Streptococcus mutans is just like the rest of us—trying to make a living with a few holidays along the way.
Its daily bread is those crumbs of food left in our teeth. But S. mutans really loves the sticky sweets that hide from toothbrushes. Gummi bears and sugary colas are like a trip to Mallorca for S. mutans, complete with deep dives under the glossy surface.
Researchers in pediatric dentistry in Mexico asked how daily probiotics may affect oral bacteria in children with a high risk of caries. The paper, Probiotics and their effect on oral bacteria count in children: a pilot study appeared online March 2015 in European Journal of Paediatric Dentistry.
- The children—40 in all—were between the ages of 4 and 6 years.
- One group received daily probiotics and the control group did not. Both groups brushed their teeth and used fluoridated toothpaste.
- Counts of S. mutans were assessed at different times: start, 7, 14, 21 and then finally 30 days or approximately one month later.
The results showed no significant differences most days. But then 15 days AFTER the supplementation ended in the probiotic group— S. mutans numbers dropped.
But another study showed marked reduction in S. mutans soon after probiotic consumption, this time conducted with Indian schoolchildren.
- Thirty caries-free school children were divided into two groups: first received a probiotic mixture and the other a normal mixture for one week.
- After just one hour, the probiotic-treated group showed more reduction in S. mutans counts over the control.
- Results were similar by the 7th day.
According to much research, probiotics may impact oral health by competing with harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Other research shows promise with strains of lactobacilli in reducing S. mutans. Lactobacillus reuteri has shown some progress in in reducing bacterial plaque. Probiotics may be helpful by lowering the pH—which is less optimum for plaque- forming bacteria—and by producing antioxidants, which also prevent plaque formation. Read more about probiotics and periodontal disease in the Journal of Evolution of Medical and Dental Science.
In addition, there seems to be a role for probiotics in oral infections caused by Candida albicans, a common affliction in the immunocompromised. Even unpleasant odors may improve with a change of microbes.
Turns out, good bacteria are just as busy as their junk-food loving brethren.