probability of periodontal disease and cavities in the mouth, but also diseases such as: heart attack, stroke, cancers, diabetes, preterm labor, spontaneous miscarriage, chronic kidney disease, respiratory diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and various dementias. There is a library of science linking the mouth to the rest of the body. It is essential to know the status of your biofilm. If you never test, you never know until disease has progressed and more damage is done. At this point, treatment options may be limited. At our office we evaluate your biofilm at each oral wellness visit aka hygiene appointment/cleaning.
If it turns out your oral microbiome needs improvement, we discuss various options individualized to each patient and their specific needs. We follow up and check the biofilm at each visit. How does it look? What products and tools are you using? What frequency and how long are you using those tools? What are you eating? These all need to be discussed when perfecting biofilm. The good news is it can absolutely be transformed back into a healthy oral microbiome.
The mouth and the gut microbiome overlap by 45%. That means they share that much bacteria. When you think about the fact that this information was discovered by comparing saliva and fecal samples…it is a bit unsettling. But then, when you consider everything that is in the gut went through the mouth first, it seems like that number should be even higher. Things such as pH and oxygenation play a big part in what bacteria live where. There is more and more science revealing that if the gut is out of balance, so is the mouth. We have a unique opportunity to evaluate the oral microbiome with very minimal invasiveness. No ZuPoo or colonoscopy kind of vibes.
The microscope is a quick and easy objective tool to see what is living in your mouth. WE DON’T GUESS, WE TEST. It helps us see a disease-causing situation before we see clinical signs of disease. The microscope is a game changer in the prevention of not only oral disease, but disease throughout the entire body.