Teeth don’t last a lifetime. Are we living too long or are we mistreating them along the way?
The answer is “yes” to both. Fortunately we may be able extend our dental shelf life not by reducing our own but by taking better care.
Teeth face hard foods such as nuts, sticky foods like gummi bears, scorchers including coffee and frigid foods such as popsicles. Teeth are multi-taskers with lots of enemies.
But we do try to care for our teeth. With regular check-ups, cleanings, flossing, fluoride treatments, orthodontia and bonding, we try to protect our teeth.
But it is not enough.
Oral cavities are teeming with microbes, some beneficial, some harmful.
In the category of bad is a salivary mutans streptococcus. This bacterium causes dental caries or cavities.
One recent study from Manish Bhalla and colleagues from Kanti Devi Dental College and Hospital in Uttar Pradesh, India showed marked reduction in salivary mutans streptococci in schoolchildren after probiotic consumption.
- Thirty caries-free school children (12-14 years old) were divided into two groups: first received probiotic curd mixture and the other normal curd for 7 days. After just one hour, the probiotic-treated group showed more reduction in mutans streptococci counts over the control. Results were similar by the 7th day. Read the results here.
It makes sense then that probiotics may compete with harmful bacteria in the mouth. Strains of lactobacilli show promise in reducing streptococci mutans.
Other types of bacteria are more common in periodontal disease which affects tissues supporting tooth structures. Plaque causes inflammation in the most common ones including gingivitis and periodontitis.
Probiotics may be helpful by lowering the pH so that plaque- forming bacteria cannot function and they produce antioxidants, which also prevent plaque formation. Read more about probiotics and periodontal disease in Journal of Evolution of Medical and Dental Science.
As dangerous resistance to antibiotics soars, probiotics are being looked at for periodontal therapy. Researchers write that the “time has come to shift the paradigm of treatment from specific bacteria elimination to altering bacterial ecology by probiotics.” Nihal Devkar and colleagues published a paper in Journal of Dental and Allied Sciences which reviews evidence for the use of probiotics or prebiotics for the prevention of periodontal diseases.
A 2010 book titled Oral Probiotics: The Newest Way to Prevent Infection, Boost the Immune System and Fight Disease by Casey Adams (Sacred Earth Publishing) is also a comprehensive source of the science.
Mouthwash, toothpaste, lozenges and chewing gum are all being explored as vehicles for delivery for probiotics. But don’t forget food. Pre- and probiotic-rich foods are already there.