Probiotics are traditionally used to support digestive and immune health. What about probiotics for oral care? Can probiotics support gum and tooth health? Do they have a place in your nutritional supplement plan? Will they knock out bacteria that cause canker sores and dampen viruses that cause herpes blisters, while naturally freshening and gently whitening teeth?
The main friendly bacterium in the mouth is Streptococcus salivarius. This bacterium has recently emerged as a safe and beneficial probiotic capable of creating a healthy environment for teeth and gums. Strain K12, the prototype S. salivarius probiotic, was first introduced to counter Streptococcus infections. However, K12 and several other S. salivarius probiotics are now used to control bacterial infections in humans including those that cause ear infections, bad breath, and tooth cavities. Other potential applications include boosting immune defenses against respiratory viral infections and in the treatment of thrush—oral Candida albicans infection.
A probiotic should confer health benefits. World Health Organization guidelines stipulate that any bacterial species, including those having a history of human consumption, have the potential to cause disease. This is especially a concern in immune compromised individuals. When manufacturers are developing new probiotic bacterial strains, it is their responsibility to assess the potential risk of the strain being developed and assure government regulating agencies that it posses no harm to the consumer.
Some Products Already On the Scene
So far, one company, Evora based in Tampa, Florida has taken the lead in producing safe and effective oral probiotics. Though primarily used by dentists and oral hygeinists, probiotics for teeth and gums are catching on with the public, and with pet owners who give them to dogs and cats. Their flagship product, ProBiora3, is a patented blend of three beneficial bacteria naturally present in healthy mouths: Streptococcus oralis KJ3®, Streptococcus uberis KJ2®, and Streptococcus rattus JH145®.
This unique blend of probiotics promotes fresher breath, whiter teeth, and supports gum and tooth health. ProBiora3 adheres to teeth and gets below the gum line to crowd out undesirable bacteria that can cause bad breath and infections. One of the ways it works is by causing a continuous low dose release of hydrogen peroxide that knocks out microorganisms and naturally whitens teeth.
Researchers have found that oral probiotics are useful in all ages, from infancy to the elderly. While the safety of S. salivarius for application to humans is well established, there is still only limited clinical evidence to support claims of health benefit. Some dentists and medical doctors are not buying these claims until more research is available. That’s understandable because up to now, most of the evidence has been on test tube studies or the results of clinical trials with a few human subjects.
Test tube studies are impressive, however. S. salivarius helps maintain normal oral pH, breaks apart biofilms that harbors germs, reduce inflammation by lowering inflammatory cytokines like IL-6, and support healthy immunity by raising levels of interferon.
In the next few years I predict a boom in oral probiotics because the benefits to be gained from them are huge. In my clinical opinion, oral probiotics for mouth and gut should be a part of all optimal health nutritional supplement plans.