When it comes to health and wellness, probiotics have become wildly popular. Probiotics are useful for many things, from balancing the gut microbiome to improving immune defenses. However, could oral health probiotics be the key to a healthier mouth? Let’s dive into the world of probiotics for oral health to see if these tiny superheroes are worthy of the hype or just another dental fad.
Oral probiotics are living microorganisms aimed at restoring the balance of natural flora in the mouth.
Dental probiotics help control oral diseases by using beneficial bacteria.
Probiotics reduce the pathogenic microorganisms in the saliva and replace them with beneficial bacteria.
It is important to note that the cultures used for dental probiotics vary from probiotics used for gut or intestinal tract health.
Be sure to incorporate oral probiotics with proper brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups to maintain optimal oral health.
What are oral probiotics?
Oral probiotics are living microorganisms that restore the balance of natural flora in the mouth. There are billions of bacteria living in our mouths. Specific types of bacteria can lead to bad breath, cavities, periodontal disease, and other oral health conditions.
Oral diseases affect nearly half of the world’s population and can lead to tooth loss. Oral pathogenic bacteria thrive in conditions like:
- Low salivary flow
- Low oral pH
- High carbohydrate intake
Probiotics help restore the natural balance of good and bad bacteria. By using beneficial bacteria, dental probiotics may help control oral diseases by:
- Competing for the same space and nutrients as pathogenic bacteria.
- Integrating with the natural biofilm in the mouth to reduce the number of pathogenic bacteria.
- Producing a protective layer on the hard surfaces of teeth.
- Enhancing the immune response to pathogenic bacteria.
- Maintaining a healthy pH of the mouth.
Therefore, restoring the natural balance of oral microbiota is crucial to disease prevention.
Benefits of probiotics for oral health
Many studies link a person's oral health to their overall health. According to the American Dental Association, oral diseases like cavities and periodontal disease are directly related to heart health, uncontrolled diabetes, and even some pregnancy complications. Because bacteria and other microbes cause these oral diseases, it's crucial to keep them under control.
Oral probiotics are specifically designed to reduce the pathogenic microorganisms in the saliva and replace them with beneficial bacteria. This helps balance the oral flora. Some common oral problems with which probiotics help include the following.
Probiotics help prevent gingivitis by reducing certain bacteria, like Porphyromonas gingivalis. Gingivitis is a periodontal disease that causes inflammation and bleeding of the gums. Reducing the bacteria that cause gingivitis, along with using good dental hygiene practices, helps to combat gingivitis and improve the mouth's overall health.
Reduces the risk of cavities
Probiotics help prevent cavities in multiple ways. Specifically, probiotics with strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium help change the bacteria in dental plaque, which reduces the risk of developing cavities. The bacteria commonly used in probiotics also produce nitrite, which helps kill the pathogenic, cavity-causing bacteria and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Periodontal disease prevention
By balancing the good and bad bacteria around the teeth and below the gumline, probiotics may help prevent periodontal infections. Some studies even suggest probiotics may help fight chronic periodontitis too. By competing for space and nutrients, good bacteria aim to keep the natural flora balanced in the mouth to improve oral health.
Helps with bad breath
Bacteria settle into the tiny grooves or hard-to-reach areas of the tongue. Many pathogenic bacteria produce volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), or odors, as byproducts of breaking down organic compounds in the mouth. This can cause bad breath, a medical condition known as halitosis. Oral probiotics for bad breath can be beneficial for reducing pathogenic tongue bacteria, thus lowering VSCs and preventing odors.
Prevents oral candidiasis
While Candida is a yeast present in normal flora in the mouth and body, an overgrowth causes an oral infection called thrush. Studies suggest that using probiotics not only helps prevent this yeast from overgrowing but may be beneficial for existing infections as well. Using probiotics for oral thrush helps reduce the number of Candida microorganisms and restore the natural flora balance.
Be sure to see a medical professional if you think you have thrush. In some cases, it may be necessary to take an anti-fungal medication to clear the infection.
Types of oral probiotics
Many different types of dental probiotic products are available. It is important to note that the cultures used for dental probiotics can vary from probiotics used for gut health.
While some strains of bacteria are present in different types of probiotics, using a product specifically for the mouth has the potential to provide the most benefits. Here are the most common types of dental probiotics commonly available:
- Chewable tablets
- Probiotic drinks
- Chewing gum
However, oral probiotics that are swallowed are less likely to be effective in the mouth. This is because, for best results, the live cultures in dental probiotics need direct contact with the natural bacteria in the mouth to join forces to balance the oral environment.
Side effects or adverse reactions
Probiotics are considered safe for most people, but side effects can occur. The most commonly reported adverse reactions are:
- Intestinal disturbances. Some people may experience increased gas, bloating, or constipation. These effects are usually mild and temporary.
- Interactions with other medications. Probiotics can change the gut microbiome and, therefore, may interfere with the absorption or effectiveness of certain medications. As a result, consult a healthcare provider if taking prescription medications before adding dental probiotics to a routine.
- Allergic reactions. Although rare, some people are sensitive to specific strains of bacteria used in oral supplements. Common reactions may include hives, itching, or difficulty breathing. If interactions occur, users should discontinue use and seek medical help.
- Quality control. Probiotics are considered dietary supplements and do not have the same quality and safety standards as medications. Therefore, use reputable sources to purchase probiotics and always follow the manufacturer's instructions for storage and usage.
How often to use dental probiotics
Using probiotics regularly helps encourage the beneficial bacteria and prevents harmful bacteria that cause cavities, periodontal disease, and bad breath from overgrowing. However, users need to be consistent to allow the probiotics to do their work. Therefore, using a probiotic product regularly gives it the best chance to improve oral health.
Although some people may see oral health improvement quickly, some benefits may take a month or more before they become noticeable. So, use probiotics consistently and as directed to get the most benefits.
So, do oral probiotics work?
Researchers are steadily discovering the oral health benefits of dental probiotics. While the current studies are promising, much is still unknown. Oral probiotics for dental health could be the missing piece of the puzzle for solving the global dental crisis.
Of course, be sure to continue good oral hygiene while using oral probiotics. This includes proper brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings with exams. Dental probiotics may offer an additional way to help maintain a healthy and happy smile.
- Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences. Probiotics: Dawn of a New Era in Dental Caries Management.
- Current Oral Health Reports. Use of Probiotics and Oral Health.
- Saudi Dental Journal. Efficacy of probiotics used as a periodontal treatment aid: A pilot study.
- Journal of Functional Foods. A critical appraisal of the effects of probiotics on oral health.