Saturday, November 29, 2014

Probiotics as dental insurance

Our microscopic fellow travelers are all the rage today, rating their own study group known as the Human Microbiome Project.  I’ve long recommended intestinal probiotics for years to my patients as they’re treated for infections in an effort to avoid some of the intestinal upset associated with antibiotics.  I never gave a thought to probiotics for oral and dental health until I was invited to try this brand for review.

Probiotics means ‘for life’, referring to the beneficial relationship we’ve developed with the enormous numbers of bacteria living on our surfaces.  Latest research suggests that as many as 700 different varieties hang out in our mouth where the living is easy—warm, wet, with a frequent barrage of incoming nutrients.  Depending on which microbes set up shop in our mouths, we are more or less prone to bad breath, cavities, gingivitis, or upper respiratory infections.  Here’s the scoop on the bacterial blend in Pro-Dental:

Lactobacilli paracasei:   This germ is a gem.  Italian researchers added L paracasei to ‘an artichoke product’ (?!?), and volunteers ate 180 gm of the probiotic-chokes over 15 days while a control group ate the lactobacilli-less variety.  The bacteria survived the acid journey through the upper GI tract, colonized the colon, and ‘antagonized’ the e coli and colistridium bacterium already in residence there.  The latter is an increasingly common cause of serious colon infections after antibiotic therapy.  In addition, a sub-study of constipated study subjects found their symptoms much improved post-use of probiotic-spiked artichokes.  In a dental sense, daily use of L paracasei-containing toothpaste developed in Germany has proven effective in reducing by 50% the amount of streptococcus mutans in users’ mouths without affecting other useful bacterial communities living therein.  Strep mutans is known to form bio-films on oral surfaces—picture bacteria eating, working, playing in slimy sheets on your teeth and gums, then metabolizing sugars to acids that decay your teeth, inflame your gums, and confound your immune system!

Lactobacilli reuteri:  This amiable microbe also competes with Strep mutans, seriously disrupting its biofilm gangs. In a study population, significant decreases of s mutans populations were noted after 3 weeks of L reuteri supplements per day.  Note that probiotics must be ingested daily in order to avoid their elimination from the oral cavity or GI tract.

Streptococcus salivarius:  As opposed to Strep mutans (and group A strep—the cause of strep throat), this Strep salivarius is a good guy.  The K12 strain has been shown in various studies to decrease the incidence of strep throat, tonsillitis, and viral upper respiratory infections in small children and adults with medical histories of frequent infections of both varieties.  It also looks promising as a preventive measure against oral thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth common in the elderly and persons with immune deficiencies. The M18 strain was a stand-out in a study of kids prone to cavities and plaque—New Zealand researchers found that Strep mutans bacterial counts dropped most dramatically in those young subjects best colonized by Strep salivarius M18 after 3 months of probiotic use.

My hygienist informs me that I’m outliving my gums which seem to be receding down to my chin and up towards my cheeks.  The result, she promises, will be cavities along what formerly was known as my gum-line. Dental probiotics and an upscale sonic brush are, therefore, my teeth’s newest best buddies!

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