It seems like you can’t open a magazine or watch a health segment on the news these days without hearing about the amazing benefits of probiotics. Probiotics are microorganisms that when ingested have a variety of health benefits to the human or animal who consumes them. Probiotics are currently available at most stores in the form of supplements and are also found as an ingredient in certain food products like yogurt, cheese, pickles and even kombucha, all which offer natural and added probiotic benefits. But though probiotics are currently only ingested orally, very few are designed to benefit the mouth specifically.
Probiotics work via a process called competitive inhibition that essentially balances the good bacteria with the bad, by allowing the good bacteria to flourish, and leaving the bad bacteria to starve and die off. The good bacteria then become the new sheriff in town and help maintain order in the affected area, whether that be your digestive system or your mouth.
In oral health, one of the worst offending bacteria is Streptococcus mutans or S. mutans. Streptococcus mutans are the main cause of cavities, thriving off the sugar left behind in your mouth after eating. As the S. mutans bacteria feed on the sugar, they create a lactic acid waste product that over time, eats away at the enamel of your teeth, causing cavities. If left untreated, the lactic acid will continue to eat away at the cavity, destroying the tooth in the process.
But scientists have found great promise eradicating S. mutans from the mouth by introducing a probiotic containing the bacteria S. salivarus M18. It may sound like a Harry Potter character, but this superhero bacteria not only kills S. mutans, it also turns the urea in your saliva to ammonia, neutralizing the lactic acid S. mutans leaves behind, and reducing cavities and tooth sensitivity in the process. So maybe that Harry Potter reference isn’t so off base after all!
S. Salivarus M18 has also been found to help reduce the dental plaque and biofilm responsible for tartar buildup along the gum line. It does this by creating an enzyme that dissolves and loosens plaque. Not only does this reduce the amount of buildup already present in your mouth, it prevents future plaque buildup, too!
Another probiotic product that may benefit your oral health is a probiotic mouthwash designed to help people suffering from tonsil stones. This mouthwash contains both S. salivarus M18 and K12, and not only helps to break up tonsil stones and rinse them away but also prevents them from coming back.
S. salivarus K12 is also beneficial for bad breath in general because it kills the bacteria living below the surface of your tongue which are the usual culprits for bad breath.
If you’re considering adding probiotics to your oral care routine, speak to your dentist and see which products will give you the best results.
Dr. Lederman can be reached at 516-882-1764.