How many times have you swished antibacterial mouth wash in your mouth, never thinking of how it might affect the friendly bacteria in your mouth? Antibacterial mouthwashes may seem like a beneficial, or at least harmless, addition to a daily tooth brushing routine but a new study suggests that swishing with anti-bacterial fluid could be killing helpful microbes which live in the mouth.
Did you know that mouth washes date back thousands of years, but the first commercial product was developed in the late 19th century, and named Listerine, after Joseph Lister, the British surgeon. It was originally used as a surgical antiseptic but by the 1920s was being sold as a cure for bad breath, as well as a floor cleaner and dandruff remedy. Today many mouth washes contain powerful bacteria killing solutions including chlorhexidine, triclosan, cetylpyridinium chloride, alcohol, fluoride and peroxide.
Gum disease, cavities, and bad breath…The health of your teeth and gums is about so much more than just a pretty smile. Did you know that the health of your mouth reflects the health of your entire body? This is because your mouth is teeming with more than 700 species of bacteria – both good and bad – some of which can lead to serious health issues.
The health of your oral microbiome – all the bacteria in your mouth, throat, nose, and ears – is crucial to your overall health and well-being. Your mouth is the gateway to your digestive and immune system so it’s imperative that you have a healthy balance of good microbes in your oral cavity to crowd out or competitively exclude the unfriendly bacteria you are exposed to. If that balance gets out of whack, the harmful ones can take hold and lead to oral health concerns. Tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath are all signs that your mouth is overrun with bad bacteria that can lead to infection and a cascade of other symptoms.
We’ve seen how gum disease starts with bacterial imbalance and inflammation. Hidden away, your imbalanced bacteria change the balance in your mouth. This new environment lets harmful, disease-causing bacteria take over. Gut bacteria imbalances send inflammatory signals to your immune system. This means symptoms can occur all over your body, including your mouth. That’s why oral health can be useful for monitoring gut health. Bleeding gums (gingivitis) is a common sign of bacteria imbalance in your mouth that relates to your gut.
Your oral microbiome speak with your immune system just like they do in your gut. If you feed them an unhealthy diet or don’t replace friendly bacteria, imbalances can occur. When you’re healthy, your good bacteria are diverse and balanced, friendly oral flora is present, working in tandem with your immune system.
The good news is you can alter the bacteria living in your mouth and prevent and treat teeth and gum issues and resulting inflammation by taking probiotics to support your oral microbiome. Probiotic bacteria compete with harmful bugs, preventing overgrowth and disease and help to maintain a healthy microbial balance in your mouth.
Bleeding gums may be the first sign of inflammation in your mouth. But even before your gums bleed, oral microbiome imbalances are happening. You just haven’t noticed yet!
Studies show probiotics can have health benefits that extend far beyond the stomach. A promising area of research is the use of probiotics for oral health, as scientists have discovered that they are an effective, natural and economic means of fighting gum disease, plaque and bad breath. It’s encouraging to know that if you include probiotics in your diet, they can stop, slow or delay the process of infection that leads to oral disease.
Probiotics work to get rid of the dental plaque that serves as a home for the bad bacteria, and they also compete for space in the rest of your mouth, pushing out the bad guys before they have a chance to settle in.
Probiotics can help keep your mouth healthy in the following ways:
- Prevent plaque
- Fight bad breath
- Manage gingivitis
- Help prevent tooth decay
- Decrease inflammation from gum disease
- Prevent oral cancer
Your digestive system is one connected, closely related system. Your oral health can give early warning of problems elsewhere in your body. Bleeding gums are an early sign of inflammation. Both your oral and gut microbiome are complex systems that play a huge role in your health. Probiotics can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on the health of your entire mouth by repopulating your oral microbiome with more of the good bacteria for optimal dental and whole-body health.
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