Can good microbes overcome bad ones in the mouth?

By • Published: March 18th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

More than seven-hundred species of bacteria lurk in the mouth, feasting on tasty leftover morsels. They are linked to tooth decay and periodontal disease, which in turn is implicated in conditions such as coronary heart disease, kidney disease and even preterm births.

But how about if we had microbes in the mouth that did good instead of evil? In a new paper exploring the oral potential for microorganisms called probiotics, scientists say that replacing disease-causing bacteria with harmless ones might help control oral infections.

Probiotics are living microorganisms that when taken in adequate amounts provide health benefits such as regulating the digestive system. You can find them in many grocery store products such as yogurt and soft drinks.

But what works in the stomach and lower digestive tract might not work in the mouth.

Mouth-friendly probiotics would need to withstand the conditions and defense mechanisms of the oral environment and be able to stick to saliva-coated surfaces. And of course, they would have to be safe.

In periodontal disease, probiotics might be useful in eliminating pathogens and suppressing immune responses to them that cause damage in the body. They could compete with other organisms to prevent the formation of a bacteria-filled film that is the root of many oral ailments.

For now, though, much more research has to be done to find probiotics that work in the mouth and the best way of administering them to allow prolonged contact with mouth tissues.

Still, next time you brush and floss you can give those nasty bacteria a warning… they might have some competition soon.