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The oral microbiota: Exploring its importance and functions

The oral microbiota: Exploring its importance and functions
The oral microbiota, also known as oral flora or oral microbiome, is a complex community of microorganisms that inhabit our mouth. These microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi and other organisms, which coexist in a dynamic balance and play a crucial role in oral and general health. In this blog, we will explore the oral microbiota and its function, highlighting its importance in maintaining a healthy mouth and how it can affect our overall health.
Composition of the oral microbiota: The mouth is a diverse ecosystem that houses a wide variety of microorganisms. It is estimated that there are more than 700 species of bacteria that can colonize our mouth. Some of the most common are Streptococcus mutans, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Prevotella intermedia and Fusobacterium nucleatum. In addition to bacteria, viruses such as herpes simplex and human papillomavirus (HPV) are also found, as well as fungi such as Candida albicans.

Functions of the oral microbiota:

1.- Digestion and metabolism: The oral microbiota plays a fundamental role in the digestion of food. Enzymes produced by certain bacteria help break down carbohydrates and proteins, facilitating their absorption in the digestive tract. In addition, some bacteria are capable of metabolizing compounds such as nitrates present in food.
2.- Protection against pathogens: A balanced and healthy oral microbiota acts as a protective barrier against the colonization of harmful microorganisms. By occupying available spaces, beneficial bacteria make it difficult for pathogens to adhere and proliferate in the mouth, thereby reducing the risk of oral diseases, such as tooth decay and periodontal disease.
3.- Maintenance of acid-base balance: Saliva secreted by the salivary glands contains ions that help regulate the pH of the mouth. Some oral bacteria produce acids as a byproduct of carbohydrate metabolism. The oral microbiota helps maintain an adequate acid-base balance to prevent the demineralization of tooth enamel and the formation of cavities.
4.- Development of the immune system: The interaction between the oral microbiota and the immune system is essential for the adequate development of the body's defenses. Early exposure to various oral microorganisms helps educate and regulate the immune system, promoting a balanced immune response and reducing the risk of autoimmune diseases and allergies.
5.- Influence on general health: Oral health is closely related to general health. Imbalanced oral microbiota has been associated with systemic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases and complications during pregnancy. The presence of pathogenic bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and spread to other organs, triggering a chronic inflammatory response.
Taking care of oral health through good oral hygiene, a balanced diet and regular visits to the dentist are key steps to maintaining a healthy oral microbiota and promoting a healthier life in general.
Remember that prevention is better than cure
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