The Challenge of Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene

The benefits of maintaining good oral hygiene are beyond question. The only perplexing issue is how one goes about achieving that objective. Clearly bacteria are the enemies of good oral health; they cause cavities in teeth, destroy the gums, give rise to oral bad breath and, in their spare time, wander the circulatory system creating mischief yet to be fully understood. The passage of oral bacteria into the circulatory system appears to be a factor in precipitating or worsening an ever growing list of health issues including heart problems, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease, and Alzheimer's disease.

Bacteria find the mouth to be the closest thing to bacterial heaven. The temperature is ideal, food is plentiful, and there are many nooks and crannies in which to build comfortable and protected communities. The mouth is so conducive to bacterial growth and reproduction that numbers of bacteria can double every thirty minutes. Once bacteria become established on the surface of a tooth, colonies can continue to expand and mineralize ultimately finding their way below the gum line.

What can one do about those nasty bacteria? Looking for answers in the oral care section of the drug store produces only deep confusion. There are so many products, but none assures a certain outcome. Flossing and brushing help by reducing plaque levels, but a significant portion remains untouched. At best, when oral rinses are turned loose in the mouth, bacterial populations are temporarily cut in half. Bacteria have learned to thrive after exposure to the antibiotic in tartar control tooth pastes. Until the discovery of the Sorbay technology there has not been a way to significantly impact the problems instigated by oral bacteria.

What is plaque? An appreciation of the challenge of maintaining good oral health can come from understanding plaque and how oral bacteria sustain themselves. Bacteria firmly bind to oral surfaces and are always reproducing at a ferocious rate. Bacteria cover themselves with a protective blanket made up of complex sugars and glycoproteins they co-opt from saliva. That mess is what is referred to as plaque. It can be brushed off of tooth surfaces and flossed away from the spaces between the teeth, but those surfaces are immediately repopulated by bacteria from remnants of the original colonies or migrants from colonies on the cheeks, the roof of the mouth and crevices in the tongue. They also come from food and drink, fingers, pencils, pens and anything else one chooses to put in one's mouth.

What is tartar? If plaque is not removed from the teeth frequently enough, it will pick up calcium phosphate from saliva and harden into tartar. Tartar is one of the materials dental professionals go after when they do a teeth cleaning. Currently tartar removal requires professional attention because no amount of brushing will remove existent tartar deposits and keep new ones at bay.

What is saliva's role in oral sanitation? Saliva is the best tool in our bacteria fighting arsenal. It contains:

  • a bacteria-killing enzyme – lysozyme
  • antibody like proteins that fight off bacteria
  • calcium phosphate which resurfaces enamel damaged by the wear and tear of chewing and the acid etching caused by the acids resulting from bacterial metabolism
  • fluoride to harden enamel
  • buffers to neutralize the acids made by bacteria and those found in foods

While working slowly, a few milliliters at a time, the liter of saliva which is produced every day also serves to provide a constant rinsing out of the mouth. Because saliva has access to all parts of the mouth twenty-four hours a day, its components have excellent opportunities to effect long lasting global sanitation of the mouth. Saliva has its downsides as well. It contains all kinds of nutrients (sugars, amino acids, etc.) with which bacteria can sustain themselves, and its rate of production, and consequently its effectiveness falls off precipitously, when one sleeps.