Do You Smoke? uBiome Wants To Study Your Mouthome

Studying the relationship between what you do with your mouth and what lives there

A lit cigarette

Wikimedia Commons

If you've ever wondered what bacteria are currently taking up residence inside your mouth, you are in luck. uBiome, a biotech startup based in San Francisco, is eager to find out, and is willing to let you in on the results--for free. The company is collecting bacteria samples from the mouths of smokers, previous smokers, and nonsmokers. They hope to understand more about how bacteria may influence diseases common to smokers. In return, participants will receive a free breakdown of the bacteria currently inhabiting their mouths.

uBiome, which started in 2012, plans to use big data to understand how the microbiome affects diseases while at the same time allowing consumers to learn about their bodies and personal health. This month they also launched a study to test the effectiveness of probiotics, asking participants to test their gut microbiome before and after consuming probiotic supplements.

Over the past several decades, scientists have learned a great deal about the impact smoking can have on a number of oral health problems, such as gum disease, tooth decay, and oral cancer. However, until recently, scientists knew very little about smoking’s impact on a person’s microbiome--the collection of bacteria that live on or in the human body.

While bacteria live everywhere on the human body, the mouth alone may house up to 1,000 different species. By comparing smokers, former smokers, and nonsmokers, uBiome hopes to shed some light on how and which bacteria may contribute to the development of oral diseases.

"Despite the known health risks, about 42 million Americans smoke. One way or another we're all affected by smoking," said Jessica Richman, the co-founder and CEO of uBiome in a press release. uBiome additionally plans to analyze the differences between the oral microbiomes of those who started smoking as teenagers and those who started later in life. By studying these differences, they hope to further understand how smoking affects human health.