Dental biofilms

September 17, 2012

Dental, Health, Pain

If untreated, bleeding gums can progress to a more virulent condition where your bone begins to rot and wither away.

by Dr. Nicholas Meyer — 

Dental biofilm is probably the most prevalent and observable biofilm most people will encounter on a regular basis. You remember being admonished to brush your teeth to remove the plaque. Plaque is a sticky, gooey film that forms on the teeth through no effort on your part; it actually is quite a sophisticated biofilm that contains millions of bacteria in a “glycoproteinaceous” slime.

Biofilms are hierarchical by their nature. The more superficial layers have access to oxygen and use it readily. Here we find aerobic bacteria, the ones that need oxygen to thrive. However, the deeper and thicker the plaque, the less oxygen that is available for the bacteria, which causes them to undergo a conversion to the anaerobic form, bacteria that do not need oxygen. This grouping of bugs causes the most problems. These anaerobic bacteria produce substances known as exotoxins, chemicals that are potent and irritating to humans.

One result of these troublesome chemicals occurs in the form of bleeding gums. If untreated, this problem can progress to a more virulent condition where your bone begins to rot and wither away. One mission of the dental profession is to help you keep your teeth for a lifetime. A way to help accomplish this is by regularly removing the biofilm from your teeth and gums through brushing and flossing. A newer, more creative way is to use substances known as surfactants that are just beginning to make inroads into the dental marketplace.

These substances are completely safe to the human organism. Their action mechanism prevents the colonization of bacteria on oral tissues by changing the surface energy to actually prevent the bacteria from adhering to the tissues. Since they do not stick around, they cannot do their nasty business. Look for more products of this type in the years to come.


Nicholas Meyer, D.D.S., is a general dentist in Scottsdale, Ariz. He has a special interest in the functional aspects of the oral cavity that contribute to such maladies as TMJ, snoring and sleep apnea. 480-948-0560 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 4, August/September 2007.

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