Bacteria in Your Mouth: The Good (and the Bad)


Here’s a shocking statistic: we have more than 700 species of bacteria that live inside our mouths. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, you’re certainly not alone! But there are good and bad bacteria living all throughout your body, not just in your mouth.

The fact is that not all bacteria is bad: in fact, we need the good bacteria to keep our teeth and gums healthy. Your mouth is a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria—and when that balance is tipped, your mouth is more susceptible to common dental concerns such as cavities, tooth loss, tooth decay, and gum disease.

Let’s take a look at the balance of good and bad bacteria to see how you can keep your mouth balanced and healthy.

How Good Bacteria Help Us

We can’t get rid of all the bacteria in our mouths, no matter how much we brush and floss. This is a good thing, since we have plenty of friendly bacteria strains that help us:

Digest food

While your stomach does the bulk of the work in breaking down food, the digestion process actually starts in your mouth. Good bacteria in your saliva help break apart proteins and sugars, making for quicker and more effective digestion.

Control bad breath

Bad breath is caused by a buildup of (you guessed it) bad bacteria. The good bacteria works to neutralize this harmful buildup, effectively fighting back against bad bacteria and maintaining a healthy balance between the two.

Protect against cavities

Cavities come from food particles, which serve as a breeding ground for bacteria. Unchecked, that bacteria grows into decay and starts eating away at your tooth. One of the ways that your mouth naturally fights back against cavity decay is by washing away food particles, acid, and bad bacteria with your saliva. Good bacteria stimulates saliva production, which in turns helps protect against cavities.

How Bad Bacteria Hurt Us

The good bacteria in our mouth is actively fighting against the bad bacteria—but they can easily become overwhelmed. When the scales tip in the bad bacteria’s favor, your mouth is susceptible to a range of oral health complications, such as:

Plaque buildup

Bad bacteria convert sugar particles into acid. Not only does this give them the perfect environment to grow, but it also offsets the pH of your mouth and supports plaque buildup. Once plaque hardens, it becomes tartar, weakening your teeth and gums.

Tooth decay

Along with plaque and tartar buildup, bacteria is also a contributor to tooth decay. The acids within plaque eat away at your tooth enamel, causing little holes and inviting decay. Cavities are also caused by other factors—such as eating too much sugar or failing to properly clean your teeth—but harmful bacteria is at the root of tooth decay.

Gum disease

Periodontal disease is caused by a buildup of bacteria along your gum line. Left unchecked, this bacteria converts into plaque and infects the tissues surrounding the base of your teeth. Gum disease causes bleeding, swelling, receding gums, and has been linked to a wide range of health complications (including diabetes and premature births).

Keeping the delicate balance between good and bad bacteria in your mouth is crucial to maintaining good oral health. Brushing, flossing, and using a high-quality mouthwash each day are powerful steps in promoting good bacteria and getting rid of the bad. If you’re worried that you might have more bacteria than good, give Hinsdale Dental a call. We’ll evaluate your teeth and gums and will help you create the best oral healthcare routine for your needs!

Don’t let the bad bacteria in your mouth overpower the good. Schedule your next appointment with Hinsdale Dental today!

Return to Blog