Biofilms in Mouth: Understanding and Managing Oral Biofilms

biofilm in mouth

Biofilms are complex communities of microorganisms that adhere to surfaces and are encased in a protective matrix. In the oral cavity, these biofilms can form on teeth, gums, and other surfaces, posing significant challenges to oral health. Understanding what biofilm in the mouth is, how to get rid of it, and what causes it can help in maintaining better oral hygiene and preventing dental issues. In this article, we will explore the nature of biofilm in the mouth, its causes, and effective strategies for managing and eliminating it.


What is Biofilm in the Mouth?


Biofilm in the mouth, often referred to as dental plaque, is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on the surfaces of teeth and gums. This biofilm is composed of various microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, embedded in a matrix of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). The formation of biofilm is a natural process, but if not properly managed, it can lead to dental problems such as cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis.


What Causes Biofilm in the Mouth?


1. Bacterial Growth


The primary cause of biofilm in the mouth is the colonization of bacteria. The oral cavity provides an ideal environment for bacterial growth due to its warm, moist conditions and the presence of nutrients from food and saliva (1).


2. Poor Oral Hygiene


Inadequate brushing and flossing allow bacteria to accumulate and form biofilms on teeth and gums. When oral hygiene practices are insufficient, biofilms can quickly grow and become more resistant to removal (2).


3. Diet


Diets high in sugar and carbohydrates contribute to the formation of biofilm in the mouth. These foods provide a food source for bacteria, promoting their growth and biofilm formation (3).


4. Dry Mouth


Saliva plays a crucial role in washing away food particles and bacteria. A reduction in saliva production, known as dry mouth or xerostomia, can lead to increased biofilm formation as there is less natural cleansing of the mouth (4).


5. Smoking


Tobacco use can alter the oral environment, making it more conducive to biofilm formation. Smokers are more likely to develop biofilm-related dental issues such as gum disease and cavities (5).


Biofilm in the Mouth in Morning and After Brushing Teeth

brushing teeth


Morning Biofilm


Many people notice a film or unpleasant coating on their teeth when they wake up in the morning. This morning biofilm is primarily due to the overnight accumulation of bacteria and their metabolic byproducts. During sleep, saliva production decreases, reducing the natural cleansing action in the mouth and allowing bacteria to proliferate (6).


Biofilm After Brushing Teeth


Even after brushing their teeth, some people may feel that a biofilm persists in their mouth. This can happen if brushing is not thorough enough, missing areas where biofilm can remain. Additionally, certain types of biofilm can be particularly tenacious and may require more intensive oral hygiene practices to remove completely (7).


How to Get Rid of Biofilm in the Mouth


1. Proper Brushing Technique


Effective brushing is crucial for removing biofilm. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and high-quality organic toothpaste, and brush for at least two minutes twice a day. Ensure that all surfaces of the teeth, including the backs and chewing surfaces, are thoroughly cleaned. Angle the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums to effectively remove biofilm from the gumline (8).


2. Flossing


Flossing is essential for removing biofilm between teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. Floss at least once a day, making sure to clean both sides of each tooth and extending slightly below the gumline (9).


3. Mouthwash


Antimicrobial mouthwashes can help reduce biofilm in the mouth by killing bacteria and disrupting the biofilm matrix. Look for mouthwashes containing ingredients like chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, or essential oils (10).


4. Professional Dental Cleanings


Regular dental cleanings by a professional are crucial for managing biofilm. Dentists and dental hygienists can remove hardened biofilm, known as tartar or calculus, which cannot be removed by brushing and flossing alone. Aim for cleanings at least twice a year, or more frequently if recommended by your dentist (11).


5. Dietary Changes


Reducing the intake of sugary and starchy foods can help prevent the formation of biofilm. Opt for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Drinking plenty of water can also help keep the mouth clean and promote saliva production (12).


6. Addressing Dry Mouth


If you suffer from dry mouth, take steps to increase saliva production. Chewing sugar-free gum, staying hydrated, and using saliva substitutes can help. If dry mouth is due to medication, consult your doctor about possible alternatives (4).


7. Quitting Smoking


Quitting smoking can significantly reduce biofilm formation and improve overall oral health. Seek support from healthcare professionals and consider cessation aids to help you quit (5).


Biofilm in Mouth Pictures

biofilm on teeth


Visualizing biofilm in the mouth can help understand its extent and impact. Biofilm often appears as a white or yellowish film on the teeth and gums. It can be especially noticeable in areas that are hard to reach with a toothbrush, such as between teeth and along the gumline. Dental professionals can provide images of biofilm during dental visits, using special dyes or imaging techniques to highlight biofilm presence.


Comprehensive Oral Care for Removing Biofilms


A comprehensive oral care routine should include:


  • Brushing: Twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Flossing: At least once a day to remove biofilm between teeth.
  • Mouthwash: Using an antimicrobial mouthwash to kill bacteria and disrupt biofilms.
  • Diet: Eating a balanced diet and reducing sugar intake to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Dental Visits: Regular check-ups and cleanings to remove hardened biofilms.




Biofilm in the mouth is a common issue that can lead to significant dental problems if not properly managed. Understanding what causes biofilm in the mouth, recognizing its presence, and implementing effective strategies to get rid of it are crucial for maintaining oral health. Using biofilm disruptors, improving oral hygiene practices, and making dietary and lifestyle changes can help manage and prevent the formation of biofilms.





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