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Plaque: Is it really all that bad?

Plaque: Is it really all that bad?
Published Jul 15, 2019

“Oooohh, you’ve got some plaque build-up there,” warns your dentist.

“We caught it just in time, but any longer and it could’ve been a bad situation.”

‘Stupid plaque!’ you think. ‘Why isn’t there a cure that could rid us of plaque forever?!’

As you drift off to sleep and the dream sequence music begins, you have that distinct feeling that the universe is about to teach you something...

Your oral microbiome

You wake up in the dark. It’s warm. You start to feel around and are surprised to find that it’s wet. Are you in a cave?  

As your eyes adjust, you realize this is no cave. It’s the inside of a mouth.

You look around at the teeth and gums and realize it’s not just any mouth. It’s your mouth. 

Is this laughing gas or real life? (Definitely laughing gas)

Suddenly, your mouth opens and a toothbrush comes in. You watch it brush and clean each tooth and congratulate yourself on your stellar oral hygiene. Your dentist would be proud.

The toothbrush leaves and you start to notice something strange. A distinct, clear film starts forming on each tooth. 

‘What is that?’ you think. You walk closer to get a better look. How could you have not known about this before?!

The Battle: Phase 1

What you’re looking at is a biofilm layer. Several times, you watch as strands of bad bacteria float up and try to attack your tooth, but every time, the biofilm acts like a wall of protection and fights off every threat!

You’re seeing a colony of plaque in its very beginning stage. This plaque layer forms within moments of brushing your teeth. 

You peer closer into the clear film and notice that within it, there’s a battle going on. This colony of plaque is made up of all different kinds of bacteria - and they really don’t seem to be getting along.

On one side, you have “The Symbiotic Microbes.” They’re the good guys and there are tons of them.

On the opposing side, you have “The Pathogenic Microbes.” They’re the bad guys. They’re wildly outnumbered and are clearly losing.

In the middle, you have a group of “Commensal Microbes,” that appear to be fighting with the good guys. 

In the beginning stage of plaque formation, good bacteria that are aerobic (oxygen-loving) own the colony. They’re staunch protectors of your teeth and everything is GOOD! 

The Battle: Phase 2

You notice your toothbrush coming back in. “Good job, me!” you think.

You brush away the biofilm layers and once you’re done, they quickly start forming again. 

Accept… You missed some.

You run over to get a better look and realize that something is happening with those missed layers. Some unexpected guests have shown up and they’re launching a strange attack.

Good bacteria needs oxygen - but bad bacteria doesn’t. The bad bacteria know this, so they call in reinforcements.

Their newly arrived friends begin to emit a sticky, white substance. This substance attaches to the biofilm and slowly chokes the oxygen out of the colony. The good guys start moving more slowly. 

More and more bad microbes show up. Their numbers are growing quickly.

What you’re actually seeing is phase 2 of a plaque colony’s life cycle. 

The shift from an aerobic environment to one that’s now anaerobic (low-oxygen) is a major issue. The colony is being taken over.

The Battle: Phase 3

Things look bad. The good guys are severely outmanned and getting picked off one by one. This colony needs to go NOW.

You see your toothbrush come in. Thank God.

But once the brushing is done, to your horror, you see that you missed one of the same plaque colonies... again. ‘This is bad,’ you think. And you’re right. 

Remember “The Commensal Microbes” that were with the good guys at the beginning? Well, they’re switching sides. That’s what they do. They choose their allegiance based on whose winning. They’ve totally abandoned you. 

What you’re witnessing is the last stage of a plaque colony and unfortunately, this is a common path to total mouth degeneration. 

If the plaque colony is allowed to continue along its life cycle, the biofilm continues to thicken and let in even lower amounts of oxygen - and the good guys lose. 

This stage of plaque is what dentists are referring to when they say you’ve got to get rid of the plaque you’ve accumulated. They’re not getting rid of all of your plaque. That would be terrible for you. They’re getting rid of the plaque that’s been conquered. The colonies that have been overrun with bad bacteria.

The Connection

In the past few years, you’ve probably read somewhere that 80% of our immune system is in our belly (aka gut) - and the majority of our immune system is comprised of these bacterial microbes we’ve been discussing. 

These microbes are super important and perform a whole host of functions like providing protection against foreign invaders, stimulating immune response, aiding in digestion, and producing vitamins, among other things. 

But just like the microbes in our mouth, these colonies can be defeated and what we now know, is that our mouths act as the gatekeepers to our entire digestive tract (which is home to the majority of our immune system).

In other words, your mouth decides which microbes gain access to your immune system and which ones don’t. And if your mouth has been conquered by bad bacteria - who do you think it’s letting in? 

Dr. Carlos Sibaja, owner of CJ Dental in Vista, California says:

“There is a strong association between periodontal disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy complications and respiratory disease. Halting the progression of periodontal disease and maintaining excellent oral hygiene will not only reduce the risk of gum disease and bone loss, but also reduce the chances of developing other serious illnesses.” 

And the sure fire way to rid yourself of those conquered plaque colonies and halt the progression of periodontal disease? Schedule an appointment with a dentist that understands the importance of maintaining your oral health for the benefit of your whole body. 

Schedule an appointment with one of our holistic dentists today!

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