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Are friendly bacteria the future for your mouth's health?

Most of us know that brushing, flossing and regular trips to the dentist are a great way to maintain good dental health. But a secret weapon to protect your teeth and gums could be hiding in friendly bacteria supplements.. Discover the medical research that connects ‘good’ bacteria to beautiful pearly whites.

What are friendly bacteria?

‘Friendly’ or ‘good’ bacteria work by balancing out the ‘bad’ bacteria in your body. They have been shown to help improve conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhoea, and urinary tract infections. But scientists now believe they could be good for our dental health too. Handpicked content: What is IBS and how can you treat it?

What triggers poor dental health?

Naturally occurring bad bacteria in your mouth form a film over your teeth called plaque. Whenever you eat or drink, bacteria in the plaque break down the sugars for energy, producing acid as waste. If the plaque builds up – if you don’t clean your teeth regularly – the acid can start to damage your teeth and cause holes, called cavities. Plaque can also irritate the gums, causing gingivitis (gum disease). If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to receding gums and tooth loss. There’s also some evidence that the bacteria in gum disease is linked to heart disease, arthritis and dementia. Handpicked content: A guide to common heart problems

How friendly bacteria improve dental health

The theory is that replacing bad bacteria in the mouth with good bacteria can protect your teeth and gums. A study published in the Swedish Dental Journal in 2006 found a friendly bacteria called Lactobacillus reuteri could help reduce bleeding gums in patients with gingivitis, while Korean researchers discovered that using a mouthwash containing good bacteria could cut the formation of plaque by 20%.

The future of using friendly bacteria

A clinical review published in Spanish journal Medicina Oral, Patologia Oral Y Cirugia Bucal in 2017 concluded that friendly bacteria supplements were beneficial to help maintain oral health, but more studies were needed to measure the long-term effects and to work out which bacteria could help specific dental conditions such as cavities or bad breath.

In fact, there has already been some progress in this area. A trial by the University of Florida in 2016 identified a new kind of oral bacteria, called A-12, which can prevent cavities. A-12 works by reducing the acid level in the mouth and preventing plaque from forming. The research team are now working on putting the good bacteria into a pill to stop cavities even before they start.

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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