Probiotics and Dentistry: Can They Benefit You, Our Patients

One of the major topics of articles in health magazines and scientific journals is the “gut” organisms and how they influence everyone’s over all health. This is a controversial topic in the USA. However, the international literature is supportive of the concept. 

                Probiotics have been used for over a century to effectively alter the human intestinal microflora with ideal bacteria species. Their basic purpose is to introduce good bacteria into an environment where detrimental bacteria have become over populated, with the intent of modulating the microbiome so that good bacteria overwhelm the bad, thus improving nutrient metabolism, immune function, and overall health. Worldwide probiotics are a $40 billion industry, most of which addresses digestive health. But there is a growing trend towards using probiotics to help improve oral health as well. 

Terminology 101:

  • Probiotics: Bacteria are crucial for maintaining good health, Probiotics are a supplement containing good bacterial species designed to maintain the bacterial balance throughout certain organs in the digestive tract. The good bacteria play a key role in maintaining general health and help fight disease. 
  • Prebiotics: Non- digestive fibers (inulin, oligofructose, polydextrose, etc.) that fuel the growth and bioactivity of good bacterial strains. They pass through the digestive tract where they benefit bacteria but have no nutritional value to humans as we simply lack the ability to break them down. 
  • Synbiotics: A combination product containing both prebiotic fibers and probiotic bacteria. 

Oral Probiotics: 

                Oral probiotics contain bacterial strains- L. reuteri, S. salivarius, S. uberis, S. oralis, L. rhamnosus, etc. that are specifically designed to improve health in the upper GI tract. Several companies make supplements in the form of lozenges, rinse, toothpaste, chewing gums, and chewable tablets that release and coat the oral cavity with good bacteria. Several foods (yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut, cheeses, etc.) also have a natural probiotic component that can be beneficial in the mouth. 

Dietary Considerations: 

            The goal with probiotic use is to create an environment where good/helpful bacteria outnumber harmful ones. Once established, probiotic colonies must be maintained, and proper dietary choices are key. Good bacteria require prebiotic foods such as fresh vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods in order to maintain healthy colony sizes, whereas bad bacteria thrive on animal fats, refined sugars, and processed flours, all of which are widespread throughout the diet of today’s average American, regardless of age. To stay healthy, we must maintain a status quo where the good bacteria outnumber the bad, so making good food choices is essential to maintaining good bacterial populations, both systemically and orally. Below is a picture of 13 great probiotic foods. They are a great start to getting and maintaining a healthy gut biome.                      

More will come on what oral pre- and probiotic products can help with tooth decay, periodontal diseases, and general mouth inflammation. 

For the health of his gut microbiome Dr. Galante takes: Ultimate Flora, by Renew Life. It has 30 billion live cultures and 12 different probiotic strands. “I feel that this probiotic has been a healthful addition to my wellness regimen.