Biofilm and Health – Dental

Eco3 Environmental Uncategorized Biofilm and Health – Dental

The information below is just scratching the surface of the topic of biofilms and how they play a roll in our world and in our personal health. The study of biofilms is an ever evolving science. Biofilms are directly related to our health on many different levels. I have another biofilm post as it relates to our water supply.

 What are Biofilms?

You may not be familiar with the term “biofilm” but you have certainly encountered biofilm on a regular basis. The plaque that forms on your teeth and causes tooth decay is one type of bacterial biofilm. The buildup that clogs your drains is also biofilm. If you have ever walked in a stream or river, you may have slipped on biofilm-coated rocks.

Biofilm forms when bacteria adhere to surfaces in moist environments by excreting a slimy, glue-like substance. Sites for biofilm formation include natural materials above and below ground, metals, plastics, medical implant materials, even plant and body tissue. 

Wherever you find a combination of moisture, nutrients and a surface, you are likely to find biofilm.

A biofilm community can be formed by a single bacterial species, but in nature biofilms almost always consist of rich mixtures of many species of bacteria, as well as fungi, algae, yeasts, protozoa, other microorganisms, debris and corrosion products. 

Biofilms are held together by sugary molecular strands, collectively termed “extracellular polymeric substances” or “EPS.” The cells produce EPS and are held together by these strands, allowing them to develop complex three-dimensional, resilient, attached communities. Biofilms can be as thin as a few cell layers or many inches thick, depending on environmental conditions.

For you science geeks – These communities can form with an aerobic bacteria layer over an anaerobic layer of bacteria. In essence one layer protecting another from oxygen exposure. Also you will find certain microbes feasting off the waste products of other microbes…how amazing!

Stages of Biofilm

* Bacteria lands and attaches on a surface.

* Bacteria form a monolayer.

* A multilayer micro colony forms.

* Biofilm reaches a mature stage where microbes detach and disperse to new areas.

Aliens in your body?

About 90 percent of the cells in a human body are not human! In fact, the human body is heavily colonized by microbes that have found it a great place to live. We have communities of microbes living on all mucous surfaces and in our digestive tract, as well as on and in layers of our skin. For the most part we all get along; in fact, we depend on some of our gut microbes to help with digestion. Sometimes, however, the microbial load causes problems of infection. 

When the normal balance of microbial populations is upset or when our immune system is overwhelmed, we can have a real battle with microbial opportunists.

Internal cases of chronic infection have taken longer to prove, but testing has shown that many troublesome diseases have entrenched microbial populations at their core. Biofilms increase antibiotic resistance.

Microbes in a Biofilm Can Communicate With Each Other

Another characteristic of cells found in a biofilm is that they can communicate with each other. One of the fascinating aspects of bacterial community living is that it provides a setting for bacteria to communicate using chemical signals. There is evidence that some of these chemical signals, produced by cells and passed through their outer membranes, may be interpreted not just by members of the same cell species and other microbial species in the same biofilm community. The sensing of these chemical signals by other cells can cause the neighboring cells to behave differently. 

Where are Biofilms Found?

Biofilms avidly colonize many household surfaces, including toilets, sinks, countertops, and cutting boards in the kitchen and bath. Poor disinfection practices and ineffective cleaning products may increase the incidence of illnesses associated with pathogenic organisms in the household environment.

Your Health and Biofilms

Biofilms are implicated in acute ear infection in children in the U.S. Other diseases in which biofilms play a role in infections of the inner surface of the heart and its valves. Biofilms are also related to cystic fibrosis and Legionnaire’s disease.

Biofilms may also be responsible for a wide variety of hospital-acquired infections. Sources of biofilm-related infections can include the surfaces of catheters, medical implants, wound dressings, or other types of medical devices.

Peptic ulcers, once thought to be caused by stress, have been proved to be caused by bacterial communities. 

Dentists now understand, for instance, that dental caries (cavities) are the result of bacterial infection (and biofilms!). Over 500 bacterial species have been identified in typical dental plaque biofilms. 

Plaque, tartar, gingivitis and cavities are all related to biofilm!

Now you know of the direct link between biofilms and dental health! We all know dental health has been directly linked to our over heath. Brush and floss your teeth on a daily basis, especially before you go to bed. Don’t let biofilm build up to a visual level around your teeth or your pet’s teeth. Rinse your mouth after you brush and before you swallow. 

You are what you eat!

(Big thanks to Montana State U for some of the information in this post.)

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