One thing stands out when watching an old movie. Very few actors had perfect teeth. Today most young people in developed countries look as though they just stepped out of Photoshop. Orthodontics of course are widespread. But there is one other thing that is drastically different.
Fluoride. This mineral which is added to water supplies—most often in the United States– is given much credit for reducing tooth decay. Does it deserve it?
Researchers in a review from India say the actual rates of tooth decay are not that much lower when people are exposed to fluoridated water. And now, according to their extensive review of the literature, years since the practice began, harmful side effects have appeared: fluorosis or tooth mottling, increased risk of bone fractures, decreased thyroid function, and lowered intelligent quotient, arthritic-like condition, early puberty and possibly, osteosarcoma. It is good to remember as the article points out, excess of naturally-occurring fluoride is considered a toxin to be avoided in some countries including India and China.
But in places which embrace fluoridation, it may be good to look into healthier alternatives to prevent cavities.
Probiotics are gaining momentum.
It makes sense then that probiotics may potentially improve oral health by competing with harmful bacteria in the mouth.
What causes cavities? Bacteria which feast on leftover food morsels. Streptococci mutans appears to be the main culprit.
Strains of Lactobacillus have demonstrated reduction in streptococci mutans in some preliminary research. In tooth decay, Lactobacillus reuteri has shown potential against gingivitis, lessening bacterial plaque. Even bad breath or halitosis may improve when good bacteria are introduced into the oral cavity. Other studies suggest a role for probiotics in oral yeast infections (Candida albicans), common in the elderly or immunocompromised patients.
Another article from India presents a good overview of mouth disease and current research into probiotics as both therapy and prevention.
Mouthwash, toothpaste, lozenges and chewing gum are all being explored as vehicles for delivery.
Use of probiotics to strengthen the oral immune system has just begun. It will be difficult to change an entrenched system but the future looks bright, or should we say “sparkly white”.