Health begins with your mouth. The importance of oral care for keeping your breath fresh, your teeth pearly white, and for avoiding trips to the dentist is widely known!
However, you may be surprised to learn that the health of your mouth and teeth affects the health of many other areas of your body, from digestion and gut health to mental health.
In other words, having optimal oral health benefits your overall systemic health.
Aside from the widely accepted and used oral care practices such as brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash, another beneficial tool that can be implemented to optimize the health of your mouth, is the use of oral probiotics.
If you value health and well-being or are looking to enhance your oral and systemic health (or that of your children), you may wish to invest in an oral probiotic!
Read on to learn what oral probiotics are and how they can benefit not only your mouth but your entire body. Let’s dive in!
The Benefits of Oral Probiotics
Probiotics contain strains of beneficial, live microorganisms (bacteria) that are safe for human consumption because these bacteria naturally already live in our bodies.
Probiotics encourage the growth of more ‘good’ bacteria in our body that are healthful and beneficial while eliminating the production of the ‘bad’ bacteria that cause problems.
Having an overabundance of ‘bad’ bacteria can imbalance your system. By ingesting the healthy microorganisms found in probiotics, the good fights off the bad, creating a better balance.
In other words, probiotics improve your ‘microbiome’ – the community of bacteria living in your body!
You may be familiar with the term gut microbiome, which refers to the microorganisms living in our gut.
Similarly, the oral microbiome is a community of microorganisms living in our mouth.
The oral cavity is the second largest and most diverse microbiota after the gut, so it’s time we pay as much attention to it as we do our gut health. Here’s where oral probiotics come in!
The benefits of oral probiotics are twofold. Firstly, they are designed to directly colonize the surfaces of the mouth and restore your oral microbiome, which has direct benefits for the health of your mouth and teeth.
Secondly, having good oral health and a balanced oral microbiome actually improves your overall systemic health.
Let’s take a closer look at the many benefits of using an oral probiotic:
1. Fights Bad Breath
Bad breath is often the result of too much bad bacteria in either the mouth or gut. Taking oral probiotics can prevent the growth of this harmful bacteria.
Researchers have discovered that orally consumed probiotics (Streptococcus salivarius in particular) can cause a significant reduction in the amount of bacteria that cause bad breath.
2. Reduces Risk of Oral Health Problems
Using oral probiotics can prevent plaque. A 2016 study found that using a probiotic containing a specific strain of bacteria known as A12 can fight cavity-causing (bad) bacteria known as Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans).
This bacterium turns sugar into lactic acid, thus creating an acidic environment in the mouth that in time, leads to cavities and plaque. The A12 bacteria has the ability to prevent S. mutans from growing and from causing plaque.
Further, a 2006 study found that probiotics can reduce symptoms of gingivitis, otherwise known as gum disease.
A strain of good bacteria known as Lactobacillus reuteri can work to reduce symptoms of gum disease, such as painful, swollen gums, and bleeding.
Oral probiotics have shown benefits for a variety of oral diseases including periodontitis and oral cancers.
Probiotics work to reduce pathogenic bacteria (bacteria that cause disease) and increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in the mouth.
3. Improves systemic health
Research has shown that oral health directly affects systemic health. The mouth can be thought of as the gateway to the body, which defends the rest of your systems.
Ongoing inflammation in your mouth can allow bad bacteria to enter the bloodstream and body, which can lead to inflammation and an overpopulation of bad bacteria in other parts of the body!
Further, the oral microbiome plays a role in critical human body functions including the digestion of food, metabolism, detoxification of environmental chemicals, and immune system maintenance.
4. Improves Digestion
As the mouth is the first step of digestion, improving your oral microbiome can enhance your digestive health.
A healthy oral microbiome aids in the initial breakdown of food and promotes good digestion.
Transfer of oral bacteria to the gut is common. Ingesting saliva can carry bacteria from an imbalanced oral microbiome to your stomach, which can cause digestive issues and allow bad bacteria to reside in the gastrointestinal tract.
Therefore, keeping your oral microbiome healthy also ensures that your gut microbiome is balanced, which directly affects digestion.
5. Strengthens Immune System
A 2017 study discovered that oral probiotic supplementation can increase systemic immunity, through increasing the immune response to multiple different types of infection, such as Salmonella.
Probiotic bacteria can stimulate intestinal immune cells to increase specific immune functions that work to fight infection, illness, and disease.
6. Improves Mental Health
Good oral health = good gut health, and good gut health equals good brain health!
On top of this, probiotics can boost cognitive function, reduce stress levels, and enhance overall mental well-being.
It has been suggested that the balance of your microbiome plays a role in alleviating psychological disorders and mental illnesses.
Types of Oral Probiotics
Oral probiotics are developed specifically for the oral microbiome.
They’re considered most effective when they’re directly delivered to the oral cavity (mouth) via lozenges, chewable tablets (as opposed to swallowable), or probiotic drinks.
Toothpaste can also contain oral probiotics. Oral probiotic strains deliver bacteria directly to your mouth so that they can colonize the surfaces inside your mouth.
The probiotic strains that are considered the most effective and beneficial to the oral microbiome include:
- Lactobacillus reuteri
- Lactobacillus salivarius
- Streptococcus salivarius K12
- Streptococcus salivarius M18
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus sakei.
Oral Probiotics via Chewable Tablets or Lozenges
Boka’s chewable mouthwash tablets are a reliable and convenient way to consume probiotics!
Restore Mouthwash tablets effectively deliver beneficial bacteria (Lactobacillus Ferment) to the oral microbiome by adhering to the surfaces of the mouth and colonizing the oral cavity.
By chewing, swishing, and spitting these tablets, the bad bacteria in your mouth is killed and replaced with good bacteria to restore the balance of your oral microbiome.
The tablets taste deliciously minty, activated by your saliva, and will leave your mouth feeling fresher than ever!
Restore Mouthwash Tablets also contain other beneficial ingredients such as hydroxyapatite which remineralizes teeth and reduces sensitivity. Furthermore, essential oils and enzymes are included to deliver comprehensive oral care.
Oral Probiotics via Oral Sprays and Liquids
Mouth freshener liquids are available on the market that can be consumed to improve your oral microbiome and turn your mouth into a healthy environment for good bacteria to thrive.
These liquids come in pleasant flavors, are sprayed into the mouth, swished around with your saliva, and then swallowed.
They contain the strain of bacteria known as streptococcus salivarius. They also contain natural oils that help streptococcus salivarius properly adhere to the teeth and gum surfaces.
Once the probiotic has adhered to the surface of the mouth, it flourishes and has a lasting effect.
Oral Probiotics via Food
Probiotics also naturally occur in food. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha tend to contain the highest amount of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria!
Try adding these foods to your diet to further enhance the benefits of consuming an oral probiotic supplement.
Importance of Prebiotics
For good bacteria to thrive, you must also consume prebiotics. Prebiotics are fibers that feed good bacteria (probiotics). Prebiotic foods include onions, garlic, artichokes, bananas, asparagus, leeks, apples, and flaxseeds.
Including prebiotics in your diet will ensure that the oral probiotics you are consuming continue to thrive so your body will reap the benefits.
How to Choose the Right Oral Probiotics?
As with any health supplement, it’s important to ensure the product you purchase and use is of high quality in order to have the best results.
When choosing an oral probiotic supplement, there are a few factors to keep in mind:
- Look out for products that contain a high strain count – ideally at least 3 billion CFUs (colony-forming units)
- Read the ingredients list and look out for beneficial strains, such as those mentioned above
- Oral probiotics should be chewed or come into contact directly with the mouth surfaces in order to properly colonize the oral microbiome
- Probiotics that are swallowed may benefit the gut microbiome, but will not be correctly absorbed by the oral cavity
- High-quality products are best sourced online or from manufacturers directly. You may not be able to find oral probiotics at local drugstores or grocery stores
- Look out for Xylitol on the ingredients list; a sweetener or alternative to sugar which fights cavity-causing bacteria and lowers the risk of tooth decay.