Biofilm

Biofilm–What Is It and Why you should care

It was the end of a long day and I was deeply immersed in my nightly bedtime ritual of brushing, flossing, and getting ready for some badly needed sleep. My Troop of Chore Police (my doggies) came in and informed me that I had forgotten something very important–I had forgotten to check their water.  As I grabbed the water bowl, my thumb noticed a film on the inside of the bowl.

“Ewww! Gross! And there are floaters in the water too!” I said to the Chore Police.

At that moment, my thought bubble popped out of my head.  thoughtbubble1

What is the slime? It is known as a biofilm.  I will quote the definition given by Colgate at www.colgateprofessional.com/patient-eduction/articles/whati-is-biofilm:

Biofilms form when bacteria adhere to surfaces in some form of watery environment and begin to excrete a slimy, gluelike substance that can stick to all kinds of materials–metals, plastics, soil particles, medical implant materials, biological tissues. Biofilms can be formed by a single bacterial species, but biofilms more often consist of many species of bacteria, as well as fungi, algae, protozoa, debris, and corrosion products. Essentially, a biofilm may form on any surface exposed to bacteria and some amount of water.1

So that is the long definition of biofilm. How does this affect you, the person reading a dental blog? I want you to think in terms of this–biofilm=plaque.  Plaque is our nemesis in the dental office.  We know that plaque (biofilms) do bad things when they are allowed to hang out in your mouth. When you see your dentist or dental hygienist for your evaluations, you probably have been nagged, excuse me-I mean instructed, by your dental professional to use a toothbrush and floss at least once a day to keep your teeth and gums healthy.  Is that verbal instruction from a professional enough to keep you motivated? Probably not, since most people do not floss on a daily basis or even on an every other day basis.

For those of you that require a little more motivation let me introduce to you a video. This video is especially good for those visual learners. There is no distraction from sound or color-just the facts. It is about 2 minutes long and shows the bacterial growth in 24 hours. These bacteria are not actors, they are the same types of bacteria growing and flourishing in your mouth right now. If you want to skip to the last 15 seconds, that’s fine. The end shows how much the bacteria colony has grown in 23-24 hours. Yuck!!

Okay, so I hope I have moved you to want to take action. What can you do?

  • Brush daily. I suggest brushing at least twice a day using an ultrasonic toothbrush. The action of brushing mechanically breaks up the protective slime barrier and helps to obliterate the colony. An ultrasonic toothbrush, such as Sonicare or Oral-B, utilizes ultrasonic vibration and mechanical means to disrupt the bacteria.
  • Floss at least once a day. Flossing is an important tool used to reach areas between the teeth and below the gumline. Brushing alone is inadequate in these areas to break up the bacteria. Flossing is another mechanical means of breaking up the bacterial colony.
  • Brush your removable dental appliance. If you are wearing some sort of removable dental appliance such as a full denture, a partial denture, a mouthguard or nightguard, you will want to use a soft toothbrush on a daily basis to clean the surfaces. These appliances build up the same biofilm and can cause problems if left to multiply.
  • Check your denture or partial dentures for wear and report to your dentist. Cracks, rough areas, and peeling of your dental appliance will give the bacteria a place to hide and multiply.

The decision is yours.

Are you willing to let the biofilm have a place to live and thrive in your mouth by giving them a safe place to stay, allowing them to eat what you eat, and possibly taking over your dental and all-over health by their increasing numbers and by-products? Or do you become your own Chore Police and train yourself to spend a few extra minutes per day to brush and floss so that bacteria isn’t allowed to run rampant in your mouth and become a sticky, slimy biofilm?

Be your own Super Hero!!

Have a great week and remember that KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

Your comments are appreciated and read by the author. Your idea could be our next blog topic.

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