Can Probiotics Help Your Oral Health?
Probiotics are best known for promoting a healthy digestive system. However, that’s not all they can do. Here are some lesser-known facts about probiotics and how they can help your oral health.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are beneficial to humans. They are found in certain foods and can also be taken as supplements. Examples of probiotics include:
- Lactobacillus, which helps with diarrhea and makes lactose easier to digest
- Bifidobacterium, which helps with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other inflammatory digestive conditions
- Saccharomyces boulardii, which helps combat digestive issues that cause diarrhea
How Probiotics Work
Bacteria are generally considered harmful. However, your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. If you have digestive issues caused by too many bad bacteria, probiotics can help balance things out. Likewise, when you lose beneficial bacteria, such as from taking antibiotics, probiotics can help replace them.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
The main reason people take probiotics is to promote a healthier gut, but good bacteria can improve your health in many other ways as well. Research shows that probiotics help treat:
- Skin conditions, including eczema
- Mental health
- High cholesterol and hypertension
- Allergies and colds
- Bad breath, gum inflammation, and oral cancer
Products that Contain Probiotics
In general, foods that have been fermented or enriched in some way contain probiotics. These include:
- Soft cheese
- Miso (fermented soybeans)
- Sourdough bread
Probiotic supplements are also available in the form of tablets, capsules, and powders. Some oral health products, including mouthwash and toothpaste, also contain probiotics.
Precautions & Side Effects
It’s safe for most people to take probiotics because these good bacteria and yeasts are already in your body. A majority of the time, probiotics improve health with little to no adverse reactions. However, some side effects are possible:
- An upset stomach may occur within the first few days of taking probiotics.
- People who are allergic to probiotics may have a more severe digestive response.
If you have a weakened or compromised immune system, you should not take probiotics because they could trigger an infection. Don’t take probiotics while you are seriously ill or recovering from surgery.
Using Probiotics to Help Your Oral Health
It’s wise to consult with a dentist before taking probiotics for oral health. The types of products available include probiotic toothpaste, which rids your mouth of bad bacteria while leaving good bacteria intact, and probiotic mouthwash, which helps prevent plaque buildup. Just remember, probiotics are not meant to replace other good oral health habits, including brushing, flossing, eating a healthy diet, and having your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year.
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