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How Bacteria Lead to Gum Disease

The human body truly is a wonderland, though not exactly in the way John Mayer may have intended. On a microbial level, the interactions between your body’s cells and those of countless other microorganisms dictate much of your physical wellbeing, and your mouth is no exception. In fact, a typical mouth contains more bacterial cells than it does human cells, and when the delicate ecological balance is disturbed, issues like inflammatory gum disease can arise and threaten your oral and overall health.

The Truth About Dental Plaque

If the fact that bacteria live in your mouth comes as a surprise, then you may be even more stunned to learn that these germs are the building blocks of the plaque that sticks to your teeth. Experts have identified over 600 different kinds of oral bacteria, and have taken note of hundreds more that have yet to be classified. Of special note is the germ Porphyromonas gingivalis, which has been linked to one of the most common and destructive dental conditions, gum disease.

A Look at Bacteria and Dental Health

Usually, the bacterial population in your mouth isn’t a problem. While some can lead to dental health issues, most are largely harmless. However, when poor hygiene, careless eating habits, or neglectful dental care allow plaque and harmful germs to proliferate, the balance can be disturbed, and malicious microbes can lead to infections like tooth decay and gum disease.

The Gum Disease Germ

In the case of tooth decay and cavities, some mouth germs consume the sugar from your meals and beverages, then convert them into acids that attack and weaken the protective enamel surrounding your teeth. By contrast, gum disease begins when other germs accumulate along the gum line, releasing toxins that cause the gum tissue to separate, or recede from your teeth. To survive your immune system’s natural defenses, like inflammation, Porphyromonas gingivalis produce molecules that allow them to avoid such defenses. If left untreated, the rampant inflammation can irreversibly damage your gums and the jawbone underneath, possibly leading to the loss of one or more teeth.


At Modern Dentistry, Todd A. Pizzi, DDS, and Luciana Messina, DDS, are dedicated to providing high-quality cosmetic, restorative, and preventive dentistry services to patients and families in Shrewsbury, Worcester, North and South Grafton, Westborough, Southborough, Northborough, Boylston, Hopkinton, Millbury, and all surrounding communities. To schedule your next appointment, contact our office by calling (508) 842-6356 today.