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Open Wide: The Mouth Reflects the Risk for Potential Disease

Narrator: This is Science Today. In terms of numbers and types of bacteria, your mouth is one of filthiest places in the body. Dr. Mark Ryder, chair of periodontology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry, says the mouth reflects overall health and risk for potential disease.

Ryder: When you consider what is periodontal disease or what is gingivitis, which is part of what we call the big umbrella or periodontal disease, most of these diseases involve, first of all, a biofilm infection. By that, I mean that plaque that you always hear about, that hardens into calculus, consists of bacteria hundreds of thousands of cells thick that lie on the tooth's surface.

Narrator: Another part of periodontal disease is inflammation, which is essentially the host's response to bacteria. This can affect other parts of the body.

Ryder: So, if there was maybe a piece of advice besides brush, floss and visit your dentist, it would be things such as, if you smoke, stop smoking; if you drink excessive alcohol, cut down on that; if you use chewing tobacco or snuff, that can wreak some havoc in the mouth, too.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.