According to a 2015 poll given by the Natural Marketing Institute, 42 percent of Americans want more probiotics in their diet. Probiotics have been given a lot of attention lately, mostly for its gastrointestinal benefits. It is naturally available in foods such as yogurt, certain soft cheeses and pickled sauerkraut. But recent oral health research reveals evidence that probiotics may even slow and possibly reduce our risk of gum disease, bad breath and cavities.
What is Probiotics and why is it Effective in Treating Oral Infections?
Basically probiotics are living microorganisms in the form of good bacteria that also live in our digestive systems and protect it from disease. But more and more research indicates that the benefits of good bacteria called probiotics go way beyond keeping intestines healthy.
According to an article in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, probiotics have distinct properties that make it a perfect candidate for further study into its effect on oral health. One such property is its bacteria which consist of antimicrobial substances like organic acids and hydrogen peroxide, that when secreted prevents bad bacteria from growing. Probiotics also have the ability to attach easily, just like bad oral bacteria, to dental surfaces. But more importantly, it can modify the pH balance in the oral cavity compromising the ability of pathogens to multiply, and also stimulate and regulate the immune response of good bacteria at the cellular level.
Probiotics and Gum Disease
As far back as 2006, researchers have shown success with the probiotic Lactobacilllus reuteri in alleviating bleeding gum tissue. In this particular study, subjects with moderate to severe gingivitis showed improvement within a two-week period. In 2015, the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology released a study that compared a chlorohexidine mouth rinse, a prescription given to patients with moderate to severe gum disease, against a probiotic mouthwash to assess and compare their plaque and anti-inflammatory properties. The study consisted of 45 healthy subjects between the ages of 20 and 30 years of age with chronic gingivitis, and divided them into 3 groups: saline, probiotics and chlorohexidine. Across the board all rinses performed well with the exception of the saline rinse; plaque, gingivitis and gingival or inflamed gum tissue were reduced.
Probiotics and Bad Breath
It’s been said that nearly 25 percent of the world’s population suffers from bad breath, or halitosis. Culprits behind bad breath can be from something as simple as eating bad-smelling foods like garlic or onions to bad oral hygiene to gingivitis or periodontitis. One study in particular measured the success with subjects, who had bad breath due to chronic gum disease, when probiotics was introduced as follow-up treatment to root planing and scaling. The study consisted of two groups where one group received the probiotic mouth rinse and the other group received a placebo mouth rinse. The test group not only showed significant improvement in plaque reduction and gum pocket depth, but reduced breath odor as well.
Probiotics and Cavities
Can administering probiotics to children within the first year of life reduce their risk of dental cavities as they get older? One Swedish research group put that theory to work in a study where researchers gave the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri, to mothers in their last trimester and to their infants through their 1st birthdays daily. The researchers noted that there were no differences between the two groups of 113 children participating in the study in relation to tooth brushing, diet and plaque indexes. However, at nine years of age the children taking the daily probiotic showed a reduced incidence of caries and gingivitis when compared to the test group taking the oral placebo supplement.
While science has not definitively proven that probiotics prevents cavities, some studies have shown that it can significantly reduce the bacteria, mutans streptococci, which causes dental cavities. So, tooth brushing and flossing is still important. While studies suggest that eating natural foods containing probiotics may help with slowing the progression of cavities and gum disease, it certainly won’t hurt to receive the calcium, and possibly vitamin D, many of these dairy products contain.
Natural Sources of Probiotics for Best Oral Health
Increasing the level of probiotics in your diet is as simple as walking along the dairy aisle of your local grocer. Some natural sources include yogurt, buttermilk, kefir and some soft cheeses like cultured cottage cheese. Non-dairy sources are also available in the form of fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and a fermented tea called kombucha. Certainly probiotics can aid digestion, but it won’t hurt your smile either. Milk or cheese, even those fortified with probiotics, can increase your calcium intake for healthier, stronger bones; the very foundation of healthy teeth and gums.
Some probiotic products are available as supplements, but check with your doctor or pharmacist first. Be sure to mention all medications you are taking, including prescriptions and herbal supplements to prevent a drug or an allergic reaction when taking probiotic supplements.