Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

  • What Microbes Are in Your Mouth?

What Microbes Are in Your Mouth?

Mar 07 2020 Read 1720 Times

Dentists are continually stressing the importance of flossing and now new research from Colorado State University (CSU) has confirmed that good oral hygiene is linked to a healthy mouth microbe ecosystem. In a crowd-sourced study involving visitors to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, microbiome scientists from CSU found that brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist corresponded with good oral health. Those who didn't brush, floss or visit the dentist regularly had increased levels of a pathogen linked to periodontal disease.

Flossing linked to lower microbial diversity

The findings were published in Scientific Reports, with lead researchers Jessica Metcalf (CSU) and Nicole Garneau (Denver Museum of Nature & Science) explaining how they used cheek swabs from museum visitors to chart the microbe makeup of everyday mouths. Participants were also asked to answer questions about their demographic, lifestyle and health habits.

The team then analysed microbial DNA sequencing data to conclude that oral health habits have a direct impact on bacterial communities in the mouth. One of the most significant findings was lower microbial diversity in participants who flossed, likely caused by the physical removal of bacteria that can lead to disease and inflammation. Regular visits to the dentist also corresponded with lower microbial diversity and lower levels of Treponema, an oral pathogen linked to periodontal disease.

The influence of environment

Another interesting finding was that people who live in the same household often share similar mouth microbiome communities. This suggests that a person's environment, as well as their oral hygiene habits, also plays a role in microbiome makeup.

For Metcalf, Garneau and the team, the study not only highlights the importance of good oral hygiene but also underscores the value of community-based research. "Our study also showed that crowdsourcing and using community scientists can be a really good way to get this type of data, without having to use large, case-controlled studies," says Zach Burcham, lead author of the paper and postdoctoral researcher at CSU. "Together, we had a dream team for using community science to answer complicated questions about human health and nutrition, using state-of-the-art microbial sequencing and analysis," adds Garneau.

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