Biofilm And Our Health | Delmarva Dental Services

Biofilm And Our Health

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Biofilms are present everywhere including our bodies. Biofilms are layers of bacteria, fungi and other organisms held together by glue-like gel; polysaccharide, which sticks to surfaces. (See “It All Starts with Biofilms”) We have biofilms on our teeth, tongue, cheeks, in our intestines, nasal passages, sinuses, and on our skin. We have10 times as many bacteria as there are cells in the body. There are 500 distinct species of organisms in the intestine, 400 in the plaque on your teeth and 182 on the skin. Little is known about the exact function and the interaction of these organisms. Scientists think most of the organisms in our body are harmless. However, we know that some are helpful and some are harmful. The medical establishment believed single species of bacteria caused disease. Biofilm influence didn’t start to be recognized until 1978. Biofilm organization and intercommunication wasn’t recognized until 1990. Many alternative medicine proponents believe that many diseases especially so called autoimmune disorders like arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, are caused by biofilms.Organisms in different parts of the body have some similarities, but by and large they are different. The skin organisms are different than the intestinal organisms. In addition the type of bacteria can vary on the same surface at different times. For example, when you have a sore throat there is a change in your throat biofilm population. Also people taking antibiotics can get yeast infections, vaginally or orally. The antibiotics kill the normal bacteria in the biofilm allowing the fungus (candida albicans) to overgrow.Different people can have different organisms in similar areas of the body. Everyone has staphylococcus aureus bacteria on their skin but some individuals carry a different variation of the species, mrsa (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus). These individuals are usually unaware and may not have infections but they can transfer this mrsa to others. Also everyone has streptococcus mutans in their mouth. It is the primary cause of tooth decay. Babies are not born with it. It is transferred to them by their mothers. Some individuals who have the same diet and oral hygiene get cavities and others don’t. Why? Cavity free individuals have other bacteria in their biofilms which are a different species that inhibits the growth of streptococcus mutans.When healthy normal biofilms grow and/or concentrations change, infection and disease occur. This can occur when one or several of the resident organisms overgrow, or when a new infectious (virulent) organism begins to grow. Remember, the new organism can enlist the resident organisms to make products that it can use to grow by “quorum sensing(See “It All Starts with Biofilms”). The unhealthy biofilm affect on our body usually occurs due to the toxins produced by the organisms, not necessarily the organisms themselves. Prevention of illness from biofilm involves three approaches:
  • Minimizing the effect of the toxins on our body
  • Changing the organism or type of organisms in the biofilm
  • Shrinking, thinning, or eliminating the biofilm.
The first approach of minimizing the effect of the toxins on the body can be seen with the use of fluoride prevention of tooth decay. Biofilm bacteria or plaque use sugar to make acid. A particular species of bacteria (streptococcus mutans) is primarily responsible for making acid but it also encourages (“quorum sensing”) other bacteria to make acid. Acid dissolves teeth by removing the calcium and phosphate form the tooth. Fluoride (fluorine) in water, toothpastes, rinses and gels becomes incorporated into the tooth enamel structure making it more resistant to the toxic acid. Another example of this is measuring the acidity (pH) of patients with high cavity rates. It is thought that people who get a lot of cavities have a lower pH or a lot of acid than people who don’t get cavities. When acidity is high (low pH) having the patient rinse with basic (sodium bicarbonate) (high pH) mouth rinses dilutes the acid having less effect on the tooth. The second approach is changing the organisms or type of organism in the biofilm. This can be done by selectively removing organisms or introducing new friendly organisms which compete with existing ones. The use of antibiotics will eliminate the targeted infectious organism or group of organisms that are susceptible to the drug. Another example is the millions of people who eat yogurt with active cultures or take probiotics. This introduces helpful bacteria to the existing biofilm pushing out the harmful bacteria in their intestines improving digestion. It can also be seen in dentistry with the new oral probiotic (Evora plus) which introduces nonacid forming bacteria to compete with tooth destroying acid forming bacteria. The third approach is shrinking, thinning or eliminating the biofilm. With all the technology available today, it is just like grandma used to say, the best way to clean is to use a scrub brush. And the best method for thinning the biofilm is to scrub it away. Examples of this are tooth brushing, flossing, hand washing, washing and scrubbing surfaces. Nonspecific organism killing agents are also used. Chemicals like alcohol and bleach are used in many household cleaning products. Heat and gas sterilizers are used on medical and dental instruments. We use heat to kill organisms in food preparation. Oxygen in the form of ozone is used to purify water in bottled water manufacturing and sewage treatment plants.  Lasers are an excellent method for destroying biofilm. While there are many ways to prevent the ill effect of biofilms on our lives, there are several crucial factors we need to know:
  • Biofilms take only minutes to begin forming again.
  • Organisms have evolved over millions of years and are very adaptable to changes in environment and food sources.
  • Organisms are constantly mutating making them more resistant to our efforts and even more adaptable.
  • Generally, the thicker and older the biofilm the more unhealthy it is.
  • Most biofilms thrive on sugar and do not like oxygen.