Have you heard about probiotics and how they can benefit your digestive tract? Perhaps you've already searched the yogurt aisle in a quest for better health. New research has shown that using probiotics for bad breath is another exciting possibility. Bad breath, or halitosis, is an ongoing concern for many people, and the possibility of using good bacteria to your advantage may offer a long-term solution to relieve this condition.
What Exactly Are Probiotics?
As explained by the Mayo Clinic, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial to your health, especially for your digestive tract. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two common probiotics that are often found in fermented foods, like yogurt and pickled cabbage. Your mouth is also another area that is filled with bacteria, both good and bad, albeit different than your gut. The overall idea behind using probiotics is to encourage the amount of good bacteria and leave less room for the bad.
What Types of Bacteria Cause Bad Breath?
As detailed in Scientific American, gas-producing bacteria found on the tongue and below the gums are the culprit behind most cases of foul breath. Volatile sulfur compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan, are the main offenders, smelling like rotten eggs and cabbage respectively. Brushing, flossing and swishing with mouthrinse remove bacteria in order to freshen breath, but these methods are only effective for a short while since bacteria quickly repopulate.
In 80 to 90 percent halitosis cases, according to Current Oral Health Reports, the oral cavity is the origin of the issue. Other cases of bad breath can be caused by problems in the stomach, lungs and even the liver. A positive correlation exists between bad breath and periodontal disease. Certain types of bacteria called Gram-negative anaerobes also flourish in the low oxygen environment that is associated with periodontal disease, producing the offensive volatile sulfur compounds. Breath malodor is also more common in older adults, who are more likely than young people to have odor-causing dry mouth, periodontal disease and dentures.
How Can Probiotics Help Prevent Bad Breath?
Now comes the exciting part: recently conducted research from the University of Connecticut has shown that the best way to get rid of offensive breath is to focus on colonizing the mouth with good bacteria instead of waging a war against the bad bacteria. Changing from mouthwash to a long-term strategy such as this aims to destroy the causes of halitosis rather than merely dealing with its effects.
The good bacteria in your mouth are different from the strains in your gut, however. The University of Connecticut study found that Streptococcus salivarius strains K12 and M18 are the oral probiotics effective in reducing the bacterial growth that is associated with halitosis. These bacteria can be introduced in the mouth through the usage of probiotic lozenges. Eighty-five percent of study participants showed a significant reduction in volatile sulfur compounds after a one-week usage of probiotic lozenges containing strain K12. These bacterial strains were also found to be effective in reducing gingivitis, pharyngitis (sore throat), oral candidiasis(thrush) and dental decay. Impressively, S. salivarius strains were additionally found to inhibit strep throat, pharyngitis and tonsillitis, leading to future potential applications as an alternative treatment to antibiotics.
How Can You Find Immediate Relief?
Since probiotic research is still in progress, your dentist will not yet be able to hand you a jar of bacteria and tell you to take a sip. For an interim solution when you feel bad breath coming on, use a mouth rinse or mouthwash.
If bad breath is a continuing issue for you, make sure to see your dental professional to rule out any underlying causes, such as periodontal disease, sinus issues or gastrointestinal disease. Otherwise, with the potential for using probiotics for bad breath and maintaining a good oral hygiene routine, halitosis should never be something that holds you back.