What is Dental Biofilm and Its Effect On the Teeth?

what is biofilm

Our mouth is made up of several layers of oral tissues. At the same time, it also consists of several naturally occurring oral bacteria.

Every living organism needs a specific environment to live in. Similarly, oral bacteria try to persist in the mouth by creating a sticky, colorless layer on the teeth.

By extension, numerous biofilm layers start to develop on each tooth’s surface over time.

Biofilm is the fuzzy, sticky layer on the surface of your teeth which gradually turns into dental plaque.

The plaque often becomes noticeable as a whitish creamy or sticky layer on the surface of the teeth. This layer is most commonly seen in individuals who don’t brush properly.

Biofilms consist of various microorganisms, mainly the bacteria. Some of the naturally occurring oral bacteria help in digestion and many other useful processes.

However, as their number starts to increase in the mouth, these bacteria can prove to be equally harmful to the health of the teeth and gums.

This article will highlight the formation of biofilm in the mouth and how it can affect the health of the teeth.

What is a biofilm?

Bacteria and microorganism are always seen with a negative attitude. But to your surprise, oral bacteria are one among the most useful group of organism that helps in maintaining oral health. (1)

Biofilm is an organized and complex environment created by bacteria to persist in the oral cavity. Biofilms protect the oral bacteria from different viruses and germs that may invade the mouth.

Moreover, it protects them from the antimicrobial activity of certain mouthwashes.

In simpler terms, biofilms consist of a harmless colony of oral bacteria. However, it doesn’t remain the same in individuals with poor oral hygiene. (2)

What causes the formation of biofilm in the mouth?

Biofilm is not only found on the tooth surfaces of children and adults. Biofilms start to develop in a newborn baby as soon as their first teeth erupt.

Babies whose mother pops in a dirty pacifier in the mouth or shares a spoon while feeding introduces the bacteria from their biofilm and puts the baby’s oral health at risk.

Biofilms grow as and when you eat something. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on the sugars and carbohydrates present in the food consumed.

The unhealthier a person’s diet is, the more likely he is to have an increased amount of oral bacteria.

pH levels of the mouth also determine the nature of bacteria. Often at low pH levels, bacteria start to build up plaque which similar to the biofilm except that it causes tooth decay and gum diseases. (3)

How does biofilm affect the teeth?

Biofilm has both good effects as well as harmful effects on the oral tissues. The severity depends on the type of environment created in the mouth.

Here are some of the good and bad effects of biofilm on the mouth –

  • Usually, biofilm consists of a layer of bacteria that helps to prevent opportunistic fungal and viral infections from damaging the teeth, gums and surrounding oral tissues. Moreover, bacteria in the biofilm help to bring down oral inflammations.
  • Any change in the pH level of the mouth brings a great deal of change like bacterial growth in the mouth. Acidic environments created by the consumption of acidic food and sugars encourage oral bacteria to thrive on them. Eventually, the bacteria start to produce more acids that damage the tooth surface. (4)
  • These consequences lead to demineralization of enamel, tooth decay, gum irritation and in severe cases, tooth loss.

Studies have shown that probiotics can be essential in maintaining beneficial oral bacteria in the biofilm. (5)

How can you prevent the harmful effects of oral biofilm?

The purpose of using oral health care techniques is to prevent the biofilm from turning into plaque that may harm the teeth and gums.

Follow the preventive oral health care steps given below to limit your biofilm to healthy bacteria –

  • Brush regularly with a soft bristles toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste for at least two times in a day. Pay more attention to the junctional area between the tooth and the gum.
  • Floss once a day between the teeth to remove food particles and plaque that cannot be cleaned by a toothbrush.
  • Anti-bacterial mouth wash can benefit you by providing a healthy environment in the mouth and preventing the growth of plaque and bacteria.
  • Switch to a healthy balanced diet. Avoid sugary or acidic foods and beverages that may damage the health of your teeth and gums. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide alkalinity to the body. Therefore, they limit the growth of harmful oral bacteria that thrive in acidic conditions and damages the tooth surface.
  • Visit your dentist regularly to keep a check on your oral hygiene and treat any dental problem at its initial stage.

Take away message

Biofilms are bacterial films that stat to develop from the first eruption of the tooth in the mouth. After that, it continuously grows as the individual gets older.

To maintain a mutual balance between the bacteria and healthy oral tissue, it is essential to maintain good oral hygiene.

Oral bacteria can change their nature rapidly according to the surrounding environment. Acidic environments make these bacteria to thrive on the sugars and carbohydrates consumed by the person. (6)

These food substances are fermented by the bacteria producing acids that attack the enamel surface and demineralizes it.

An extended period of poor oral hygiene eventually causes severe effects on the health of the oral tissues.

Simple preventive oral health care routine can take you a long way to maintaining a healthy biofilm. Furthermore, it will limit the growth of the harmful bacteria in the mouth and provide total hygiene.

A balanced diet is another way of maintaining the health of the oral tissues. Avoid eating sweet and sticky food, rather switch to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fruits, vegetables and dairy products contain good nutritional value. Moreover, they neutralize the pH levels in the mouth and maintain a healthy oral environment.

Sukanya has done BDS. She is a dentist, a blogger, an extrovert, and a travel enthusiast. She is also a spiritual believer. When she is not working, you can find her reading books.