Most of us are aware of probiotics. Or at least we’ve heard this much: They’re the live bacteria in yogurt that are beneficial to our digestive systems. Now new research reports probiotics may be good for your dental health, too.
Probiotics, “good bacteria” as opposed to the “bad bacteria” that cause some nasty diseases, is a collective term for what may be hundreds of different strains of beneficial bacteria. Each one has a unique effect on the human body. Two of the most common are lactobacillus (known to help gut issues) and bifidobacteria. In the mouth, strains of Streptococcus salivarius have been shown to be beneficial for oral health.
While most probiotics are bacteria, they also can be molds or yeast. To be categorized as probiotic, the bacteria must be “live” or “active,” or dormant and ready to spring to life.
For dental health, the use of probiotics has shown promise for reducing cavities and gum disease, stimulating bone formation, combating inflammation and perhaps helping prevent oral cancer. The National Center for Biotechnology Information cautions that more research needs to be done but does conclude that “several health-promoting effects of probiotic bacteria (for dental health) are well documented” and there is no reason to restrict their use while more studies are being done.