Most health conscious people are aware of the benefits of friendly gut bacteria. By consuming probiotic foods (e.g. fibre-rich whole foods, yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut) and supplements, you can nourish your gut bacteria – to improve your mood and health.
But what do you know about good and bad oral bacteria?
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for public awareness of beneficial oral bacteria. And without them, your oral microbiome can become dominated by pathogenic bacteria (a.k.a. oral pathogens). When this happens, the side effects of uncontrolled colonisation of your oral cavity by these bacteria, can lead to serious oral complications. These include tooth decay, cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, tooth loss not to mention bad breath (halitosis).
In addition, pathogenic bacteria have been linked to health issues, such as respiratory and sinus infections, along with systemic health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, pneumonia, arthritis and adverse pregnancy complications.
How do probiotic bacteria benefit your oral health?
Fortunately, while pathogenic oral bacteria is damaging to health, an abundance of probiotic oral bacteria in your oral cavity has the opposite effect. These friendly germs can protect your oral health from decay and disease. They can prevent or interfere with the proliferation of oral pathogens in a number of ways including:
- Binding to bad bacteria which limit their ability to attach to teeth and gums.
- Antimicrobial actions via the release of hydrogen peroxide, acids and bacteriocins (antimicrobial proteins) that can suppress the growth of bad bacteria – and in some cases kill certain pathogenic species.
- Supports your immune system by eliminating viruses and reducing inflammation.
- Raises pH so that saliva is more pH neutral which decreases the risk of tooth decay and erosion.
Beneficial probiotic bacteria species that are essential for your oral healthFive of the most beneficial probiotic species include:
- STREPTOCOCCUS SALIVARIUS K12 suppresses oral pathogens such as Streptococcus pyogenes and Streptococcus pneumonia which cause infection and autoimmune disorders; provides strong immune support to help reduce symptoms of oral and respiratory viral infections; maintains ear, nose and throat health; and can crowd out other potentially harmful oral pathogens.
- STREPTOCOCCUS SALIVARIUS M18 produces bacteriocins and enzymes that remove plaque and metabolises lactic acid; suppresses the main oral pathogens causing tooth decay, plaque and periodontal disease; maintains ear, nose and throat health; and reduces pro-inflammatory immune responses (i.e. cytokine storms)
- LIMOSILACTOBACILLUS REUTERI reduces pro-inflammatory immune responses (i.e. cytokine storms), Candida and periodontal pocket depth.
- LIGILACTOBACILLUS SALIVARIUS reduces pathogenic bacteria population; supports tooth and gum health by improving resistance to cavities; produces sufficient hydrogen peroxide to kill certain bacterial species; and improves bad breath.
- LACTICASEIBACILLUS PARACASEI binds to oral pathogens that cause tooth decay and protect against Candida.
How to reintroduce probiotic bacteria to mouth
As infants our oral microbiome is assembled in the first year and maintained by the right nutrient sources. However, over time, factors such as a poor acidic diet (refined carbohydrates & soft drinks), stress, smoking and anti-bacterial agents (incl. medication) can negatively impact on the diversity and balance of the oral microbiome.
You can take steps to reintroduce probiotic bacteria into your oral cavity by taking oral probiotic supplements in the morning after you brush your teeth.
These supplements are available as lozenges, mouth rinses and chewable tablets which deliver beneficial bacterial strains directly into the mouth. From there, they can colonise your oral cavity into biofilms that start competing with and eliminating oral pathogens.
How to maintain a diverse oral microbiome
You’re going to have to keep topping up your probiotic supplementation constantly unless you feed them. Friendly oral bacteria colonies require prebiotics to get a good start and flourish. These include: leafy greens, garlic, onions, greenish bananas, asparagus, apples, flaxseed and cocoa. Adding more probiotic foods to your diet can also enhance the benefits of probiotic supplements. These include: yoghurt, miso, natto, kimchi and sauerkraut.
Oral probiotics can benefit your oral health significantly along with proper oral care/hygiene, a fibre-rich plant-based diet and regular dental cleans. Choose products with a high strain count or colony forming units (CFUs) at levels of 3 billion or more to support your mouths very own ‘immune system’.