You’ve heard of probiotics before – they’re supplements you take for a healthy gut. But did you know that there is also something called the oral microbiome, which is a community of bacteria in your mouth? Scientists are starting to discover that oral probiotics are just as important as those we use for the gut. In fact, a balanced oral microbiome can prevent cavities, maintain fresh breath, and keep gum disease at bay.
Interestingly, the benefits of a well-balanced oral microbiome reach far beyond the health of your teeth and mouth. Numerous diseases have been associated with having an unhealthy oral environment, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Whether your mouth maintains an ideal ratio of good-to-bad bacteria, directly determines your oral and dental health, as well as the health of your entire body. Oral probiotics can help to maintain this balance.
What are oral probiotics?
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that are produced within your body and can also be obtained from outside sources such as supplements and foods. If you eat an unhealthy diet, the number of bad bacteria in your digestive tract will eventually outweigh the good bacteria, which results in poor health. The same is true for your mouth – bad bacteria build up on your teeth and gums whenever you drink a can of soda or eat a donut – and this has negative consequences.
While practicing good oral hygiene can effectively wash away some of this bad bacteria, another effective way to improve your oral health is by using oral probiotics. Since these beneficial bacteria can be found in a wide range of foods as well as numerous supplements, it’s easy to consume bacteria that will balance your oral microbiome and improve the health of your mouth.
How can oral probiotics save your teeth?
Oral probiotics help you have a healthier mouth in four powerful ways.
Oral probiotics crowd out bad bacteria
Probiotics can stop harmful bugs from growing by competing for space and nutrients. This helps keep the number of deleterious bugs at a less-damaging level. In this way, healthy bacteria prevent plaque from developing on your teeth, which would otherwise eventually lead to tooth decay.
Oral probiotics prevent gum disease
Oral probiotic bacteria can prevent cavities and gum disease by releasing acids that decrease the mouth’s pH and stop the growth of disease-causing bugs. They also release enzymes and antimicrobial substances such as hydrogen peroxide, which reduce harmful processes and slow the progression of gum disease.
Oral probiotics support the immune system
Probiotics help activate a healthy immune response by telling immune cells to kill harmful bacteria before they cause disease. This immune boost helps keep your mouth and teeth healthy.
Oral probiotics fight inflammation
Chronic dental disease is caused by a high immune response and the resulting inflammation. Probiotic bacteria can reduce inflammation levels to prevent the development of disease.
How can your health benefit from oral probiotics?
Studies have shown certain probiotic species have benefits for common oral health problems.
Probiotics can prevent tooth decay
Some oral probiotic species can inhibit the growth of a microbe that causes tooth decay called streptococcus mutans.
Probiotics can fight gum disease
Gum disease is known to be caused by microbes that thrive in the absence of oxygen. These species are susceptible to hydrogen peroxide, which we mentioned can be emitted by helpful bacteria. Research also shows that routine intake of lactic acid in foods may have a beneficial effect on gum disease.
Probiotics can reduce bad breath
Taking probiotics can help to combat bad breath caused by harmful bacteria within the mouth and digestive tract. It’s been found that probiotic supplements containing a strain called streptococcus salivarius can substantially reduce bad breath.
Thanks to the many positive effects of oral probiotics, you should be able to maintain a healthy and happy smile as the years go by. Not only that, but your overall health will benefit from a balanced microbiome and reduced inflammation. Reversing gum disease and rebalancing the oral microbiome significantly reduces inflammation in the body to help fight chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
How to use oral probiotics for good health
Oral probiotics are a fairly new area of research, and products are still being developed. While gut probiotics typically come in capsule form so they can reach the stomach and quickly begin to do their job, oral probiotics are typically in the form of a lozenge that can be used after normal oral care. Using a lozenge provides longer exposure time than other methods so that more bacteria are able to colonize the oral cavity. Ask your dentist about chewing gum or lozenges formulated with probiotic cultures, or use powdered oral probiotics to make your own toothpaste. In addition, you can consume beneficial bacteria by eating more cultured or fermented foods. Foods such as good quality yogurt or sauerkraut are full of probiotic bacteria as well as prebiotic fibers that feed the mouth flora.
Keep tabs on this exciting new avenue of scientific research as it develops so that you, too, can benefit from oral probiotics.
-The UpWellness Team