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Probiotics Promote Beneficial Bacteria for a Healthy Mouth

Probiotics Promote Beneficial Bacteria for a Healthy Mouth: Main Image
Symptoms of the most advanced periodontitis decreased in people taking probiotics
A healthy mouth, like the rest of the digestive tract, is populated by beneficial bacteria that help keep the immune system working properly and prevent harmful organisms from causing infections. A group of researchers in the dentistry field have found that oral health in people with chronic inflammation of the gums and other tissues that surround and support the teeth (periodontitis) improved after using supplements containing two special Lactobacillus strains.

Bacteria and periodontitis

Periodontitis is caused by harmful bacteria that cause plaque to accumulate on the tooth's surface and by the immune system's inflammatory response to these bacteria. It affects the gum, ligament, root covering, and bone at the base of a tooth, resulting in degradation of the tooth-supporting structures and formation of deep pockets around the tooth. If not properly managed, it can lead to tooth loss.

The study, published in Acta Odontologica Scandanavica, included 20 nonsmokers with mild to moderate periodontitis. They were given chewable probiotics containing two strains of Lactobacillus reuteri or placebo to take daily for 30 days. Lactobacillus reuteri is one of the most populous bacteria in the digestive system, and the specific strains used in this probiotic supplement, known together as Lactobacillus reuteri Prodentis, have been shown to be active against the bacteria involved in periodontitis.

Probiotics reverse periodontal damage

The participants had dental exams before and after the trial to measure changes in pocket depths around the teeth, plaque levels, and bleeding with probing. These were the changes the researchers saw:

  • In the probiotic group, about 50% of the pockets around teeth had depths of 4 to 5 millimeters at the beginning of the study, but only 40% of the pockets were still in the 4 to 5 mm range at the end.
  • The deepest pockets (6 millimeters or more), representing the most advanced periodontitis, also decreased in the probiotic group.
  • The amount of plaque on teeth decreased in the probiotic group.
  • The percentage of pockets that bled with probing decreased in the probiotic group from 55% to 29%.
  • There were no changes in the percentages of deep pockets, plaque levels, or bleeding with probing in the placebo group.

"Our results in this study suggest that a probiotic intervention with Lactobacillus reuteri Prodentis could be a useful tool for treatment of inflammation and clinical symptoms of periodontitis, especially in nonsmoking subjects with initial-to-moderate chronic periodontitis," the study's authors said.

Take care of your mouth

Taking a probiotic formulated for the mouth is a good strategy for improving oral health. Here are a few other ways to keep your mouth healthy:

  • Don't smoke. Smoking causes chronic inflammation in the gums, bone loss, and gum recession.
  • Quit the sugar habit. The bacteria that cause periodontitis thrive in a high-sugar, high-acid environment, so avoiding sweets and especially sodas is an important part of prevention and treatment.
  • Have some olive oil. Research suggests that using olive oil might prevent periodontitis. Olives are rich in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial plant chemicals that might contribute to this beneficial effect.
  • Chew gum for your gums. Not just any gum--choose gum made with xylitol, a nonsugar sweetener that doesn't feed harmful bacteria in the mouth and has been found to reduce plaque.

(Acta Odontol Scand 2013;71:813-9)

Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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