Right now as you read this, there are as many as 200 different species of bacteria in your mouth. Depending on how recently you brushed, each individual tooth may be home to as many as 1 million bacteria. Don’t worry though, the vast majority of bacteria in your mouth are completely harmless.

However, some oral bacteria are harmful. Today, we’ll talk about how oral bacteria can cause gum disease and how gum disease can affect your whole body health and wellness.

Bacteria & tooth decay

Bacteria do 3 things very well:

  • Eat
  • Make more bacteria
  • Excrete waste

Carbohydrates (sugars) are to bacteria what gasoline is to your car. When bacteria eat sugar, they output waste, just like your car’s exhaust. In the case of bacteria, these waste products include acids that lower the pH of your mouth. Your teeth, while very strong, are susceptible to damage from acids— a process known as demineralization. This process weakens teeth and makes them more likely to suffer from tooth decay.

When they’re not eating, bacteria are reproducing and creating more bacteria. Bacteria reproduces astonishingly quickly. If you were to go 24 hours without brushing, the bacterial population in your mouth could increase by 500% or even more.

As bacteria remineralize teeth and reproduce, they may begin to infect the inner layers of the tooth, leading to cavities.

Limiting bacterial growth

You can help protect your oral health by depriving bacteria of food by eating a diet low in sugar. But it isn’t possible to eat a diet completely free of carbohydrates. Bacteria are evolved to find food and since they’re so tiny, a little fuel goes a long way.

Brushing and flossing regularly is a great way to remove bacteria from your mouth and limit bacterial growth. Bacteria adhered to the teeth are called plaque. Some plaque can be removed by brushing and flossing. But some plaque stays behind and forms a hard material called dental tartar or calculus. Tartar can’t be removed by brushing alone and it often forms in hard-to-brush places between the teeth or along the gumline. That’s why it’s so important to see the dentist regularly. Thorough dental cleanings help remove this hardened tartar that brushing alone can’t.

Bacteria and gum disease

So we’ve learned about the bacteria in your mouth, what they do, and how they cause cavities. Now, what’s the connection between bacteria and gum disease?

When bacteria gets into a cut on your finger, the result can be an infection. The same is true of your gum tissue. Tiny cuts and abrasions, caused by aggressive brushing or other damage, can lead to bacterial inflammation of the gums, also known as gum disease.

Gum disease and your body

Bacteria that enter through your gums are free to travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. They may begin to infect other organs and cause a myriad of other serious health problems, including:

  • Heart attacks and heart diseaseGum disease is a significant warning sign of possible heart disease and heart attack.
  • Diabetes – People with diabetes have a higher than average risk of gum disease.
  • Alzheimer’sRecent research is showing a possible between gum disease and Alzheimer’s.


Gingivitis is the most common form of gum disease and is characterized by swollen, red, and tender gums that bleed easily, especially when brushed and flossed. With early detection and treatment, gingivitis is very treatable and will not affect the long term health of your teeth and gums.

Treatments include: Dental cleanings and improved brushing and flossing technique


Much more serious than gingivitis is periodontitis, or advanced inflammation around the teeth and gums. Periodontitis is an advanced form of gingivitis that occurs when gingivitis is not treated promptly.

Periodontitis is characterized by infected pockets of tissue around the teeth and gums. These pockets fill with bacterial infection which can then spread below the gumline, attacking the jaw bone and the teeth themselves. Eventually without treatment, gum tissue will begin to die, the jaw bone itself will be damaged, and tooth loss is almost inevitable.

More gum disease risk factors

Your diet, your genetics, and other factors can increase your gum disease risk. Other risk factors to watch out for include:

  • Smoking and vaping – There is no safe way to use tobacco products
  • Hormonal changes – Pregnancy gingivitis is common and hormonal changes can increase your gum disease risk
  • Diabetes – Diabetes can not only increase your risk of gum disease, but gum disease can make it more challenging to control blood sugar
  • Medications – Many medications carry a side effect of dry-mouth, which can contribute to bacterial growth and gum disease

Treating gum disease with LANAP

You simply can’t ignore gum disease. The stakes are just too high.

Unfortunately until relatively recently, gum disease treatments were often limited to invasive and painful surgical procedures. These gum disease surgeries often removed healthy gum tissue in addition to diseased tissue and bacterial growth.

Fortunately at Blodgett Dental Center there’s a better way to treat gum disease: the LANAP protocol. LANAP is not surgery. Instead it’s a high-tech laser therapy designed to eliminate gum disease and promote the growth of healthy gum tissue. LANAP works fast and requires minimal recovery time. It reduces inflammation, nearly eliminates the risk of infection (a common problem with traditional gum surgery), and even helps minimize gum recession.

Do you have a dental implant?

Tooth loss is extremely common and high-tech dental implants can be a healthy and permanent solution. However, dentists are now seeing a drastic increase in gum disease affecting dental implants. Known as peri-implantitis, this form of gum disease can decrease the stability of the implant and even cause the implant to fail.

LAPIP is a laser treatment specially designed to defeat peri-implantitis.

Let’s talk about your gum health

If you’re ready to fight gum disease head-on, it’s time to schedule a consultation with Dr. Blodgett, Portland’s most experienced gum disease expert. Call (503) 285-3620 today or request your appointment online.