Biofilm, the protective housing for bacteria, is a hot topic in the medical and dental fields. Routinely taking an antibiotic for a bacterial infection has become more complicated because of biofilm. Bacterial infections may become resistant to antibiotics in part because the biofilm allows for communication among the bacteria, allowing the infection to be sustained.
So what does biofilm have to do with teeth? The dental profession now understands that there is a biofilm in your mouth; healthy biofilm and diseased biofilm. Both are made of the same general compounds, but when combined with certain amino acids and cellular chemicals, the diseased biofilm conquers and destroys.
Peridontal disease, otherwise know as gum disease, is a biofilm disease. If a patient has periodontal disease and does NOT complete the full recommended treatment for this low grade gum infection, then the disease will progress and can spread due to the biofilm.
After the dental exam is completed, the hygienist will usually uses an Ultrasonic Cleaner or a Piezo Scaler. These important dental tools use a method of spraying water that disturbs the biofilm and provides an opportunity to treat the infection causing bacteria.
Remember we all need healthy biofilm. Just as the skin protects your body, the biofilm houses good bacteria for protection as well. The bacteria in biofilm replicate every twenty minutes. If your body has healthy bacteria, low levels of hydrogen peroxide are produced by the biofilm, preventing harmful bacteria from residing. The harmful bacteria do not like an oxygen rich environment.
At your exam, dental supporting bone level measurements around your teeth are made. These measurments are known as "pocket depths." The higher the number, the deeper the pocket measurement, which gives more room for the harmful bacteria to reside since there is less of an oxygenated environment as the pocket depth increases. In medicine, we are encouraged to know our "numbers" like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Likewise, in dentistry, since the depth of our periodontal pockets usually indicates the level of gum disease that is present in our mouths, we should all know our periodontal pocket numbers!