When we first wrote about probiotics and oral health, products like probiotic toothpastes and rinses were only just starting to appear. Now, a simple Google search will bring up loads of options, as well as oral supplements to help good bacteria thrive in the mouth, keeping harmful bacteria in check.
By the next time we blogged about probiotics, prebiotics had become a thing, too – substances that set the stage for helpful bacteria to work their magic in helping us stay healthy and resilient.
Now, here we are more than five years later, and there’s a good deal more evidence supporting a role for probiotics in maintaining good oral health. One of the most recent studies was published earlier this year in the Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry.
In this case, the researchers focused on the effect of probiotics against tooth decay. They began by searching 11 major scientific databases for relevant studies. Only randomized clinical trials were considered – a type of study that’s long been considered the gold standard in biomedical research.
Seventeen studies published after the year 2000 made the cut, involving nearly 3800 preschool children. Meta-analysis of the data from these studies indeed suggested that dental caries – that’s the clinical term for decay – could be prevented by probiotics. A bacterial strain called Lactobacillus rhamnosus showed the most promise. It’s the strain used most often in probiotic supplements, as well as foods such as yogurt.
The research team also found that probiotics might reduce the amount of Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans) in saliva but not necessarily in dental plaque. S. mutans is one of the main types of bacteria that cause tooth decay.
But preventing decay isn’t the only potential role for probiotics when it comes to oral health. As another review from earlier this year noted,
Various studies have shown that the presence of probiotics in the oral cavity has significant effects in reducing abnormalities such as tooth decay, oral cavity fungus, infection, and swelling of the gums and palate. It seems that the use of postbiotics instead of probiotics has a similar effect and can be effective in the prevention and cure of many oral and dental infectious diseases caused by the presence of pathogens such as S. mutans, and the results of existing studies confirm this impact.
Of course, as the authors of this review note, much more research remains to be done, including more human studies, as well as studies focused on specific probiotic species. But what we do know so far remains promising – perhaps especially so to the biological dentist in that such natural therapeutics provide helpful alternatives to fluoride, a toxin that’s been linked to a wide range of health problems.
And the beautiful thing about probiotics is that you don’t necessarily have to rely on products like toothpastes or supplements to get them. You can get a good dose through regularly incorporating naturally fermented foods into your diet. These include foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, and even some kinds of cheese and pickles. To learn more, check out this article from Dr. Axe, as well as this info from Harvard Health.