We already know about the benefits of some mainstream probiotics: improving digestion and helping with diseases like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Recently, new types of probiotics have been released to the public that have benefits beyond the belly.
Before discussing the issues oral care probiotics can help treat, here's the scoop on what probiotics are and how they work. Of course, if you're staying on top of the world of health products, you already know about probiotics.
Different from antibiotics, probiotics are a natural way to help your body defend against outside predators. May sound a bit militaristic, but actually probiotics are about balancing the good bacteria with the bad by using competitive inhibition. This means stopping all foreign, negative bacteria from thriving in the oral cavity by having beneficial bacteria consume the resources that both types of microbes need to survive and multiply. If you've missed the probiotic boat, fear not! Now is a great time to hop on.
New oral care probiotics that contain S. salivarius K12 and M18 can actually help fight common oral care problems that many of us deal with every day. It's not a pill but rather a solution that you gargle with -- just like mouthwash -- for a short period of time. These probiotics create BLIS proteins that stand up to many bothersome oral problems.
Tonsil Stones: Tonsil Stones (also known as tonsilloliths), are often misdiagnosed and are fairly common. Tonsil stones are caused by the accumulation of sulfur-producing bacteria and debris that become lodged in your tonsils. The debris can be made up of mucus that can come from post nasal drip. It putrefies in the back of the throat and becomes stuck in tonsil crypts. When removed, these stones pack a nasty odor and when they are still in the tonsils they can cause some serious bad breath. Oral care probiotics that require gargling can combat these nasty globs by directly attacking the afflicted area.
Ear Infections: Contrary to popular belief, most common ear infections don't start from outside of the ear. In fact, middle ear infections (Acute Otitis Media or AOM) are actually caused by a buildup of bacteria that travels from the throat into the middle ear via the Eustachian tube. Beneficial bacteria -- such as those present in oral care probiotics -- that are in the throat and pharynx create a barrier against the invading germs that cause these unpleasant ear infections.
Bad Breath and Dry Mouth: As I often discuss, bad breath is caused by volatile sulfur-producing compounds live beneath the surface of the tongue, throat and tonsils thrive in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment. A dry mouth, lacking oxygen-rich saliva, is the perfect environment for bad breath.
The beneficial bacteria Streptoccocus salivarius K12 strain, which is included in many oral care probiotics, produces a natural protein that stops the growth of the bacteria that gives you stinky breath. And yes, this applies to the dreaded "morning breath" as well. Morning breath may actually seem stronger than halitosis that forms during the day. This is because while you sleep, your brain knows that you are asleep and not eating. In order to be efficient, the brain tells your body that there isn't any need to produce saliva. This leaves the mouth dry and lacking saliva which practically welcomes bad breath.
Plus, if you tend to sleep with your mouth open or are a snorer -- I'm not saying you are -- this will dry your mouth out even faster than normal while you sleep. Dry mouth can also be caused by certain medications. While the intention of the medication is to treat another ailment, dry mouth might be a side effect.
Cavities: Yuck. Nobody is thrilled when they find out they have a cavity. Cavities are decaying teeth and are caused by hostile Streptococcus mutans. This bacterium creates lactic acid as waste when it digests sugars within the oral cavity -- so it actually feeds on all of the sugar you consume. The lactic acid slowly eats away at tooth enamel, resulting in a painful cavity. Once past the layer of tooth enamel, the lactic acid can continue to eat away at the underlying dentin layer (which is much softer) and will eventually rot the entire tooth.
Tooth sensitivity is when the lactic acid eats away at the cementum layer that is there to protect the tooth and root below your gum line. S. salivarius M18 -- which is in oral care probiotics -- can both naturally destroy the S. mutans bacteria and converts urea that already exists in your saliva into ammonia. For those of you that don't remember chemistry class, ammonia is basic while lactic acid is acidic. This ammonia can neutralize the lactic acid in the mouth, helping to reduce cavities and tooth sensitivity.
Biofilm and Plaque: Biofilm and plaque are what make up the stinky gunk that builds up at your gum line, around your teeth and on the teeth themselves. Biofilm irritates your gums and hardens into tartar if it isn't removed. This can lead to the yellowing and staining of your teeth. Plaque can also develop into gum disease (specifically gingivitis) and then can turn into periodontal disease if not treated. Oral care probiotics, specifically the S. salivarius M18 microbe makes an enzyme that can actually help dissolve and loosen the gluey dextran that keep the plaque intact. This means less tooth staining and decay, along with a decrease in the formation of plaque and biofilm.
While you may not be dealing with all of these issues, you may want to consider helping your body's ability to combat common diseases and troubles by checking out an oral care probiotic. Gargling with a solution to actually prevent problems might help you save on dental (or medical) bills and improve your oral health in the long run.