Did you know your mouth is full of bacteria? Yup, even if you just visited the dentist for a cleaning. Yes, even if you just finished brushing (and flossing!). Don’t worry, not all bacteria is bad for you. But a new study released as a partnership between the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and Colorado State University reveals some pretty awesome findings about the population of bacteria in people’s mouths.
Visitors to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science agreed to participate in the study. For the study, scientists led by Nicole Garneau took cheek swabs and asked questions about the visitor’s daily habits. This team then gave the data to CSU scientists led by Jessica Metcalf who studied the microbiome of participant’s mouthes. They used the data from the questionnaire to interprete. Originally, they were investigating how the microbiome affected the way each person perceived sweet flavors, but the data gave insights beyond that.
Participants of the study who said they flossed regularly showed much less diversity of bacteria in their mouth. Additionally, participants who had been to the dentist for a cleaning in the last 3 months also showed a significantly lower diversity of bacteria. Each participant’s microbiome was also compared to other participants. Interestingly, children in the study were more likely to have similar bacteria, while adults showed a much broader range of bacteria types. The team thinks one reason for this could be the broader range of diversity in most adult diets. Children are more likely to eat similar foods to each other.
Another interesting finding: Adults and children living in the same home shared many of the rare types of bacteria. While interesting, this is not surprising. Their diets are more likely to be similar and they may occasionally share beverages which would share rare bacteria between them.
The team paid special attention to one bacteria called Treponema. This bacteria is the main cause of periodontal disease. Adults who had gone more than 12 months without a dental cleaning showed much higher levels of Treponema. Additionally, children whose weight places them in the obese category also showed much higher levels of Treponema. This could suggest a link between childhood obesity and periodontal disease, although more research would be needed to prove that.
We are excited to be in a state where exciting and interesting research is prioritized and funded! We hope to see even more research that finds new applications for this data in the future! Hopefully this study encourages you to take good care of your microbiome! Regular visits to the dentist and flossing daily are a great defense against gum disease!