Studies show probiotics, or live microorganisms known as friendly bacteria, can have health benefits that extend far beyond the stomach. A promising area of research is the use of probiotics for oral health, as scientists have discovered that they are an effective, natural and economic means of fighting gum disease, plaque and bad breath.
It's encouraging to know that if you include probiotic foods in your diet, they can stop, slow or delay the process of infection that leads to oral disease. Here are the results of some studies demonstrating how these microbes produce their positive effects – along with a list of foods that contain probiotics.
What Has Research Found?
This area of research indicates that probiotics can help you relieve and prevent all oral health issues. A study published in the Swedish Dental Journal discovered a probiotic that reduced gum bleeding in patients with moderate to severe gingivitis. The cavity-fighting effects of probiotics were also seen in an investigation published in Caries Research, which found the use of a mouthrinse containing the friendly bacteria reduced the formation of dental plaque by 20 percent. Other studies show probiotics can inhibit bacteria that produce sulfur compounds, the odorous substances that cause bad breath. Probiotics may even help prevent oral cancer, according to Cancer Prevention Research.
How Do Probiotics Work?
Probiotics work by targeting the culprits responsible for your family's most common oral health issues: infection-producing microbes, also called pathogens. A study in the Journal of Oral Microbiology describes how probiotics prevent pathogens from getting a foothold through multiple means. Specifically, the friendly bacteria boost your immune system and hinder pathogens from binding to your body's tissues. Probiotics can also kill or curtail the growth of pathogens by producing agents that make it harder for them to live and thrive. The Journal of Indian Society Periodontology reports probiotics also have properties that reduce inflammation, a benefit that curtails the harmful effects of pathogens. In addition, they can stimulate bone formation, which helps repair the bone that deteriorates from advanced forms of gum disease.
Nature provides an abundant amount of sources for boosting the friendly bacteria in your body. These include probiotics and foods that contain the beneficial microbes, along with prebiotics, the foods that promote the growth of the beneficial microbes in your intestines. Dairy sources of probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, cultured cottage cheese and buttermilk, while non-dairy sources include fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and a fermented tea called kombucha. Prebiotic foods include raw Jerusalem artichokes, raw hickory root, raw oats, unrefined barley and unrefined wheat.
The use of probiotics for oral health is one of the exciting discoveries that shows the association between the food you eat and disease prevention. If you want to increase your likelihood of enjoying healthy teeth and gums for years to come, eat a healthful diet that includes probiotic foods. Practicing smart oral hygiene, such as regular brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush like Colgate® Slim Soft™, is also essential for maintaining oral wellness.