Although commonly advertised for gut health, we’re starting to see the release of probiotics for oral health.
With the increase of research into preventative dental care, probiotics suggest a new option to help keep mouths healthy. Have you heard of them and how effective are they?
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are essentially live friendly bacteria that are beneficial to health. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, probiotics can boost your immune system and stops pathogens from binding to the body. They also colonise an area, kills or inhibit the growth of pathogen and even stop the pathogen from thriving in that environment.
Probiotics are found in supplements and some foods, such as yoghurt, kefir, cultured cottage cheese, buttermilk, sauerkraut, Kombucha tea and other fermented foods.
Prebiotics are foods that feed the good bacteria in the gut and enable them to flourish and stay active. Prebiotics are found naturally in certain fibrous plant-based foods such as raw Jerusalem artichokes, raw hickory root, raw oats, unrefined barley and unrefined wheat.
The use of probiotics for oral health is one of the exciting discoveries that show the association between the food you eat and disease prevention. Oral probiotics are slightly different from probiotics used for gut health. While gut health probiotics are taken in capsule form (so they reach the gut and improve gut health), dental probiotics are in lozenge form so that they are dissolved in the mouth to colonise the oral cavity. Scientists have isolated certain strains of bacteria (like S. salivarius, lactobacilli, L. reuteri and W. cibaria) that are showing promising results in improving oral health.
To have a beneficial effect in preventing decay, a probiotic must stick to the tooth surfaces and integrate into the bacterial biofilm. They should also metabolise sugars to result in low acid production. Several studies have shown that daily consumption of dairy products (yoghurt, milk, cheese) containing probiotics has led to a decrease in plaque and the number of bacteria in saliva. Incorporating probiotics into chewing gum or lozenges also showed results that help prevent decay.
Gum disease is a destructive disease that affects all supporting tissues of the teeth, including the jawbone. Main pathogens that affect the gums have virulent characteristics such as colonising under the gums and causing tissue damage. Various studies have shown lactobacilli (a probiotic bacteria) can stop the growth of harmful bacteria that cause gum disease. Another researcher has found L. reuteri (another probiotic bacteria) colonised the area and reduced plaque in moderate to severe gum disease patients. They also found that individuals who consumed dairy products with lactobacilli regularly have healthier gums.
A company in Switzerland called Sunstar has recently begun marketing the first probiotic specifically formulated to fight gum disease. Gum PerioBalance contains a patented combination of two strains of L. reuteri which helps to fight bacteria causing decay and gum disease.
Bad breath can be caused by various factors such as consumption of certain foods, poor oral hygiene, metabolic disorders or airway infections. Specifically, it is caused by bacteria that degrade salivary protein and turn it into volatile sulphur compounds. Researchers have found certain probiotics can inhibit the production of volatile sulphur compounds in the mouth. Regular gargling of a solution containing probiotics (W. cibaria/S. salivarius) resulted in a reduction in a reduction in bad breath.
Are probiotics bad for anyone?
As probiotics are live bacteria, patients that are immunocompromised wouldn’t be ideal candidates. Patients undergoing chemotherapy, suffering from HIV/AIDS or other conditions that affect the immune systems wouldn’t be a good candidate for probiotics. It is better to manage these patients with xylitol or other oral biofilm management.
Summing up: probiotics and oral health
Probiotics are representing a new era of research in oral medicine. Initial research into the field is showing encouraging results but numerous randomised clinical studies will be required to clearly establish the potential of probiotics in preventing and treating oral infections. Such studies will allow identification of the probiotics that are best suited to oral use along with the appropriate method of delivery.
Are you prone to mouth issues? Do you need to know more about optimising the health of your mouth? Get in touch with the Bite team—no question is too crazy for us!