Probiotics: A New Tool to Fight Cavities
You can't turn on the TV without seeing an actor encouraging you to try a new yogurt or pill containing probiotics. Probiotics are becoming all the rage for digestive health, but can they help with teeth too? The latest research says yes. But with all the antibiotics and antibacterial products we put into our bodies, you may be wondering: why would we want extra bacteria?
Probiotics are actually the good bacteria which fight the bad bacteria that cause periodontal diease. The term probiotics literally means "for life" in Latin. Traditionally the benefits have been touted for digestive health, but there is a new way to benefit from these resilient little fighters: oral probiotics specifically designed to start working in the mouth. This is an exciting new breakthrough in the world of dentistry, which has us so used to fighting the damage after it's been done with "anti" weapons: antiseptics, antibiotics, antibacterials... In contrast, we now have a "pro" treatment, pro-balance, pro-oral health, and pro-prevention. Reintroducing probiotics into your mouth helps replenish the flora that's naturally found in the mouth, but easily wiped out by everyday habits.
The active ingredients found in the new oral health probiotic tablets generally contain Lactobacillus reuteri, which is found naturally in saliva and breast milk and can restore the balance of good bacteria to the mouth. It has also been shown to have beneficial effects on the immune system. More probiotics you may find support oral health include Lactobacillus paracasei which has strong antimicrobial activity while displaying a high tolerance to environmental stress, so it sticks around to fight for your oral health. Lactobacillus salivarius is a probiotic generally found in the small intestine and saliva that has been shown to improve bleeding gums, tooth decay, bad breath, thrush and canker sores as well as suppress other periodontal pathogens (bad bacteria).
The public and scientific interest in probiotics is growing, and you may have already considered taking probiotics for digestive health. Now you have another, new way to benefit from probiotics, starting in the mouth and promoting good health for the entire body. The probiotics continue fighting long after ingesting the tablet, and when taken at night, the probiotics stay in the mouth and can continue fighting while you are fast asleep. This creates a crucial line of defense against bad bacteria which gather the most strength in the war for your teeth and gums while you are sleeping.
Probiotic benefits are especially important as the link between poor oral health and degenerative disease becomes more convincing. It is critical to look at the health and interaction of the whole body, not just focus on the function of each individual part. Type II Diabetes is becoming a problem worldwide as a result of poor diet and sedentary life style habits. It is estimated that at least 8% of the population, 23.6 million people, in the United States currently have diabetes and that one in three American children born in the year 2000 will develop type II diabetes in their lifetime. Unfortunately, people suffering from diabetes often have a compromised immune system, making them more susceptible to gum disease like gingivitis which results in inflammation and bleeding of the gums. Oral probiotics may help to fight off the pathogens that cause gum disease as well as those that cause tooth decay.
As more research is being devoted to probiotics in oral health and overall health, the future of healthy bodies and smiles is looking bright!