Gum Disease and Oral Probiotics
And it is not just the gums that are effected. Gum disease contributes to tooth decay, bone loss and has even been associated with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, immune system weakening and pre-term births.
Gum disease has been called the “Silent Epidemic” and remains one of the top 3 diseases in America. All this even though gum disease is one of the most preventable diseases that exists.
How does gum disease work?
The oral cavity is home to many types of bacteria. Bacteria are microorganisms–and some are good and some are bad. They don’t just float around but often like to group and stick together in what are called “biofilms.” These biofilms like to stick to surfaces, such as the teeth or gums, and can cause problems when there is an overgrowth or imbalance of certain bacteria.
We have all heard of plaque, that very sticky and colorless coating on our teeth. Well, plaque is a type of biofilm and is actually a living film of microorganisms.
Plaque becomes a problem when the bacteria produces an overabundance of byproducts such as acids and other compounds. As these byproducts sit on the teeth and in the gums they cause damage, decay and inflammation.
Routine brushing and flossing breaks up the formation and aggregation of the microorganisms, keeping plaque under control… but only to a degree as these actions usually don’t get rid of everything.
Over time plaque builds up, especially under the gum line and other hard to reach areas. This plaque hardens and becomes tarter, which is very tough to remove. It is the ongoing presence of plaque, the formation of tartar and the compounds produced by the microorganisms that generate gum disease.
“Gingivitis” is the earliest stage of gum disease. (“Gingiva” means “gums” in Latin) The gums become inflamed and will often look red and/or puffy. Often there is bleeding, especially when flossing or during routine dental cleanings.
As gum disease advances, the next stage is “periodontitis” (“perio” is Greek for “around” and “odontus” means “tooth”). This is a far more serious progression as now the gums begin to pull away and “pockets” form around the teeth. These pockets become breeding grounds for more bacteria, accelerating the gum disease and creating ongoing infection.
Often teeth are lost as gum disease progress and in more severe cases, the infection spreads into surrounding bone tissue and also into the body. This then creates all manner of health problems which can be quite expensive and even life-threatening.
Oral probiotics provide another layer of protection to routine brushing, flossing and dental cleanings. And, as they work at the level of the biofilms, this protection is ongoing throughout the day and the night.
How do Oral Probiotics Help Against Gum Disease?
After reading the above you should understand that the primary cause of gum disease and tooth decay is the imbalanced presence of certain “bad” bacteria in our mouths.
Our modern lifestyles, often filled with sugars, simple carbohydrates, alcohol and juices, encourage the growth of these bacteria and provide the bacteria with the fuel that they need to create more acids and toxins. This process also lowers the pH of the mouth, making it more acid, which further encourages bad bacteria growth and hastens gum disease and tooth decay.
Probiotics are defined as “healthy bacteria that bring a beneficial result to the host.” Creating a healthier environment and ecology in the mouth, teeth and gums can be accomplished through the regular use of oral probiotics. Here is how:
- First, oral probiotics are chosen for their ability to penetrate into and to colonize within the biofilm (plaque) and to survive in the oral environment
- Second, the oral probiotics have the ability to successfully compete against the harmful bacteria. There are limited resources in the biofilm and with more beneficial bacteria present then fewer harmful bacteria can exist
- Third, it is not the presence of plaque that is so much the problem, it is the acids and toxins produced by certain bacteria that lead to gum disease and tooth decay. Fewer harmful bacteria in the plaque=lowered toxins and acids
- Fourth, the oral probiotics improve the pH balance. This has the effect of reducing acid levels establishing a pH level that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria
- Fifth, unlike brushing or flossing the oral probiotics can work their way into those difficult to reach areas of the teeth and gums and work “around the clock”
Studies have shown a clear reduction in plaque levels and gingivitis symptoms when oral probiotics were administered to patients with moderate to severe gingivitis.