Dental probiotics (also known as oral probiotics) are beneficial bacteria strains you can introduce to the mouth to support a healthy oral microbiome and better dental health.
That’s right, there are beneficial bacteria that can counteract harmful bacteria that become dental plaque! To ensure oral health, you may purchase additional beneficial bacteria in a chewable form, called oral probiotics.
Probiotics are mostly known for their benefits in your gut microbiome and digestive health. However, oral probiotics can support your oral microbiome, which is as important to good oral health as your gut microbiome is to overall health.
There are many health benefits of oral probiotics, such as cavity prevention and fighting bad breath.
What are oral probiotics?
Oral probiotics (also called “dental probiotics”) are liquid or chewable dietary supplements that contain beneficial bacteria. When you chew oral probiotics, the good bacteria (also known as “commensal” bacteria) can improve your dental health.
In fact, “probiotic bacteria” literally means “good bacteria”.
You can take oral probiotics to support a healthy oral microbiome. An imbalanced oral microbiome is linked to all major oral diseases and even some systemic diseases.
How do you take oral probiotics?
Oral probiotics come in several forms:
- Liquid or mouthwash
Usually, oral probiotics are chewable tablets. You do not swallow them. Rather, you chew them up and let them remain in your mouth.
What is the oral microbiome?
The oral microbiome is made of the millions of bacterial microorganisms (microflora) living in your mouth. In a healthy oral microbiome, there is a proper balance of beneficial bacteria to harmful bacteria (pathogenic bacteria).
If you have an imbalanced oral microbiome, the good bacteria are outnumbered by bad bacteria. An abundance of the wrong bacteria may contribute to poor oral health or even affect other parts of your body.
According to peer-reviewed research, an imbalanced oral microbiome has been linked to numerous diseases, such as:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Oral infections
- Heart disease
- Premature birth
Oral probiotics are well-established to promote a healthy oral microbiome. Oral probiotics are an important step towards whole-person health.
8 Benefits of Oral Probiotics
According to multiple studies, here are 8 health benefits of oral probiotics:
- Prevent cavities and tooth decay
- Fight gum disease and gingivitis
- Stop bad breath
- Hinder candida overgrowth
- Aid in cancer treatment
- Reduce heart disease risk
- Curb respiratory disease
- Stave off Alzheimer’s disease
1. Prevent Cavities and Tooth Decay
Cavities (also known as tooth decay or dental caries) are considered a worldwide epidemic. 92% of Americans have had a cavity and 1 in 4 American adults have an untreated cavity at any given time.
Good news, though — dental probiotics may be linked to reduced tooth decay.
Cavities are caused when harmful bacteria feed off of sugars and starches in your diet to form dental plaque and acids that erode away at your teeth.
A 2016 study shows that certain probiotics can stop Streptococcus mutans from growing. S. mutans contributes to plaque and cavity formation.
Wondering if you have a cavity? Click here.
2. Fight Gum Disease and Gingivitis
Gum disease and gingivitis are disorders of the gums. When dental plaque gets under your gum line, infection and, eventually, systemic disease may result.
Fortunately, oral probiotics have been shown to fight the progression and development of gum disease.
Gum disease (also called “periodontal disease”) comes in 4 stages:
- Early periodontitis
- Moderate periodontitis
- Advanced periodontitis
Gingivitis, the stage of gum disease without bone loss or gum recession, is completely reversible with good oral hygiene. Oral probiotics may give you the extra advantage you need to fight off gingivitis for good.
However, later stages of gum disease may cause lasting damage, even after you reverse the triggering plaque buildup. You need to address gum disease as soon as you can. This is where twice a year dental checkups are useful; a dental professional can identify oral health problems in early stages.
One article cites the promising research into oral probiotics on gum disease and other oral diseases: “An effective oral probiotic formulation should contribute to the prevention/treatment of microbial diseases of the oral cavity,” such as gum disease.
3. Stop Bad Breath
Bad breath, AKA halitosis, affects millions of people every year. Bad breath is the third leading cause of dental visits.
Oral probiotics have been proven to treat bad breath. Plus, unlike conventional mouthwash, they support long-term oral health and don’t just mask bad breath and destroy the oral microbiome.
Bad breath is caused by harmful bacteria or food particles in your mouth. Good oral hygiene helps attenuate bad breath — but so can oral probiotics.
A 2017 review discussed specific probiotic strains that were able to effectively eliminate bad breath. Specifically, L. reuteri, L. brevis, and S. salivarius seem to have a beneficial impact on breath.
This same review details a list of harmful bacteria strains known to cause bad breath.
4. Hinder Candida Overgrowth
Candida is a type of yeast. Candida overgrowth is the most common fungal infection in humankind today. It commonly occurs in your oral cavity — as oral thrush — or sexual organs — simply referred to as yeast infection.
However, oral probiotics have shown promise in treating Candida overgrowth.
13 common symptoms of Candida overgrowth include:
- Oral thrush
- Sore throat
- Severe allergies
- Sugar cravings
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
Oral probiotics work against Candida infection as well as the protective biofilms that Candida forms.
A recent review details how oral probiotics may both treat and prevent Candida overgrowth. How oral probiotics work against Candida is less known, since it is a complex relationship that involves more than one “inhibition pathway.”
5. Aid Cancer Treatment
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. Increasing evidence shows that imbalanced microbiomes, in both the gut and oral cavity, may be linked to cancer.
Certain harmful bacteria appear to be biomarkers that can predict your risk of cancer. In your oral microbiome, these biomarkers may be able to predict oral cancer.
Clinical studies demonstrate that probiotics for your gut have a positive effect on gut health and immune health in cancer patients. A stronger immune system may explain probiotics’ benefit against cancer.
Recent clinical trials show that oral probiotics may also reduce complications during cancer treatment, such as oral mucositis.
6. Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease accounts for 1 in 4 deaths in America. Harmful bacteria in your oral cavity have been linked with the progression of heart disease.
Probiotics have also been shown to improve blood lipid levels in coronary heart disease patients. Blood lipid levels are a common biomarker in heart disease.
7. Curb Respiratory Disease
Respiratory disease or infection affects your respiratory system, such as your lungs. Early evidence indicates oral probiotics may improve respiratory disease and infection.
One in vitro study found that 3 probiotic strains of Streptococcus salivarius inhibited the harmful bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, which is a common trigger for respiratory infection.
A randomized controlled trial in school-age children saw a massive 76% reduction of respiratory tract infections in children who took daily oral probiotics compared with those who did not.
8. Stave Off Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Researchers have determined that there is a link between Alzheimer’s disease and gum disease.
Since multiple sources cite the connection between an imbalanced oral microbiome and Alzheimer’s disease, it stands to reason that a healthy oral microbiome may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease from developing in the first place.
It’s no wonder that treating gum disease (getting rid of harmful bacteria beneath your gum line) is a top-of-the-list defense against worsening dementia symptoms.
How are dental probiotics different from gut probiotics?
Dental probiotics are different from gut probiotics because the specific bacterial strains and delivery method (swallow vs. chew) are different.
With dental probiotics, you use chewable tablets or lozenges to introduce beneficial bacteria to your oral microbiome.
With gut probiotics, you often swallow tablets or eat probiotic foods like sauerkraut. This introduces beneficial bacteria to your gut microbiome.
Dental probiotics may help treat tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.
Gut probiotics may treat gastrointestinal disorders and immune dysfunction.
However, both types of probiotics positively affect your overall health.
Bacterial strains common in dental probiotics:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus reuteri
- Lactobacillus salivarius
- Lactobacillus thermophilus
- Streptococcus salivarius
Bacterial strains common in gut probiotics:
- Bifidus longum
- Bifidobacterium animalis
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Brevibacillus brevis
- Enterococcus faecium
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus helveticus
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Why You Also Need Prebiotics
Prebiotics are fiber that supports the colonization of probiotics. Probiotics use prebiotics as fuel.
Typically, prebiotics are high-fiber plant foods in your diet that support beneficial bacteria. Leafy greens are the most accessible and richest source of prebiotics.
You can also purchase prebiotics in powder or supplement form.
Xylitol is probably the most common dental prebiotic. Xylitol is a prebiotic sugar alcohol that is a sugar substitute in many sugar-free gums. This sugar alcohol has been shown to help reduce cavities.
This 2019 review concluded that “[beneficial bacteria] can be fed properly with prebiotics to become stronger and healthier, which, in turn, can impact the overall health.”
Do dental probiotics really work?
Yes, dental probiotics really work. Dental probiotics are supported by dozens of studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
However, dental probiotics are no substitute for oral hygiene. Make sure you’re still brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and avoiding added sugar in your diet.
How long does it take for oral probiotics to work? Oral probiotics work quickly. Many patients see results within 3 days, though some require a couple weeks to see results.
How long does it take for oral probiotics to stop working? Oral probiotics stop “working” after a few days. But the good bacteria have been introduced, and they can’t be un-introduced. But, early research may indicate that short-term oral probiotic use is ineffective in the long-term.
In addition, oral probiotics may not be as effective or helpful for people with a very healthy oral microbiome. They are most beneficial for correcting dysbiosis.
What is the best oral/dental probiotic?
What is the best oral probiotic? The best oral probiotic is one that contains large amounts of probiotic strains known to benefit oral health.
What to look for in an oral probiotic:
- High strain count; probiotic strain count is measured in CFUs (colony forming units)
- Long shelf life; you don’t want expired probiotics
- Low cost; as long as you are getting high-quality probiotics, “higher cost” does not necessarily mean “better product”
5 bacterial strains to look for in an oral probiotic:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus reuteri
- Lactobacillus salivarius
- Streptococcus salivarius
Which probiotics are best for bad breath? This study indicates that oral probiotic supplements containing Streptococcus salivarius fights bad breath. L. reuteri and L. brevis may also curb halitosis.
Side Effects of Oral Probiotics
Generally, there are no reported side effects of oral probiotics.
Are dental probiotics safe? Yes, dental probiotics are safe for most everyone. Peer-reviewed research has not observed any unwanted side effects for dental probiotics.
Who should not use dental probiotics?
Most people can use dental probiotics with no problem.
If your oral microbiome is healthy and your oral hygiene is excellent, you should not use dental probiotics. They won’t cause harm, but it would likely be a waste of money.
Do not take dental probiotics if you are at high risk for infection, such as HIV patients. This is because, in theory, these bacteria may cause infection in vulnerable individuals. However, this has not been observed in clinical trials.
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