Probiotics are often taken to help with digestive health. But can this “good bacteria” keep your mouth healthy and decay-free?
Probiotics have become the latest buzzword in nutritional supplements. Used primarily to boost digestive health, probiotics are so-called “good” bacteria that balance out the bad bacteria in our bodies.
Because our bodies produce both naturally occurring good and bad bacteria, an imbalance between the two can sometimes cause health problems. That is, if the bad bacteria takes over, we may suffer from inflammation or infection. One part of our body where bacteria thrives is our mouths. So if probiotics can improve gut health, can the good bacteria fight the bad bacteria in our mouths? A dentist at Espire Dental can further discuss the ways that probiotics may help your dental health, but in the meantime, here’s a primer on what probiotics can do for your oral wellness.
Probiotics & Oral Health
Cavities form when we have too much bacteria in our mouths. One type in particular, streptococcus mutans, turns sugar into lactic acid that leads to tooth decay. However, one study found a strain of probiotic bacteria termed A12 fights the streptococcus mutans and keeps it from growing and forming plaque in the mouth. Therefore, probiotics can be a useful tool in combating cavities.
In addition to fighting tooth decay, probiotics reduce inflammatory gum disease. When gums become inflamed, the gum tissues become sensitive and swollen. But a probiotic bacteria called lactobacillus brevis decreased gum inflammation, one study found. Probiotics also inhibit bacterial growth that causes bad breath. According to another study, a probiotic bacteria, streptococcus salivarius, freshened the breath of 85% of the study participants when they used an antimicrobial mouthwash containing the probiotic.
Although these studies are promising, the FDA has not yet approved any oral probiotics for medical use. People with compromised immune systems should avoid probiotics, as it could increase risk of infection. Seniors and pregnant women should consult with their physician before taking probiotics or any supplements. Parents should talk to their pediatrician before giving probiotics to children. Note that if you start taking probiotics, there is a potential side effect of an upset stomach, but for most people, probiotics are safe to consume.
Where to Get Probiotics
Probiotics are found naturally in certain foods, including yogurt, kefir, tempeh, cultured cottage cheese, and buttermilk. The good bacteria can also be found in fermented vegetables, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, or fermented teas like kombucha. You can also consume prebiotics, which are foods or supplements that enhance absorption of probiotics in the gut. These would include high-fiber foods such as onions and artichokes, or raw vegetables like garlic, asparagus, leeks, or jicama.
If you don’t think you’re getting enough of the good bacteria in your diet, probiotic supplements in the form of tablets, powders, or capsules can increase your intake.
As a popular oral health aid, probiotics have been mixed in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and oral lozenges. Taking probiotics for oral health can tip the scales in good bacteria’s favor. Mouthwashes and toothpastes sweep away harmful bacteria (as they should!), but they contain chemicals that can kill off the good bacteria, too. Probiotic-specific toothpaste or mouthwash balances out the good and bad bacteria in your mouth.
Probiotics, however beneficial, are only one part of an overall dental care routine. Brushing and flossing daily and regular dental visits remain the best weapons to fight cavities and gum disease.
Time to Brush Up on Your Oral Care Routine
Schedule an appointment at Espire’s Colorado Springs location today! Our highly trained dentists will discuss the best supplements to take for your oral health and other beneficial dental habits. Don’t live near our Colorado Springs office? Find one of our other locations near you.
8610 Explorer Dr #315
Colorado Springs, CO 80920