The whole world of research around oral microbiology is evolving at a rapid pace. In the last twenty years, you might even say that the rate of new understanding of the microbiology of the mouth has undergone a revolution.
A big part of this revolution comes from the amazing new scientific technologies that allow for rapid gene sequencing and analyzing the genome of the bacteria (a genome is the complete set of genetic material in a cell or organism–kind of like the genetic list of ingredients). What was impossible before, or took months, is now a rapid process.
And one of the most promising fields is oral microbiology. It has allowed scientists to expand their concept of the oral microbiome. They now recognize that the oral microorganisms are far more complex and diverse than previously realized.
It is also becoming clearer that this diversity is quite important to study and to understand. They now see that most oral infections are polymicrobial (this just means that it involves more that one microbe–so, a set or mix of bacteria). And from this it is understood that these inter-relationships are a big part of establishing health, or preventing disease.
As we have talked about before, the mouth is the gateway to the body. What happens there does not stay there. And so, having a healthy oral microbial balance is super important to your health, and the health of your family.
One interesting aspect of oral microbiology has been to upset the long-held belief that fetal development took place in basically a sterile environment. Basically that the fetus was free from contamination caused by harmful bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms.
However, a study done in England found that oral microorganisms were found in the amnionic fluid of a majority of pregnant women. That means that the oral flora of the mother can actually colonize the fetus.
The most likely way that this bacteria would enter the fetus would through blood transport. And this is likely only when the mother has an oral disease, such as gingivitis or periodontitis.
It is already understood that periodontal disease is one of the risk factors for low-weight births as well as pre-term births. Now understanding that the pathogenic bacteria can actually pass into the fetus gives further support to this risk factor.
There is a tremendous amount of further information about the development of a child's oral bacterial culture and its relationship to their health. But we will have to pick that up later.
But a closing word, it appears that the oral health of the mother can have an effect upon the oral development of her child, as early as pre-birth, as well as raise the risk for pre-term birth and low-weight births. So, moms, take good care of your teeth and oral health!