One of the hottest topics in medicine, healing and with researchers is the vast, complex and microbial world that makes up our microbiome (fancy word for all those little microorganisms that are a part of us). These microbiota are critical to our health, our emotional well being and our very survival. It is a surprising fact to most people that the bacterial cells that are an integral part of our bodies outnumber human cells by a factor of about three-to-one! Yikes, some folks have even joked that the human body is actually just a vehicle for bacterial cells.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria–if you break down the word to “pro” and “biotics” you get “good for life.” In fact, probiotics have been best defined as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.”
Increasingly over the past years, researchers have come to understand the critical importance of an active, healthy and balanced microbiome or microbiota–fancy words for the ecological community of microorganisms that share our body space.
Without doubt our lives and lifespans have improved dramatically with the discovery of role that “bad” bacteria plays in disease and infection. And we all appreciate value of cleanliness and modern sanitation in our daily lives. But whether it is the advertising pitch of cleaning products or the over use of antibiotics in our food and lives, the idea that all bacteria is BAD and must be eradicated is a very poor and even dangerous idea.
Man needs an active and balanced ecology of bacteria both internally and externally in order to live well and to be healthy. The lack, or imbalance of bacteria, can lead to severe health problems. This is fairly well understood and accepted when talking about the gut and digestive system but it is also true for just about every part of your body.
The oral cavity is no exception to this principle and a healthy mouth has a very active ecology of microorganisms. Problems arise when some of bacterial strains, such as the S. Mutans, dominate over other bacteria and become “bad” bacteria. It is not that they are actually bad, it is that they overgrow, upset the healthy balance and now their life cycle byproducts (such as enamel-eating acid or sulfurous gases) lead to serious problems such as dental caries, periodontal disease and chronic bad breath.
Over time, these conditions lead to gum disease, tooth decay and further complications. Poor oral health does not not stop in the mouth, it is well linked to many serious physical conditions–from heart disease to chronic inflammation. In short, this is not a condition to be taken lightly.
Good, consistent oral hygiene can help keep this problem under control but a more powerful improvement would be to attack the problems at their source–bacterial overgrowth. Simply killing off the “bad bacteria” is a poor solution, as ALL bacteria (good and bad) are attacked and killed as well. You have to restore health bacteria and restore a healthy balance.