Dr Keith Souter writes: It consists of the micro-organisms that cover our skin and which we carry inside us.
Much research has been done on the bowel microflora, but we are now finding out more and more about the oral microbiome, the microflora inside the mouth.
This has a large effect on overall health, and is not just limited to oral health – tooth decay and gum disease.
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The food that we eat on a regular basis influences the overall amount and balance of the oral microbiome, for good and for bad.
Scientists in the USA have looked at the effect of certain foods on the oral microbiome in postmenopausal women.
They found that a higher intake of sugary foods, including donuts, pastries, cakes, fizzy sugared drinks may cause poor oral health and often more significant systemic health problems.
Over 1,200 women who had reached the menopause were included in the study that involved examining carbohydrate intake and analysing the subgingival plaque.
That means the plaque that forms below the gums.
This gives a far better idea than looking at the bacterial content of the saliva, as has been done in previous research studies.
They found a definite association between total carbohydrates, sucrose and Streptococcus mutans, a known contributor to both tooth decay and some types
They also found that Leptotrichia species, which are a range of rod-shaped bacteria, which are known to be associated with gum disease was also positively associated with sugar intake.
Gum disease can exacerbate a whole array of medical problems.
It is suspected that this happens when bacteria are carried in the bloodstream from the mouth to other parts of the body, causing inflammation.
Yet another suspected mechanism is that oral infections trigger the immune system, which produces inflammation elsewhere in the body.
But the fact that sugary food and drink can impact on the microflora balance of the oral microbiome, affecting both oral and general health should give cause for concern about one’s intake of carbohydrates.
Tooth brushing is vital, but the choice of foods should be considered too.