One of the hottest topics in medicine, healing and with researchers is the vast, complex and microbial world that makes up our microbiome (fancy word for all those little microorganisms that are a part of us). These microbiota are critical to our health, our emotional well being and our very survival. It is a surprising fact to most people that the bacterial cells that are an integral part of our bodies outnumber human cells by a factor of about three-to-one! Yikes, some folks have even joked that the human body is actually just a vehicle for bacterial cells.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria–if you break down the word to “pro” and “biotics” you get “good for life.” In fact, probiotics have been best defined as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.”
Increasingly over the past years, researchers have come to understand the critical importance of an active, healthy and balanced microbiome or microbiota–fancy words for the ecological community of microorganisms that share our body space.
Without doubt our lives and lifespans have improved dramatically with the discovery of role that “bad” bacteria plays in disease and infection. And we all appreciate value of cleanliness and modern sanitation in our daily lives. But whether it is the advertising pitch of cleaning products or the over use of antibiotics in our food and lives, the idea that all bacteria is BAD and must be eradicated is a very poor and even dangerous idea.
Man needs an active and balanced ecology of bacteria both internally and externally in order to live well and to be healthy. The lack, or imbalance of bacteria, can lead to severe health problems. This is fairly well understood and accepted when talking about the gut and digestive system but it is also true for just about every part of your body.
The oral cavity is no exception to this principle and a healthy mouth has a very active ecology of microorganisms. Problems arise when some of bacterial strains, such as the S. Mutans, dominate over other bacteria and become “bad” bacteria. It is not that they are actually bad, it is that they overgrow, upset the healthy balance and now their life cycle byproducts (such as enamel-eating acid or sulfurous gases) lead to serious problems such as dental caries, periodontal disease and chronic bad breath.
Over time, these conditions lead to gum disease, tooth decay and further complications. Poor oral health does not not stop in the mouth, it is well linked to many serious physical conditions–from heart disease to chronic inflammation. In short, this is not a condition to be taken lightly.
Good, consistent oral hygiene can help keep this problem under control but a more powerful improvement would be to attack the problems at their source–bacterial overgrowth. Simply killing off the “bad bacteria” is a poor solution, as ALL bacteria (good and bad) are attacked and killed as well. You have to restore health bacteria and restore a healthy balance.
The theory underlying the efficacy of oral probiotic bacteria is that these beneficial microorganisms compete against the “bad” bacteria for nutrients, growth factors and a space to live (called site of adhesion).
The first step, after introducing the beneficial bacteria, then is to get them to adhere and to colonize into the existing colonies. Think of this step like getting new neighbors to move into and integrate into a neighborhood. Now, since that neighborhood has limited space and food supply, this means that some of the current occupants have to go.
There is another action, however. The beneficial bacterial strains in our blend also go to work and produce what are called “bacteriocins” which are protein substances that actually target the “bad” bacteria and inhibit its growth. As an added bonus, research has shown that these substances are also quite effective at fighting off a number of sore throats and various ear-nose-throat infections as well.
Additionally, the beneficial bacteria raises the pH level of your oral cavity to healthier levels. These levels are less acidic and are less favorable for the “bad” bacteria. Along with other antimicrobial compounds, such as peroxides, the beneficial bacteria are quite effective at establishing a healthy ecology that inhibits the bacterial imbalances and overgrowths underlying common oral health problems.
First is the issue of getting the oral probiotics to adhere and colonize.
In order to be effective, they actually need to “get a foot in the door” and stick. We solved this by using only those oral probiotics with a proven record for solid adhesion and additionally by formulating our tablets with ingredients to assist the adhesion process.
Some people will notice this as a chalky texture or flavor. While not unpleasant, it is certainly not something one would add to a candy. But it makes our oral probiotics far more effective and so became a part of our mix.
Second, is the fact that while probiotics for the gut will eventually fully colonize and regenerate within the gut (given a good diet and avoidance of the overuse of antibiotics) this is not true of oral probiotics. They never fully colonize and regenerate unfortunately.
So, it becomes important to include oral probiotics as a routine and ongoing part of your oral hygiene. Once your mouth has recovered its best available level of health and one enters a maintenance phase (this can take anywhere from three-months to a year or more, depending upon the state and progression of oral disease).
In the maintenance phase one can cut back the dosage but if oral probiotics are not taken then the “bad” bacteria can overgrow again. This might take months to happen but it is very wise idea to keep taking oral probiotics as a regular part of your ongoing oral hygiene.