Good germs, bad germs | Plaque, bacteria and probiotics

Posted Nov 2021

By Delta Dental of Arkansas

Tagged gum disease, periodontitis, gingivitis, cavities, tooth decay, tartar, plaque, fungi, fungus, probiotics, microbes, germs, harmful bacteria, healthy bacteria

Share this post

Good germs, bad germs | Plaque, bacteria and probiotics


Your mouth is home to 700 species of microbes, which include germs like bacteria and fungus. That’s a good-news-bad-news sort of thing.

Some of them keep you healthy. Others cause cavities.

The microbes live on the surfaces of your teeth, on your tongue and around your gums.


What are healthy bacteria in the mouth?

Microbes that benefit your oral health are “friendly” or “healthy” bacteria, often called probiotics. These live bacteria and/or fungi (yeast) can help promote the growth of good bacteria in the mouth while reducing the spread of harmful ones.

Although the research isn’t entirely conclusive yet, some studies show probiotics may help

  • Fight bad breath
  • Reduce plaque and tooth decay
  • Lower the risk of inflammation from gum disease
  • Prevent oral cancer.

How do you increase probiotics in your mouth?

Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fiber and some fermented foods is the best way to maintain a healthy level of friendly bacteria in your mouth.

Careful: Probiotics are not a substitute for good oral hygiene and regular dentist visits. Continue to floss and brush daily and see the dentist for professional cleanings and check-ups.

Also note that different types of probiotics have different effects. The probiotics that help promote good oral health are not necessarily the same as those beneficial for your digestive system.

Now let’s talk about the bad guys.

What are harmful bacteria in the mouth (plaque)?

An invisible, sticky film called plaque is constantly forming on your teeth. It consists of bacteria, saliva and other materials.

Here is what happens if those harmful bacteria have free reign in your mouth:

  • Bad breath. ‘nuff said.
  • Tooth decay. Every time you eat or drink something, those bacteria produce acids that destroy your tooth enamel—the hard protective surface of your teeth. Over time, especially if you munch on a lot of starchy and sugary foods or if you don’t practice good oral hygiene, cavities develop. 
  • Tartar. Plaque will continue to build up and harden on your teeth, especially at and underneath the gum line. This calcified deposit called tartar is visible as an unattractive, yellowish or brownish residue that can irritate and inflame your gums. Tartar has to be removed by a dental professional using a so-called “scaling” technique. 
  • Gum disease. The longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more harmful they become. Red, swollen and bleeding gums called “gingivitis” may result. If left untreated, it can lead to infections, loose teeth and the destruction of bones, gums and connective tissue (periodontitis). 
  • Other health issues. The bacteria from gum disease may even enter your bloodstream and cause other health issues, such as heart disease, cancer, dementia and more. 


How do you reduce the harmful bacteria in your mouth?

To keep bad bacteria under control and prevent cavities and inflammations,

  • Brush twice daily for two minutes with fluoridated toothpaste
  • Floss at least once daily
  • Drink plenty of fluoridated tap water
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy. Limit starchy, sugary snacks.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.


Seeking a dentist or interested in dental insurance?

You’ll do the daily brushing and flossing, but we can help you with dental (and vision) insurance and a neighborhood dentist. Our affordable, comprehensive plans for individuals, families and groups provide access to one of Arkansas’s largest networks of dentists and a variety of benefits.

If you are looking for a local dentist, use our handy-dandy tool.

{{ showingText }} {{ showingTagName }}



Posted by Delta Dental of Arkansas



Posted by Delta Dental of Arkansas

There are not results to show