And the “don’t try this at home” way to get your tongue pierced.
The phrase “a bit of a mouthful” could easily have been formulated for uBiome’s raw material, bacteria.
Many species undeniably have long and complicated names.
But what, precisely, is a mouthful?
Thankfully, a study published in the Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal details some pretty precise knowledge on this front.
In research exploring the volume of beer that made up a single mouthful, the average for women was around 1.25 ounces (37 mL) while a man’s mouthful was more like 3 ounces (85 mL).
Or perhaps Canadian men were just keener to get to the beer.
The oral cavity is not only capacious, it’s also complex.
In fact when it comes to bacteria, your mouth contains at least six different habitats, each home to its own microbial ecosystem.
So, for example, you’re likely to have different species lurking on your teeth, tongue, hard palate, soft palate, tonsils and “gingival sulcus,” this last being the technical term for the small space between your teeth and your gum tissue.
Between them, they provide a place-to-be for an extraordinary number of species.
A complete mouthful, you might say.
The team behind the Human Oral Microbiome Database examined samples collected in labs over 20 years, and found approximately 700 prevalent species, only just over half of which even had names.
But then along came research from King’s College, London suggesting there could be even more: the paper talks about there being around 1,000 species of bacteria commonly found in the mouth.
While the variety is clearly impressive, very recent research from NYU School of Medicine (April 2016) shines a dramatic spotlight on just two in particular.
Scientists discovered that men and women whose oral microbiomes contained the species Porphyromonas gingivalis had an overall 59% greater chance of developing pancreatic cancer than those whose mouths did not contain this bacteria.
They also showed that the presence of a second species, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, was associated with at least a 50% greater chance of developing pancreatic cancer.
The study, presented at last month’s annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research was carried out over a ten-year period by examining the bacterial contents of mouthwash samples from 361 Americans who later developed pancreatic cancer, alongside samples from 371 matched controls who did not develop cancer.
Importantly, the researchers stress that they cannot show a causal relationship between the presence of these two species and pancreatic cancer.
But as they say, this knowledge provides first steps in understanding potential new risk factors for pancreatic cancer, a disease that often escapes early diagnosis and causes 40,000 deaths annually in the United States.
While the startling possibility of a connection between the oral microbiota and pancreatic cancer is relatively new, it has long been understood that microorganisms in the oral cavity can cause a number of infectious diseases in the mouth, such as tooth decay, gum disease, root canal infections, and tonsillitis.
However there’s also accumulating evidence to suggest the involvement of oral bacteria in a number of systemic conditions including cardiovascular disease, stroke, preterm birth, diabetes, and pneumonia.
All of which may make you want to reach for the toothbrush, perhaps even more frequently and thoroughly than you may do right now.
Poor dental hygiene can, of course, lead to bad breath, although it’s important to note that halitosis can occasionally be caused by other more complex diseases and disorders.
Always sensible, therefore, to seek professional advice if bad breath persists despite meticulous oral hygiene.
On a different note, body art—such as tongue piercing—can introduce the risk of bacterial infections, particularly if you go to the extremes of one patient whose circumstances were reported in a Canadian 2010 paper.
(Us Canadians again, eh?)
You see, it seems he unfortunately ended up with a bacterial infection of his mouth after allowing a friend to pierce his tongue using her tongue stud.
Now, definitely don’t try that one at home.