Health starts with your mouth. While the importance of oral hygiene for keeping your mouth, teeth, and gums in good condition is well-known, you may be less aware that your oral health impacts many other areas of your body.
Good oral health contributes to overall systemic health, so it’s worth prioritizing!
If you are someone experiencing recurrent oral health issues such as cavities, gum disease, or bad breath despite being consistent with the daily practices of brushing your teeth, flossing, using mouthwash, and avoiding overly sugary or acidic foods, you may wish to explore alternative ways to enhance your oral hygiene routine!
Incorporating an oral probiotic can be highly beneficial. This article is intended for anyone looking to improve their oral health with alternative methods on top of the standard daily hygiene practices.
In this article, we will cover the basics of oral probiotics, including what they are and how they work (backed by research proving their efficacy). Let’s get into it!
What are Oral Probiotics?
Oral probiotics are a well-researched method for improving the health of your mouth and teeth. In particular, oral probiotics work to restore the balance of your oral microbiome.
Probiotics are defined as living microorganisms (predominantly bacteria) that are safe for human consumption.
These strains of bacteria already naturally live in our bodies and are present in food and water.
Probiotics can significantly benefit human health when administered and consumed in adequate amounts.
The use of probiotics for intestinal issues and enhancing gut health is well known.
However, more recent research has shown that probiotics can be useful for preventing and treating diseases in the oral cavity and for improving the balance of one’s oral microbiome.
Oral probiotics contain beneficial strains of bacteria, which encourage the growth of more good bacteria and prevent the growth of bad (pathogenic) bacteria.
Like the gut, the oral cavity has its own diverse community of bacteria known as the oral microbiome.
Oral probiotics work to create a better balance of good vs. bad bacteria in the mouth. In other words, they restore the oral microbiome!
Certain individuals may have an existing dysbiosis in their oral microbiome, meaning there is a disruption in the balance of bacterial communities.
Oral probiotics can effectively restore this balance by encouraging the growth of more beneficial bacteria and preventing the bad bacteria from overpopulating.
Oral probiotics contain strains of bacteria that are specifically beneficial to oral health. These include:
- Lactobacillus reuteri
- Lactobacillus salivarius
- Streptococcus salivarius K12
- Streptococcus salivarius M18
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus sakei.
Do Oral Probiotics Work?
Researchers discovered that oral probiotics (particularly those containing the strain of bacteria known as Streptococcus salivarius K12) can fight bad breath.
Bad breath is typically the result of an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in the oral cavity or gut.
Streptococcus salivarius can work to fight this bacteria and subsequently improve breath.
A test group of 23 subjects were given lozenges containing either S. salivarius K12 or a placebo.
85% of those who were treated with the S. salivarius K12 had a substantial reduction in oral malodor, compared to just 30% of the placebo-treated group.
Many early studies of the use of probiotics for improving oral health have observed a reduction in periodontal inflammation.
The L. acidophilus strain has been shown to help patients with various periodontal diseases including periodontitis.
A 2016 study found that using a probiotic containing an A12 bacteria can fight Streptococcus mutans.
Streptococcus mutans is a type of (bad) bacteria that causes cavities by turning sugar into lactic acid, which creates an acidic environment in the mouth that encourages cavities and plaque.
The A12 bacteria was seen to be effective in preventing Streptococcus mutans from colonizing.
A study from 2006 concluded that using a probiotic containing the bacteria Lactobacillus reuteri effectively reduced symptoms of gingivitis (gum disease), including bleeding gums, swelling, pain, and inflammation.
59 patients with moderate to severe gingivitis were administered this strain of probiotic, and all patients experienced a significant reduction in gingivitis symptoms after 14 days of use!
Research has shown that probiotic bacteria can affect both oral microbiota and immune responses, which is significant proof of the ability of oral probiotics to treat oral disease.
Another study concluded that supplementation with oral probiotics can stimulate the immune system in a stress response, which helps the body fight infections such as Salmonella.
Further, as the mouth is the initiation point of digestion, a well-balanced oral microbiome is important for healthy digestion.
Studies have suggested that oral bacteria can translocate to the gut via swallowed saliva, thus affecting the gut microbiome and digestive processes.
Therefore, the beneficial effects of oral probiotics and their ability to alleviate oral health issues and influence systemic health are well documented.
It is clear that oral probiotics can effectively improve oral health, by working to restore the balance of bacteria in the oral cavity.
Probiotics can influence the immune system, and a healthy immune response is crucial for preventing and managing oral infections.
Oral probiotics also reduce the candida infection of the oral cavity. In a study, a test group of elderly people consumed cheese containing L. rhamnosus strains GG and LC705 and Propionibacterium freudenreichii ssp. shermanii JS for 16 weeks, the number of high oral yeast counts decreased, but no changes were observed in mucosal lesions.
To summarize, oral probiotics may help to:
- Improve bad breath
- Help to cavities and plaque
- Treat oral and periodontal disease
- Improve your immune system
- Improve digestion.
Potential side effects of oral probiotics
Potential adverse effects of oral probiotics have not been reported or investigated intensively. However, the safety of probiotics in general has been established.
If side effects of oral probiotic supplementation do occur, they tend to be mild and digestive.
You may experience mild gas or bloating if your body is not used to the influx of bacteria.
Therefore, it’s important to consult with your dentist, or other healthcare professional, before implementing oral probiotics into your routine!
To be effective in the oral cavity, probiotics must be able to support oral environmental conditions, and adhere to and colonize oral surfaces.
They should be chewed or swished around your mouth, rather than swallowed. This will ensure that the live bacteria comes into contact with your mouth surfaces, and can populate in your oral cavity.
Probiotics are generally safe, and any side effects are usually mild and short-lived. However, if a symptom is causing concern, consider reducing the probiotic’s dosage, trying a different strain, or stopping use altogether.
Incorporating Oral Probiotics into Your Routine
When choosing an oral probiotic to add to your routine, it’s important you select a high-quality and research-backed product in order to attain the best results.
There are several considerations to be made when looking for an oral probiotic supplement. Keep the following factors in mind:
- Products that contain a high strain count of good bacteria tend to be more effective. Look out for products containing at least 3 billion CFUs (colony-forming units)
- Read the ingredients label, and scan for the strains of bacteria that have been proven most effective for the oral microbiome, such as Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus salivarius, Streptococcus salivarius K12, Streptococcus salivarius M18, Lactobacillus paracasei and Lactobacillus sakei
- Oral probiotics are effective when they can properly adhere to and colonize the surfaces of the mouth. Look for products that are chewed or swished around with saliva, so that you know the probiotics are being correctly absorbed by the oral cavity
- High-quality oral probiotics are best sourced directly from manufacturers or online. You may not find oral probiotics in local drug stores or grocery stores.
There are many products on the market that offer convenient ways to supplement oral probiotics, from oral sprays and liquids and probiotic-containing toothpaste to chewing gum.
A highly recommended method of ingesting oral probiotics is through a lozenge or tablet supplement.
This ensures that the live microorganisms come into contact with the surfaces of your mouth and can effectively colonize the oral cavity.
Remember: oral probiotics should be chewed or swished around the mouth – not swallowed – to ensure they are correctly absorbed.
Boka’s chewable mouthwash tablets are a delicious, efficient, and convenient way to supplement with oral probiotics.
The Restore Mouthwash tablets contain Lactobacillus ferment which encourages the growth of good bacteria in the oral cavity whilst preventing the bad.
By chewing and swishing the tablets around your mouth, live microorganisms are delivered directly to the oral cavity as they adhere to the surfaces of the mouth.
The tablets are activated by your saliva and will leave your mouth and breath feeling fresh and minty!
Restore Mouthwash Tablets also contain hydroxyapatite which remineralizes teeth and reduces sensitivity. Further, they include essential oils and enzymes to deliver comprehensive oral care.
Another convenient way to improve your oral microbiome through probiotic supplementation is to increase the amount of probiotic foods you are eating.
Certain foods contain high amounts of naturally occurring probiotics, fermented foods in particular.
Adding foods like yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and kimchi into your diet can increase the amount of probiotics you are ingesting, which may enhance the benefits of oral probiotic supplementation.
While oral probiotic supplementation can be extremely beneficial for restoring the balance of your oral microbiome and for overall systemic health, this does not replace the need for other oral hygiene practices.
The well-known daily standard practices of brushing your teeth with high-quality toothpaste and appropriate brush, flossing regularly, using mouthwash, and avoiding overly acidic or sugary drinks and foods are of great importance.
Oral probiotics can act as a complementary additional step to your regime. While oral probiotics can be useful, you will not achieve good oral health without prioritizing the fundamental practices of basic oral hygiene.
Focus on the basics and consider adding an oral probiotic supplement (such as Boka’s chewable mouthwash tablets) to the end of your routine each morning or night.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for oral probiotics to start working?
For more minor issues, such as fresher breath, you may notice the benefits of probiotics in as little as a few days.
However, for more serious conditions such as recurrent cavities or oral disease, you may have to continue oral probiotic supplementation for a few months to allow the beneficial bacteria to build up over time!
Is it good to take oral probiotics?
Of course! As this article has uncovered, the benefits of oral probiotics for oral health are well-researched.
Oral probiotics can enhance the health of your mouth, prevent dental issues and disease, and support digestive, immune, and systemic health.
Is it better to take probiotics in the day or at night?
Whilst there is no strict rule for when to take probiotics, some experts recommend taking them before bed, to ensure the effectiveness is not reduced by food or drink consumed shortly after.
Using an oral probiotic before bed gives the bacteria the chance to adhere to your oral cavity and colonize as you rest.
How often should you take an oral probiotic?
For best results, you should take an oral probiotic daily, and be consistent with your habit to allow the good bacteria to colonize and thrive.