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Variability in Oral Microbiome

Harvard University's Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology recently came out with a new study on the various locations of bacteria in your own mouth. In a nutshell, researchers discovered a slew of variable bacterial subpopulations living in our mouths! While the word "bacteria" can carry some negative connotations, some forms of bacteria are also vital for oral hygiene and development.

Our oral microbiome is full of small niches of bacteria which help us maintain and regulate our health. This study goes to show just how complex and varied these small communities can be. Researchers also mentioned that bacteria can get very specific! For instance, bacteria found on our tongues are distinct from from those living on our throats - and there are literally billions of bacteria all around our mouthes. The variability found in bacteria is a key feature of this study, with some findings showing further bacteria "specificity" to a particular oral geographic region.

Generally, bacteria can live on your teeth, tongue and in the spaces between your teeth and gums. Here's the catch though: the good guys can help your mouth target the harmful bacteria in food while the not-so-good bacteria can team up with germs and produce plaque and acid. The latter is one we definitely want to avoid! Some harmful bacteria occur normally in our mouths but others can also be associated with periodontal disease.

Studies like these can also help in the production of beneficial microbes targeted at specific regions. In addition, the more knowledge we have on the complexity of bacteria in our mouths, the more we can preempt harmful bacteria populations that may need to be dealt with in the future. In addition, we can use these studies to help better our approach in tailoring different dental products and medications that may impact our oral pH levels just as much as they do our bacteria. It's important to know that this is still a growing area in science that holds a lot of importance for our oral hygiene, particularly when looking at beneficial bacteria that we constantly rely on. As additional research comes out, we'll know more about all the do's and don'ts pertaining to these varied (and highly skilled) oral health-helpers!

If you're interested in learning more, here's the original link with the Journal Reference below:

  1. Daniel R. Utter, Gary G. Borisy, A. Murat Eren, Colleen M. Cavanaugh, Jessica L. Mark Welch. Metapangenomics of the oral microbiome provides insights into habitat adaptation and cultivar diversity. Genome Biology, 2020; 21 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13059-020-02200-2


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