Biofilm Build-up: Are You Disturbing?

What do a stagnant pond,

Clearly Ambiguous/Flickr

a grimy shower


and your teeth


all have in common?

They are all places where biofilm thrives.

Gross, we know. But strictly speaking, that “fuzz” you sometimes feel on your teeth is a biofilm. Dentists used to call it “plaque,” thinking it was a single substance caused by a single microbe. But in the 1960s, researchers began to see that there were different kinds of “plaque” formed by different kinds of bacteria. The one thing they all had in common? They were all biofilms. So that term was chosen for accuracy.

Biofilm consists of bacteria and other microbes. It forms when microorganisms attach themselves to a surface and excrete a protective matrix. This matrix lets the microbes communicate and acts as a conduit for distributing nutrients to them. Protected, fed and “talking” with each other, the microbes multiply. If left alone, the biofilm spreads and strengthens. In some cases, it can even become fossilized.

When we clean our teeth, we don’t really remove the biofilm. We do break it up—“disturb” it. Brushing, flossing and related actions destroy the matrix and scatter the colonies.

Picture a stagnant pond with scum—another kind of biofilm—floating on the surface. Now imagine poking a stick through it and stirring the water. The biofilm begins to separate. The longer you swirl the water, the more diffuse the biofilm becomes. And if you keep stirring, eventually, you’ll break it into pieces almost too small to see. But the microorganisms are still there. If you let the pond settle again, they will form a new biofilm.

Like the proverbial bad penny, biofilm always comes back.

This is why regular, thorough cleaning is so important. By regularly disturbing the biofilm, you keep the microbial colonies from growing and strengthening enough to wreak havoc with your health. Biofilm is opportunistic. Allowed to thrive, it can lead to bleeding gums, deep infections, bone loss and other pathologies. Depending on the kind and strength, biofilm may cause illness elsewhere in your body. The results depend upon factors such as the type of bacteria involved, current oral conditions, biological terrain state and nutrition. Only a comprehensive approach to Dental Health Fitness can truly minimize the risk of these microbes running rampant and damaging your health. But regularly disturbing the biofilm is an important first step.

Yes, when it comes to your teeth, you want to be disturbing.



  1. Manual toothbrushes, soft to medium bristles
  2. Electric toothbrushes that pulsate, oscillate and massage in sonic modes
  3. Non-fluoridated toothpaste
  4. Dental floss
  5. Oral irrigation instruments
  6. Inter-proximal brushes
  7. Herbal remedies for oral irrigators
  8. Perio-aid toothpick

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Published by The Verigin Dental Health Team

A humanistic, holistic dental practice in Northern California, providing integrative, biological, mercury-free dentistry

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