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Can Oral Bacteria Tests Mitigate My Risk of Gum Disease, Other Health Risks

Apr 23, 2023 | Periodontics

Everyone has bacteria in their mouth, but not everyone gets periodontal disease. So, what types of bacteria should you be concerned about and what are the implications of not taking corrective actions?

Oral bacteria are microorganisms that exist in our mouths and are responsible for various dental problems. The oral bacteria form a biofilm known as plaque, which accumulates on our teeth and gums. If left unattended, this plaque can lead to gum disease, a severe condition that affects the gums and the bone that supports the teeth.

Types of Oral Bacteria and Connections to Systemic Health Issues

The bacteria in the plaque produce toxins that irritate the gums, leading to inflammation, bleeding, and eventually, gum recession. If left untreated, gum disease can cause tooth loss and affect your overall health. There are several types of bacteria that are responsible for gum disease, including:

  • Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis): This bacterium is one of the primary causes of gum disease. It produces toxins that damage the gums and can cause bone loss around the teeth. In the past few years we’ve seen extensive research on P. gingivalis and its direct impact on the progression of periodontal disease. Further, there are now clinical studies, as reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, indicating that P. gingivalis is also present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. As noted by American Society for Microbiology, P. gingivalis has also been found in coronary artery plaques of heart attack patients.
  • Tannerella forsythia: This bacterium is often found in deep pockets around the teeth and is responsible for the destruction of the tooth-supporting bone. Additionally, Tannerella certain studies have shown that forsythia is associated with cardiovascular disease.
  • Treponema denticola: This bacterium is highly motile and can penetrate deep into the gum tissue, causing inflammation and tissue destruction.Treponema denticola is a predominantly subgingival oral spirochete closely associated with periodontal disease and has been detected in atherosclerosis. (source) Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on the artery walls. This buildup is called plaque. The plaque can cause arteries to narrow, blocking blood flow.
  • Fusobacterium nucleatum: This bacterium is commonly found in periodontal pockets and can cause severe gum inflammation.In recent years, a large number of studies published on the National Institute of Health (NIH) National Library of Medicine website, suggest that F. nucleatum is closely related to the development of various systemic diseases ranging from cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes, inflammatory bowel diseases, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, respiratory infection, and rheumatoid arthritis.

As discussed in our other blog articles, symptoms of early-stage gum disease can be identified by gums that:

  • Are bright red;
  • Tender to the touch; and
  • Bleed easily, especially after brushing or flossing


Benefits of Getting a Saliva (Oral Bacteria) Test

If you notice these symptoms, we recommend making an appointment at the Mugford Center immediately, before the condition progresses to more serious forms of periodontal disease, which can result in tooth loss and other health problems.

“For both early and advanced cases of gingivitis that we see, we recommend a saliva test called MyPerioPath® to ascertain which different strain–or strains–of bacteria are triggering periodontal disease so that the right treatment course can be followed,” says Dr. John Bruce of the Mugford Center.

Dr. Bruce notes that this saliva test is quite easy: the patient swishes a saline solution in his or her mouth and spits it into a tube that is sent offsite to our partners at OralDNA Labs. The results are then sent back to our office with a recommended treatment plan. As noted above, the detection of oral pathogens that cause gum disease and threaten oral and systemic health. 

Getting tested for oral pathogens that cause gum disease is important for several reasons. “First, it can help identify the specific bacteria that are causing the infection, which can guide the selection of an appropriate treatment plan,” adds Dr. Bruce. “Different types of bacteria may respond better to different types of antibiotics or other treatments, so knowing which bacteria are present can help ensure that the most effective treatment is prescribed.”

Second, getting tested for oral pathogens can help identify the presence of gum disease before symptoms become severe. In the early stages of gum disease, symptoms may be mild or nonexistent, but if left untreated, the disease can progress to more severe stages. By detecting the presence of oral pathogens early, it is possible to treat the infection before it causes significant damage to the gums and teeth.

Finally, getting tested for oral pathogens is important for preventing the spread of infection to other parts of the body. Oral pathogens have been linked to a range of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and respiratory infections. By identifying and treating oral infections early, it may be possible to reduce the risk of these health problems.

Getting tested for the detection of oral pathogens that cause gum disease is an important step in maintaining good oral health and preventing the progression of gum disease. These tests can help identify the specific bacteria causing the infection, detect gum disease in its early stages, and reduce the risk of health problems associated with oral infections. If you are concerned about your oral health or suspect that you may have gum disease, please call our Crofton Maryland office at: (410) 260-0790.