When it comes to maximizing various aspects of health, probiotics are one of the unique supplements available to us – and amazingly, there is even research coming out to suggest that probiotics protect from tooth decay.
It’s true! Probiotics offer you another excellent way to maintain your oral health. They reduce your risk of dental decline, staving off the need for dentures as you enter your golden years.
What is the Oral Microbiota?
It may be hard to believe, but you actually have more microorganisms either on or in your body than you have cells. These microorganisms are collectively known as your microbiota, and they work together with your body to perform a number of important biological functions.
Thousands of these microorganisms live in your oral cavity (AKA your mouth) and make up your oral microbiota. Your oral microbiota works synergistically with the cells of the mouth and surrounding tissues to maintain oral health and function.
When everything is going according to plan, that is.
You see, while natural oral bacteria are beneficial for your health, they are not the only microorganisms that would like to set up camp in your mouth.
There are many other, harmful bacteria that could wreak havoc on your oral health if they were allowed to make a home there.
In order to keep your mouth happy and healthy, it is most important to maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in your oral cavity — with health-promoting bacteria outnumbering harmful, infectious bacteria!
How Does a Healthy Oral Microbiota Impact Your Oral Health?
Having healthy bacteria in your mouth can help prevent two of the most common oral diseases:
- Dental Cavities (AKA tooth decay)
- Periodontal Disease (AKA gingivitis, or gum disease)
Dental Cavities (Tooth Decay)
Tooth decay is one of the most common bacterially-driven diseases to affect the human race. It occurs when minerals within the teeth start dissolving because of an increased acidic environment created by unhealthy oral bacteria.
You see, when specific bacterial strains (such as Streptococcus, Lactobacillus, or Actinomyces, which have all shown strong associations with an increased risk of tooth decay) build up in plaque found on your teeth, they produce excess amounts of acids that can damage your teeth. These bacteria do this by fermenting dietary sugars from the food you eat, producing acids as by-products.
Having a healthy oral microbiota, free of these types of dangerous bacteria (or at least mostly free of them) can seriously protect your teeth from developing tooth decay.
Periodontal Disease (Gingivitis)
Periodontal disease describes progressive bacterial-driven inflammation of the gums that, if left untreated, can result in tissue destruction and tooth loss. Gingivitis describes the early stages of periodontal disease, where the gums just start becoming inflamed and painful.
In the early stages, unhealthy bacteria (with specific emphasis on Porphyromonas gingivalis, Tannerella forsythia, and Treponema denticola) from the plaque on your teeth accumulate and grow, working their way to the surface of your gums.
When these bacteria start infecting your gums, your immune system mounts an inflammatory response with the intent to remove these bacteria from the area. This leads to redness, inflammation, and irritation of the gums — the symptoms of gingivitis.
If left untreated, the inner layer of the gum can start to peel away from the teeth, forming little pockets. These little pockets then collect debris and bacteria, becoming further infected and inflamed. The formation of these pockets and more severe inflammation is considered the onset of full-blown periodontal disease.
Unfortunately, once periodontal disease begins, it is difficult to get under control again. This is because the body continues to fill the infected pockets with antibodies and compounds in an attempt to kill off the harmful bacteria.
Unfortunately, over time these compounds actually break down the otherwise healthy tooth and gum tissues near the infection. This allows more bacteria to get into your gums and teeth, ultimately exacerbating the problem.
As was the case with cavities, having a healthy microbiota can ensure that these dangerous bacteria don’t overpopulate the plaque in your mouth. This can stave off periodontal disease in its earliest stages.
How Do Probiotics Improve Your Oral Health?
Oral probiotics are supplements that provide you with a shot of living, healthy, and helpful bacteria straight into your body. Most of these bacteria take up residence in your gut, not your mouth, but they are, nevertheless, able to improve the health of your oral microbiome.
Well, after entering your digestive system, the live microorganisms from probiotics begin to populate your gut.
There, they start munching away on bits of food you consume in your diet, primarily fiber. As they break down these fiber molecules, they produce a specific group of compounds called short-chain fatty acids (or SCFAs, for short).
These SCFAs are then absorbed into the body, where they interact with the cells of your immune system, triggering them to mature. This process gives your body more infection-fighting immune system cells, which, in turn, help you fight infections throughout your body.
These same SCFAs have also been shown to reduce the secretion of inflammatory cytokines throughout the body. This can reduce inflammation and improve cellular function – further boosting immune health.
By boosting immune cell function and reducing inflammation, probiotic-produced SCFAs can:
- Minimize the numbers of harmful bacteria in your oral cavity – preventing the onset of both tooth decay and periodontal disease
- Reduce the painful inflammation of gingivitis and slow the progression to full-blown periodontal disease by minimizing the release of inflammatory compounds into your gums and teeth
Through these two interactions, probiotics can significantly improve dental health and stave off these common oral diseases.
What Probiotics Protect from Tooth Decay?
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While you have thousands of species of microorganisms living with your gut, not all of them can produce SCFAs. Some strains that can, and that are available as probiotic supplements, include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus fermentum
So, based on the research, if you are interested in looking for a probiotics supplement to prevent tooth decay, finding one that contains one or more of these strains may be your best bet.
A couple of options include:
This probiotic supplement by Vitamin Bounty provides the body with 13 bacterial strains, including four of those listed above (it’s only missing Lactobacillus fermentum), giving you confidence that it likely has the capacity to boost your oral health in a big way.
Amazingly, of the 1,700 reviews on Amazon, this product has a massive 96% 4+ star rating!
This key probiotic supplement by Hyperbiotics has 15 independent bacterial strains which include all 5 listed above, suggesting it is likely to have a positive impact on your oral health.
This particular probiotic is one of the most popular on the market. It has over 7,500 reviews on Amazon, 80% of which are 4 stars or above. That should fill you with confidence as well as healthy bacteria!
Take Home Message
Probiotics are one of the most effective health boosting options available to us at the moment. It’s hard to believe that filling your body with live organisms can boost health, but the research doesn’t lie!
Amazingly, the health benefits of probiotics aren’t just limited to the digestive system, where the bacteria take up residence. Probiotics can also improve oral health, reducing your risk of cavities and periodontal disease.