By applying tremendous advances in DNA technology, scientists around the world continue to learn more about the microbiome inside our mouths. The microbiome is the collection of bacterial and microscopic species that live inside our mouths, especially in the saliva. For example, we now know of some oral bacteria that actually prevent tooth decay and gum disease. We also are aware of bacteria that are particularly problematic for good oral health. But where do the individual members of our microbiome come from in the first place?
Studying the Source of the Microbiome
One of the driving questions in science is whether certain phenomena are due to genetics, the environment, or both. So researchers in the United Kingdom were interested in studying what is the biggest factor in deciding the makeup of your oral microbiome. In other words, why does your mouth contain specific oral bacteria while another person’s mouth might contain bacteria that are significantly different? The scientists examined the relationship of age, location, living in the same house, and genetic relatedness to the microbiomes of more than 180 people living in four cities on three continents.
When the results were added up and presented in the journal of the American Society of Microbiology, it became very clear that the biggest factor in deciding your oral microbiome was simply who you lived with — your household. Genetics, location and age played far lesser roles in deciding what was in your mouth.
One researcher explained the likely reason for this: “Individuals hands are covered in saliva and they are touching everything in the house.” That saliva “in the house” contains the bacteria that are part of your microbiome. Therefore, although kissing certainly plays a role in passing saliva and microorganisms between family members, simply living in the same place is sufficient to pick up bacteria from other people.
What Role in Gum Disease or Tooth Decay?
“Once we understand the members of the microbiome that are responsible for health, our everyday behavior could change to shift our microbiome favorably.” — Adam P. Roberts, study author
The implications of this study are clear for households where gum disease or tooth decay are common. If one member has problems with these oral illnesses, the other family members likely have a higher risk for dental complications. The key to stopping gum disease and tooth decay, both of which are linked to specific bacteria, is therefore prevention with regular oral hygiene and routine visits to the dentists and hygienists at the Marconi Dental Group.
If you do not have an appointment for your next dental exam and cleaning scheduled, please contact us now. Our Carmichael dental team can make certain that the inhabitants of your oral microbiome do not undermine your dental health.