Why Are Bacteria So Destructive To Your Teeth?

May 2009

By: Dr. Scott R. Harden

It is amazing to me that the tiniest little microorganisms that reside in our mouths can create such substantial destruction to our teeth, especially considering that our teeth are armor-coated with enamel. A bacteria measures about one micrometer or “micron”. There are 1000 microns in 1mm and 25.4 mm per inch. The wall of enamel on a tooth is about 1mm thick. Thus, a single bacterium must effectively penetrate 1000 times it’s size to enter into the soft middle area of our teeth known as “dentin”.

Our mouths set the stage for a battlefield, which remains a blazing 95 degrees Fahrenheit and a grueling 100% humidity. The offensive comes from bacterial armies that have been amassed by numerous militant factions. Intel reports from microbiologists estimate the militant factions are comprised of more than 400 species of bacteria, and hundreds of species of fungi, protozoa, and viruses that have taken up residence in our mouths. Some of these enemy factions have been identified as: streptococci, staphylococci, corynebacteria, neisseria, lactobacilli, and candida. The most impressive and unnerving statistic of all is there are more bacteria in our mouths than the entire world’s population and saliva may contain up to 1 billion bacteria per milliliter.

These militant factions are supplied by an endless supply of ammunition, primarily in the form of sugar and carbohydrates, which the bacteria use to convert into their ultimate weapon; a very strong acid that will dissolve enamel and prove a “bacterial knife” for attacking and stripping the gum tissue off the roots of our teeth. These armies become deeply entrenched and the ammunition supply appears to be endless and impossible to cut off. The enemy has two defined targets; our teeth and supporting gum tissue. Further, these armies are unique in that they can launch a 24/7 non-stop invasion that proves to be relentless and formidable. These armies repopulate at an amazing level.

The strategic defensive for our mouths that occur on a natural level includes our primary barrier of enamel, our long-range attack from our immune system, our awaiting battalion of saliva offering neutralizing affects against bacterial acid, and the stringent force of our tongue to swipe bacteria off our teeth. These defensive units combine to fortify and immobilize the enemy stronghold. Secondary defensive units command a toothbrush, toothpaste, fluoride, floss, water irrigation, sealants and regular professional dental visits to sabotage and otherwise affect a full retreat of the bacterial armies.

The enemy battle plan is to take up a stronghold inside the poorly defensible areas of our teeth and gums, and upon reaching their target, unleash their acid and launch their biological attack. The weakest points of our teeth are the deep grooves on the top and the pits located on various surfaces. Once embedded into these fortified strongholds, despite all countermeasures, it will only prove a matter of time before the ongoing assault of the 1,000 to 100,000 bacterial armies found on each tooth will conclude in a certain victory, known as a cavity or “caries”. The weakest point of our gums is the space around our teeth, called a “sulcus”, and is a prime location for trench warfare. The unyielding incursion of these bacteria can lower defenses of the gum attachment regretfully from a 2 or 3mm depth that is normal to a 5mm or greater depth that effectively severs defensive forces from engaging the enemy and allows gum disease to progress from “gingivitis” to “periodontitis” ultimately compromising bone support and tooth retention.

Official statistics have come in estimating 30% of the U.S. population does not clean their teeth. 80% (8 out of 10) of all people demonstrate some level of gingival inflammation or damaging periodontal disease. 30% of people in the U.S. over the age of 65 years old have no teeth.
Bacterial armies are on the full offensive every day waging war and explicitly attacking your teeth and gums. Keep up your offensive by brushing and flossing 2-3 times per day. See your dentist regularly for professional check ups and cleanings. If your seeking a new dentist, find an office that has a doctor and staff that make you feel welcome, educate you about your mouth and meet your dental needs so dental health remains a strong focus throughout your life.