If you suffer from bad breath, oral probiotics may provide a natural remedy.
For many people, bad breath is a persistent and difficult to shake condition. The reason is that we often overlook the reason we have bad breath in the first place.
To understand why you need to understand the causes of bad breath and how probiotics work.
Bad breath is a stubborn and difficult problem to treat. People who suffer from bad breath often use antibacterial or breath freshening products. These may include mouthwash, toothpaste, gum or mints.
These products may help temporarily, but they don’t deal with the cause of bad breath. Bad breath is usually caused by odor-producing bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria are a clue that there’s an imbalance in your oral microbiome.
Your oral microbiome is the microbial environment of your mouth. Problems such as bad breath occur when its delicate balance is changed. Oral probiotics can help to restore the natural, healthy balance of your oral microbiome.
In this article, we’ll see how oral probiotics could cure your bad breath.
Bad breath caused by oral microbiome imbalance
Nearly 90% of bad breath is caused by the growth of odor-causing oral bacteria. These microbes in the oral flora produce volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). VSCs are the smelly substances that cause bad breath.
To understand how oral probiotics may cure bad breath, let’s see how this happens.
Your oral flora performs many functions to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Probiotic bacteria are responsible for digestion and acidity in the mouth. They also manage the mineral balance of your teeth and your mouth’s immune response.
Probiotics provide protection too, by competing against harmful bacteria species. However, when imbalances occur, they may lose these abilities.
So what causes the imbalance in your oral microbiome?
Your mouth isn’t an easy place to live. It’s a harsh environment. To protect themselves, microorganisms build plaque (known as biofilm) in crevices. This acts as their home. Usually, these communities of bacteria live in balance with each other.
If you look after your oral flora, it remains in balance. But when you eat the wrong foods, take antibiotics, smoke or let oral hygiene slip, this can change.
The healthy probiotic bacteria can be weakened. This can allow the growth of harmful bacteria. It starts in the pockets of your gums and teeth and the folds on your tongue’s surface. Your probiotic bacteria can eventually be overrun.
Once these harmful microbes rule your oral flora, chemicals that can cause bad breath start to appear.
How smelly bacteria cause bad breath
Oral probiotics do their best to keep your dental plaque healthy. But once harmful bacteria begin to overgrow, they change the plaque. They also invade the hidden areas of your gums and tongue.
There, they soon outnumber probiotic bacteria and work to recruit other bad bacteria. The presence of these harmful bacteria causes an increase of gingival fluid to the gum pocket. This is supposed to help clear the imbalance, but it contains proteins the bad bugs feed on.
As the bugs metabolize those proteins, they produce VSCs (volatile sulfur compounds). It’s these chemicals that cause bad breath. They also increase the pH of the gum pocket and reduce its oxygen levels.
This oxygen-poor environment is perfect for even more harmful anaerobic bacteria. As the name suggests, they thrive in the absence of oxygen. The scarcer oxygen becomes, the more anaerobic bacteria are attracted to the pockets.
Throughout the oral microbiome, the imbalance becomes worse. Thriving anaerobic bacteria now push out even more VSCs. Once there are several diseased pockets, bad breath is in full swing.
Probiotics to cure bad breath
Combating harmful bacteria requires more than mouthwash. This is where oral probiotics can provide a remedy for bad breath.
Repopulating the oral microbiome with probiotics helps to fight the imbalance. This is the long-term goal of bad breath treatment.
There are three ways oral probiotics work to prevent or cure bad breath.
- They live in and amongst the oral tissues to prevent harmful species growth.
- They release antibacterial substances that kill harmful species.
- They work with the immune system to produce the proper response.
Let’s look at the species of oral probiotics that help fight bad breath.
One of the main oral probiotics to tackle bad breath is the S. saliviarius species.
The oral flora is composed of hundreds of species. Research has found that S. salivarius is often present in the mouth from early life. Research has revealed two strains that seem to be helpful in curing bad breath:
S. salivarius K12 (BLIS K12).
K12 is one of the species of oral probiotics most studied for its effects on bad breath. It lives close against your gums and on the surface (or dorsum) of the tongue (a favorite home for VSC releasing bacteria).
The presence of K12 in the oral flora is a sign of good oral health. Research has shown that if S. salivarius is living on your tongue, it seems to prevent bad breath. It probably does this by taking up spaces in which bad bacteria can live.
K12 also acts to kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. It does this by releasing two different BLIS substances. These are lantobiotics – chemicals that inhibit bad bacteria. They act as weapons against gram-negative bacteria that release odors in the mouth.
Researchers have suggested that K12 oral probiotic lozenges are more effective than mouthwash. A trial study looked at K12 probiotics, chlorhexidine and control groups. The results showed the K12 oral probiotic group were producing the least bad breath.
S. salivarius M18
M18 is another S. salivarius species. As a probiotic, it acts similarly to K12 in the way it fights harmful bacteria.
It’s best known for its action against strep mutans in tooth decay, but this is unlikely to cure bad breath. However, M18 produces 4 BLIS substances that reduce inflammation in the mouth.
For bad breath, M18 may work well in tandem with K12 as oral probiotics. In-vitro studies have shown that together, they inhibit harmful bacteria. These processes are linked to bleeding gums and gum disease, and also to microbiome imbalances that cause bad breath.
Both oral probiotics K12 and M18 seem to be dose dependent and levels decrease after 2-weeks. However, studies show that both may have positive outcomes in the treatment of bad breath.
This oral probiotic lives in the GI tract and is part of the lactic acid releasing family.
It has many digestive benefits and seems to have a positive effect on the immune system. It’s also been found to remedy bad breath as well as bleeding gums.
This oral probiotic species has been found in the mouths of children. It’s been shown to reduce VSC counts in the mouth. Further studies are required, but in the future this probiotic strain may be useful to combat bad breath.
The Verdict: Do oral probiotics cure bad breath?
Oral probiotics show promise as a natural remedy for bad breath.
It’s important to see bad breath as an imbalance in your oral microbiome. To cure bad breath, you need to replace beneficial microbes – not simply kill ‘bad’ ones. Oral probiotics can help restore the correct balance in your oral microbiome.
The oral probiotic species that show most promising results for curing bad breath are:
- S. salivarius K12
- S. salivarius M18
- L. salivarius
- W. ceiberia
If you suffer from bad breath, why not ask your dentist about using probiotics to tackle the problem?
If your condition persists you should see your doctor, bad breath can signal other health problems.
Let us know your experience and questions about oral probiotics below in the comment section.
Want to know more? Dr Steven Lin’s book, The Dental Diet, is available to order today. An exploration of ancestral medicine, the human microbiome and epigenetics it’s a complete guide to the mouth-body connection. Take the journey and the 40-day delicious food program for life-changing oral and whole health.
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