Probiotics are living microorganisms, mainly bacteria, similar to the organisms found in the human gut. We generally associate bacteria with disease-causing microbes.
But in fact, our body has both good and bad kind of bacteria. Probiotics are considered good bacteria as they provide many health benefits.
The health benefits of probiotics include weight loss, immunity boost, healthy skin, healthy heart, sharp mental health, reduced inflammation, improved digestion, etc. (1)
The oral cavity has nowadays been suggested as an optimum target for probiotic applications.
Oral probiotics aid in maintaining a healthy microbial balance in your oral cavity. They can help you to prevent tooth decay and periodontal diseases.
Some of the natural common probiotic foods are yogurt, kimchi, natto, buttermilk, kombucha, pickles, etc.
The term probiotic means ‘for life.’ According to the WHO, probiotics are living organisms which when consumed in the right amount can prove to be healthy to the host.
They help to maintain the balance of microorganisms in our gut. Probiotic supplements help in replenishing the beneficial bacteria.
They help balance the good and the harmful bacteria in the intestine to make sure that the body functions well.
Probiotics also help the beneficial bacteria crowd out the harmful bacteria from the intestines, and this prevents infection and inflammation.
Probiotics for oral health
Just like there are bacterial species associated with oral diseases, there are probiotic bacterial species associated with oral health.
In the oral cavity, probiotic bacteria adhere to the dental tissues as a part of the biofilm. They act as a protective lining for oral tissues.
Such a biofilm keeps bacterial pathogens off the oral tissues by occupying the surface area which could have served as a niche for pathogenic microbes in the future.
They actually compete with the cariogenic bacteria and periodontal pathogens for space and complete resources. (2)
Probiotics are also suggested to increase the lifetime of voice prosthesis by inhibiting the adhesion of unwanted microbes.
Ways in which oral probiotics keep the mouth healthy
Probiotics can help relieve and prevent a lot of oral health issues. Following are a few benefits –
Prevent dental plaque
We all have different types of plaque producing bacteria in our oral cavity.
Oral probiotics prevent the growth of such plaque producing bacteria and maintain good oral hygiene.
Bacteria usually cause Halitosis, i.e., bad breath in the mouth or gut.
Studies have shown that oral the probiotics fight the harmful bacteria in the mouth and intestine and cause significant reductions in the number of bacteria that cause bad breath(3).
However, more research is ongoing regarding this point.
Prevent oral cancer
According to the Cancer Prevention center, probiotics help to lower down the risk of oral cancer. However, more research studies need to be done to confirm this benefit.
A study from the Swedish Dental Journal suggests that probiotics can reduce signs of gingivitis, swollen and tender gums.
Researches have shown that gingivitis symptoms decrease in patients taking probiotics. Probiotic bacteria help to manage inflammation of the gums (4).
Probiotics prevent tooth decay by Competing against strep mutans bacteria in the mouth and producing antimicrobials and enzymes.
What probiotic strains are best suited for oral health?
A lot of research is going on around probiotics for teeth and gum health. Few probiotics have been found which considerably improve oral health. (5)
Probiotic strain refers to a genetic variant or subtype of a micro-organism, which here particularly refers to probiotic bacterial species.
These populations of probiotic bacteria possess a certain set of definite characteristics.
Lactobacillus and Streptococcus probiotic strains serve to reduce plaque formation, which is a cause of caries and gum disease.
A study published in the European Journal of Dentistry in 2010 found that oral lactic acid bacteria and Bifidobacterium can help to prevent caries and manage gum diseases.
Streptococcus salivarius can also help to alleviate bad breath.
Many probiotic supplements provide more than one strain of bacteria which is helpful to maintain oral and overall health.
Probiotic-rich foods and supplement sources
Probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods should be consumed to ensure that the body gets an optimum amount of probiotic dose.
Supplemental probiotics are available in the form of tablets, capsules, loose powder or gummies in both shelf-stable and refrigerated forms.
Probiotic supplements containing more than one strain should be preferred.
Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, aged cheeses, kimchi, and cultured non-dairy yogurts.
Prebiotics can also be useful as these food components promote probiotic growth in the gut. These improve calcium absorption and enhance gastrointestinal health.
Prebiotics are found in supplement form or fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and legumes.(6)
Do oral probiotics have any side effects?
Oral Probiotics are generally safe. But you should avoid taking them if you have a high risk of infections due to conditions such as HIV.
Children and pregnant women should avoid taking high doses of probiotics without doctor’s consent.
The recommended dosage of probiotics given by manufacturers should not be exceeded.
Over to you
Probiotics are an incredible association between the food you eat and disease prevention.
Regularly consuming probiotics for teeth and gums is very beneficial. They can induce bone formation, which helps in the repair of the bone that deteriorates from severe gum diseases.
Practicing good oral hygiene is also equally important. Brushing and flossing twice a day is not negotiable.
See a dentist regularly for checkups. Change your toothbrush every three to four months. Avoid excess sugar as much as possible.