What Are Probiotics?
Both good and bad bacteria are found naturally in your body. Maintaining a healthy balance of these two types of live bacteria is essential for good health. When bad bacteria outnumber good bacteria, health problems, ranging from constipation to irritable bowel syndrome to anxiety, can occur. Probiotics are natural microorganisms that are often called “friendly” bacteria. Taking them can help you maintain the proper bacterial balance and lower your risk of certain illnesses and infections.
How Do Probiotics Work?
Probiotics improve your immune system response, which makes it easier for your body to kill bacteria responsible for infections, such as yeast and urinary tract infections. They also lessen inflammation and can help reduce diarrhea, constipation, gas and other digestive problems. Some probiotics can even play a part in reducing stress and improving your mood.
While many people are familiar with the benefits of probiotics for digestive issues, their effects on oral health aren’t quite as well known. Oral care probiotics offer an excellent way to reduce your tooth decay risk because they attack the bacteria found in plaque. Plaque, a clear, sticky film, constantly coats your teeth and gums. When you take a bite of bread or a sip of juice, the sugars in those products mix with the bacteria on your teeth, causing a chemical reaction that produces acids. The acids attack your tooth enamel and can eventually cause tooth decay.
Oral care probiotics not only kill bad bacteria, preventing the chemical reaction from ever occurring, but also help make it difficult for bacteria to stick to your teeth. In a 2006 study published in Caries Research, researchers discovered that adding probiotics to a mouth rinse decreased plaque formation by about 20 percent.
Bad bacteria also causes periodontal, or gum, disease. Tartar, the hardened form of plaque, pushes your gums away from your teeth and creates pockets around your teeth. These pockets offer the perfect place for bacteria to grow. Unfortunately, the bacteria in the pockets can destroy your teeth and the underlying bone if the disease isn’t treated promptly. Using oral care probiotics, in addition to regular flossing and brushing, can lower your cavity and gum disease risk, reduce inflammation and help strengthen bones weakened by gum disease.
Do you suffer from bad breath no matter how often you floss or brush? Oral care probiotics attack the bacteria responsible for breath odor and increase the amount of good bacteria in your mouth.
Bad bacteria is also responsible for tonsil stones, throat infections and sinus infection. Because taking probiotics boosts your immune system in addition to killing the bacteria responsible for infections, you may experience fewer infections if you take them regularly. Some oral care probiotics may even help keep your teeth whiter.
How Can I Take Advantage of the Benefits of Probiotics?
Probiotics are found in foods and also available in supplements. Increasing your intake of foods that naturally contain tooth-friendly bacteria, such as cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, miso and sauerkraut, can be helpful. If you’re not a fan of cottage cheese and sauerkraut, you may want to consider taking an oral probiotic. Probiotic supplements are available in lozenges, chewable tablets, mouth rinses and mints and can be used by children and adults. After you take the supplement, don’t eat or drink for about 30 minutes.
Who Shouldn’t Take Oral Care Probiotics?
Because probiotics contain live microorganisms, they’re usually not recommended for women who are pregnant, people who have conditions that affect the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, or people who have weakened immune systems due to cancer treatments.
Taking oral care probiotics, in addition to a good oral hygiene routine and regular dental exams, can help improve your oral health. If it’s time for your next visit, or you have a few questions about oral care probiotics, give us a call.