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Did you know there are over 700 species of bacteria present inside the mouth? Scientists even have a fancy name for it – “The Human Oral Microbiome”.

Now before you go freaking out and spraying your mouth with Lysol, you should know, some of these bacteria are good. Like Veillonella, that slows the development of caries. But (and seriously, don’t spray Lysol in your mouth) there are a lot of bad bacteria, like Streptococcus mutans, a significant contributor to tooth decay and Streptococcus gordonii.

Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons published a study in March showing that Streptococcus gordonii can produce a molecule that helps blood to clot. This molecule can slip into your blood stream and cause blockage of the blood supply to the heart or brain, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. In fact, studies show that having gum disease can quadruple your risk of stroke and spike your risk of a heart attack up to a dozen times higher!

Some bacteria can even lead to cancer. A Swedish study found that poor brushing can increase cancer risks by 80%!

Dr Paul Pharoah, reader in cancer epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, said the results of the Swedish study suggested higher levels of plaque (bacteria) are associated with ‘higher all-cause mortality.’ In other words, the worse your teeth are, the worse your overall health is and the more risk you are to serious illness and even death.

So, what can you do to help prevent bacteria growing? Try some of these tips:

Brush your teeth twice a day for a full two minutes each time.

– Floss your teeth and scrape your tongue daily.

– Wash out your mouth after every meal. An over the counter mouthwash is best but most of us don’t carry around a bottle of Scope everywhere we go. You could use these but water is a good substitute if nothing else is available.

– Cut out the sugar. Sugar promotes bacteria growth. So stay away from high sugar foods and beverages (e.g. candy, soda and fruit juices).  If you are a candy lover like myself, try to find some sugar free alternatives.

– See your dentist twice a year and get your teeth cleaned. “The cleaning done at the dentist is a special ‘deep’ dental cleaning, where all the harmful plaque and tartar is removed professionally.” If you need to find a dentist to help get your smile back in shape, use DentistUSA.com.

Following these tips may not only get you a brighter smile; it might save you from something more deadly!