Oral Bacteria: Sharing or Spreading?


Becky Larson RDH

            The sharing or spreading of oral bacteria happens very frequently and most people are unaware they are even doing it.  Our mouths are filled with millions of bacteria. When you share food, cups, utensils, toothbrushes, or have contact with someone else’s saliva these bacteria can be transferred from person to person. This can be particularly harmful when sharing with children.

Cavities (caries) are the result of a bacterial infection and young children can “catch” the harmful bacteria that cause cavities. While everybody has bacteria in their mouth, it’s important to try to keep these harmful bacteria from our children’s mouths during their first year or two. Babies are actually born without any harmful bacteria in their mouth.  Once the harmful caries bacteria are introduced, the child may experience tooth decay.

So what does this mean?  It means DON’T SHARE BACTERIA.  I’ve seen many parents (including my own husband) suck their child’s pacifier clean.  This can be both good and bad.  The parent has just introduced new bacteria into their child’s mouth.  Some bacteria are harmless and can actually help prevent allergic reactions.  However, if the parent has any caries bacteria, they have now given those bacteria to their child.  Sharing saliva can also spread the bacteria that cause inflammatory reactions and periodontal disease in adults.

Why does it matter? Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma.  When left untreated, the disease can cause developmental problems.  Tooth decay can lead to mouth pain, which makes it more difficult for a child to eat healthy foods, speak correctly, and even concentrate in school.  Tooth decay can also damage permanent teeth when they erupt.  Periodontal disease cannot currently be cured.  If left untreated, the gums, bone and tissues that support the teeth can be destroyed.  This can result in the loss of teeth.

            Tips on how to prevent bacteria transmission and cavities:

*If your child sleeps with a bottle, fill it with water rather than milk or juice

*Clean baby gums with wet cloth several times per day before baby teeth erupt

*Once your child has erupted teeth, brush them at least twice per day (even if it’s only one tooth!)

*Take your child to the dentist by their 1st birthday or when the first tooth erupts

*Avoid putting anything in your child’s mouth that has been in your mouth

*Avoid kissing your child on the lips

*Avoid sharing food, utensils, cups, and toothbrushes

*Help your child floss their teeth once the teeth are contacting

*Change toothbrushes every 3 months

*Eat a balanced diet, limit sugar intake

*Brush your own teeth twice per day and floss once per day









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Lora Cook RDH

A question I am often asked of my patients is, “what do you think about a waterpik?” Waterpiks are great, but they DO NOT replace flossing with string floss. Once a person hears that they still have to floss, a look of discouragement or disgust comes across their face.  However, before you completely write off the thought of investing time and money into to a water pick, let me give you some information.

Waterpiks force oxygenated water underneath the gum tissue where plaque and bacteria like to hide.  This bacteria that lives under the tissue is anaerobic, it thrives under the gum tissue in that non-oxygenated environment. The oxygenated water works to not only flush out plaque and food, but also kills bacteria.  Also adding a few ounces of a quality, over the counter mouth rinse\antiseptic to the water reservoir is effective in reducing the bacterial load in the mouth.


Who can benefit the most from the adding a waterpik to their daily oral hygiene routine?  I recommend water picks to patients who have bridges, implants, braces, or have been diagnosed with periodontal disease. The waterpik can reach places that string floss can miss.  Studies show that it is 50% more effective then just dental floss alone.  With a 3 second application it is 99.9% effective in the removal of plaque.

Some patients ask if waterpiks are so effective, why do I still need to use my string floss?  The string floss will scrap and mechanically remove the sticky plaque that likes to stick to the tooth surface. A waterpik will just rinse it.

There are different types of waterpiks out on the market.  A counter top water pik with a seperate resevoir and a cordless waterpik.  The cordless waterpic is rechargeable, no batteries needed. The water reservoir will hold 45 seconds of water supply.  All waterpics have different pressure settings, the water pressure will be 45 to 75 psi.


Another type of waterpik is called shower floss.  Many people have never heard of this type, and do not know that it is available.  This unit is attached to your shower head, it comes with a rechargeable battery pack. This unit will supply a  continues flow of water without having to stop and refill.  With this nifty unit you also do not have to worry about making a mess of your bathroom mirror!


shower flosser

Another type of waterpik is a shower floss.  Many people have never heard of this type, and do not know that it is available.  This unit is attached to your shower head, it comes with a rechargeable battery pack. This unit will supply a  continues flow of water without having to stop and refill.  With this nifty unit you also do not have to worry about making a mess of your bathroom mirror!





Why Floss?


     The dreaded question that comes at every appointment is, “How often are you flossing?”  It is time consuming and, yes, we are tired before bed, but flossing is much more than cavity prevention.  Usually we give a sheepish grin saying, “I should be better.”  Before I became a hygienist, I admit I was not a consistent flosser.  I am proud to say that I am now a religious flosser.   Periodontitis and gingivitis can be prevented by flossing.  If these diseases go untreated, the whole body can be affected by the amount of bacteria in the body’s blood stream.  Here are some ailments that can be aggravated: cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, COPD, premature birth and low birth weight babies. The body is one working unit and the mouth is no exception to inhibiting or bettering our health.   

     Cardiovascular Disease is a collection of plaques that cause atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a thickening and hardening of arteries. Studies have shown over 40% of artery lesions contain oral bacteria.  At this point, inflammation is created by the influx of blood cells which can create a blood clot, reducing blood flow to the heart.  This can eventually cause a heart attack. 

     Most diabetic patients are aware of their decreased ability to heal.  There is no exception in the oral cavity.  Diabetes decreases the body’s ability to kill bacteria.  Inflammation is also increased throughout the body and in the mouth with diabetes.  Research studies have shown higher numbers of inflammatory agents in the gums of those with poorly controlled diabetes then those patients with healthy levels.  Diabetic and periodontal health goes hand-in-hand.  If the mouth is unhealthy then diabetes is worsened and vice-versa.

     One of the functions of the oral cavity is to be the gateway of the respiratory system. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and pneumonia have been linked to poor oral health. The mouth can be a reservoir for respiratory bacteria. Bacteria like Staphylococus have been shown to accumulate on the teeth. The bacteria can be in the saliva and then aspirated in the lungs causing infection.

     The oral cavities health can also affect pregnancy. The mother provides everything for the child. She tries to eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep and much more. Bacteria in the oral cavity can adversely affect the baby as well. Periodontal disease can cause premature birth and low birth weight. Bacteria as stated above can cause inflammation.  Contractions of the uterus are caused by hormones and by substances called prostaglandins. These contractions are most common in the third trimester. Chronic infection like gingivitis and periodontitis can cause premature labor. Another study has shown bacteria from the gums in the placenta causing preterm birth.

     Most people see the dentist more often than their medical doctor. The dentist or hygienist can help monitor a patients overall health. We can suggest a smoking cessation program, oral care products, monitor blood pressure, or promote good nutrition habits. All of these suggestions are correlated with great oral home care. Our team has a true desire for all patients to have whole body health as well as oral health.

Mini Implants Stablize Loose Fitting Dentures


Nothing is more frustrating for a dental patient, than a loose fitting denture.  If there was a conservative option to secure your dentures in a day, would that be of interest to you?

Mini implants are a wonderful option to secure your existing denture.  Yes, we can use your existing denture.  Mini implants are smaller in diameter than regular implants.  They do not require surgery or healing time prior to being able to place the denture on the implants.  Usually, a minimum of four implants are placed in the bone.  They denture is modified by the dentist to house specialize attachments.  These attachments tightly fasten the denture to the mini implants.  Patients report little discomfort and a lot of satisfaction with their smile and functionality.

One appointment is all it takes to have a firmly secure denture, in one day!


Shopping for Toothbrushes

The first toothbrush with bristles was manufactured in China in 1498.  Bristles from hogs, horses and badgers were used.  The first commercial toothbrush was made in 1938.   When shopping for a toothbrush there are a few things to consider.  Electric toothbrushes are generally more efficient than a manual brush.  Electric toothbrushes can produce more brush strokes per minute and can remove more bacteria in a shorter period of time.

However, not everyone likes the “feel” of an electric toothbrush.  If you are fan of manual toothbrushes, please make sure they are soft or extra soft bristles.  It is much easier to replace your toothbrush than to repair the damage a medium or a hard bristle toothbrush can cause.  Be sure to visit your dentist and hygienist for the latest in toothbrushes.  Luckily, toothbrushes manufactures stopped using bristles from animals for the toothbrushes we use today.