Are Your Oral Bacteria hooking you on Sugar or is it the Other Way Around?

Sugar! It comes in many forms and is one of the most addictive molecules known. Most of us think of hard candies or sweets, particularly around the holidays. Did you know that it is in almost everything? From milk, to bone marrow/broth, to vegetables, to grains, sugars (both simple and complex) are EVERYWHERE...and so are the bacteria and fungi that crave them.

#1. Oral microbes are better at eating sugar than you are.

In the mouth, the majority of microbes (bacteria and fungi) thrive off of the sugar in the foods we eat. Every bite of food contains some simple sugars that the microbes act quickly to grab and eat. Although they do not have mouths, they have other mechanisms that work VERY efficiently to break down the sugar and turn it into energy to fuel their growth. 

In the lab experiments I am conducting, on the microbes that grow in the mouth of dogs, humans and cats, the majority of these little guys move *so quickly* to grab and eat the sugars that within 30 seconds, I am already starting to measure the harmful waste products they produce when they eat it.

#2. Your microbes may be telling you to crave sugar.


Believe it or not, there is accumulating evidence showing that the microbes that live in your mouth and gut are strongly influencing your choices on when and what to eat. They secrete all kinds of things to tinker with their host neurons so they can be fed the foods they prefer to grow well on...sometimes at your detriment. 

In the case of sugar, it is now an established model that the microbes living in your mouth can affect your taste receptors and your eating habits. How scary and cool is this concept? They have genes for our neurotransmitters and are intimately tied to cravings. They release toxins when the nutrients they prefer are absent from our diet; making it harder for us to function when we are missing it. 

#3. Your diet strongly selects for the identity of the microbes that live in your mouth.

If these concepts scare you, fret not, we can beat them at their own game! We took what we know about how they manipulate us and how they crave sugar and we are using a nifty fiber in our dental products to trick them into thinking they are eating sugar! In the presence of our fiber, they aren’t eating sugar; and they aren’t secreting acid that causes gum disease and cavities and bad breath. 

We are also using nutrient pressure to select for non-sugar lovers. By feeding them vitamin B6 and protein, we shift the identity of the microbes in a very dramatic fashion. This nutrient-driven microbial shift improves the oral environment and is better for our dental and overall health.


Dr. Emily Stein