Oral Probiotics – What Are They Supposed to Do, and Do They Work?
Good vs. Bad Oral Bacteria
You hear a lot about probiotics and their benefit for your gut health, but what about probiotics for your oral health? If the oral cavity of your body is not producing and protecting the mouth with strains of healthy bacteria, every other organ that nutrients enter is already at a disadvantage. Oral probiotics are specially designed to help balance harmful and helpful bacteria in the oral cavity by encouraging the growth of the good organisms and stopping the bad, while probiotics for the gut contain strains of bacteria that promote optimal absorption of nutrients further along the digestive tract. The mouth is the entry point for everything, so let's keep it healthy!
Preventative measures such as accurate brushing techniques are vital to maintaining dental health, and also improve the way oral probiotics work. Lack of attention to oral health allows plaque (sometimes called dental biofilm) to build upon the teeth. After brushing and flossing, the teeth are most free of plaque, and the probiotics can attach themselves to the tooth surface. This action inhibits bad bacteria from sitting on the teeth and allows good bacteria to absorb and prevent subsequent plaque from adhering. Good oral hygiene promotes the mouth's microbial balance. This discourages dental caries, one of the most common oral diseases worldwide (1).
Diet has a significant impact on the environment of the oral cavity as well. When sugars contact plaque, it causes acid to attack the tooth, and decay can start. Poor nutrition encourages the faster progression of disease and tooth caries. Concentrated sugars and any carbohydrate can assist the build-up of plaque and harmful bacteria. Making wise choices about what you put in your mouth makes healthier teeth and gums, and overall healthy living.
We may need to collaborate with your dentist to ensure we are working through all needs of the patient. This collaboration helps obtain optimal dental health.
Using Probiotics for Oral Health
Probiotics can help manage many oral health issues associated with poor dental hygiene and lack of attention to oral health. Controlling dental plaque is the first line of defense against disease. Probiotics can boost this resistance and help balance the microbial colonization of the mouth. Promoting healthy bacteria in the mouth is the main focus of probiotics.
Streptococcus Mutans is one strain of bacteria that is associated with dental caries. This strain of bacteria is highly acidic and rapidly changes carbohydrates to a caustic substance that adheres to the teeth and promotes the breakdown of the enamel. Oral probiotics containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two intensely studied strains, help control the growth of these harmful bacteria. Reports show that taking an oral probiotic containing Bifidobacterium markedly reduces colony-forming units of the Streptococcus Mutans strain. Gingivitis and periodontitis diseases have decreased in those using probiotics to manage these issues (2, 5).
Studies show that using oral probiotics is safe to promote a healthy mouth. They offer both therapeutic and preventive effects. Beneficial bacteria may also help repair tooth decay that is often associated with diseases. All ages may benefit from the addition of probiotics to their daily dental hygiene. In one study, preschool children's intake of good bacteria with oral probiotics has shown a reduced risk of caries and prevention of decay in school dental programs (3).
How To Take Oral Probiotics
Probiotics may be taken in food or supplement form. Food sources like enriched and fermented foods are best and may be tolerated better and absorbed more efficiently than supplements. Some common foods containing probiotics are enhanced milk, yogurt, soft cheeses, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, and sour pickles.
Supplements such as pills, powders, or mouthwashes are more concentrated than probiotics you can get from food. Oral probiotics are generally safe, but you should not exceed the recommended dosage given by the manufacturer. If you are considering probiotic supplements, please remember to consult your doctor before adding any supplements to your medical regimen and talk to us or your doctor about the appropriate oral probiotic dosage for children, seniors, and pregnant women, as it may differ from adult recommendations. Avoid taking these if you have a high risk of infection or an autoimmune disorder. It is good to note that you may experience some mild side effects when first taking oral probiotics, primarily associated with the digestive tract (2, 4).
Treating Oral Health Disorders
Probiotics are a classic example of natural therapy. The live bacterial cultures of these oral products are taken to boost the healthy bacteria in the mouth. These level out the acidic environment of the mouth and encourage the growth of good bacteria. Oral probiotics have been shown to increase the health of the gums, freshen breath, and reduce plaque.
The American Dental Association reports that approximately 50% of adults worldwide have occasional halitosis (bad breath), and 25% have chronic halitosis. A build-up of unhealthy bacteria is the primary cause of halitosis. When using supplements containing Streptococcus Salivarius K12 strain as an oral probiotic, there is a reduction in bad breath. Bacteria can get trapped in the back of the mouth and other hard-to-reach areas and plaque on or between the teeth and food debris trapped in the tongue's surface are the best locations for bacterial growth. Specialized antibacterial mouthwash and oral probiotic lozenges have shown a significant reduction of halitosis (5, 6).
Issues such as gingivitis and gum disease have decreased when using oral probiotics that include Lactobacillus reuteri (5).
Fungal infections such as Candida Albicans, also known as oral thrush, can occur when its growth overwhelms the oral cavity's normal flora. Using oral probiotic products with Lactobacillus strains can inhibit the increased colonization of this fungus (5).
Oral probiotics used by people being treated for cancer have helped restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the oral cavity. Cancer treatment can drastically change or even kill the mouth's normal flora, and the oral mucosa can be damaged. Probiotics can repair and replenish these good bacteria. They also can boost immunity against inflammatory diseases affecting various parts of the body (5).
Improving your oral health is one of the most important things you can do for the overall health of your body. Think of it as the portal to your entire system. Just like we want the entryways to our home to be clean and inviting for guests coming into our residence, we want our mouths to invite healthy living to our bodies. Oral probiotics can help us maintain a balance of bacteria, good and bad, minimizing germs that cause dental diseases, and help to break down food and promote a healthy start for digestion. Oral probiotics can significantly improve dental caries, periodontitis, gingivitis, gum disease, plaque build-up, and even bad breath. Many health issues can be linked to an unhealthy mouth environment, so let's clean it up with good dental hygiene and proactive treatment! If you have any questions, please contact us. We are happy to help assist you in finding the best preventative care for your family's optimal oral health!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.