Most people think of oral health in very simple terms, i.e bacteria is ‘bad’ and therefore, brushing your teeth and using mouthwash is good, because it eliminates those ‘bad’ bacteria. Likewise, sugar is assumed to cause dental caries simply by being a good food for the bacteria in your mouth.
Lately, however, more and more evidence has shown that the lack of good bacteria is more of a problem than the abundance of bad bacteria – at least when it comes to the oral cavity. Even if you manage to sterilize your teeth and gums, there is no way to eliminate the propensity of bad bacteria to come back – even if you don’t eat anything afterwards. That’s due to a complicated cascade of events, which starts with your teeth and gums ‘sheddng’ dead cells. The turnover rate of oral mucosal cells of around 4×6^5 Cs/S means that regardless of how good of an oral hygiene you have, there will still be food for bacteria present.
Because the balance of oral bacteria is a complex process, related to the interactions between more than a dozen different bacterial species, even a small ‘tipping’ of the scale can have big consequences very quickly. This is a good thing – it means that if we supply our oral cavity with even a small amount of good bacteria, the whole ecosystem of the mouth will quickly change.
A study from 2017 clearly illustrates this phenomenon. Although it was focused more on the safety of oral pro-biotics, it also showed the cascading events that can quickly improve the oral microbiom of anyone who takes a suitable probiotic.
Aren’t probiotic foods enough?
Most people assume yogurt to be a good probiotic – and it is….somewhat. Unfortunately, the biodiversity of bacteria found in yogurt turns out to be extremely low – yogurt preparation is focused on only 3 species, which produce a ton of lactic acid, acidifying the milk and turning it into yogurt. Those are Streptococcus thermophilus, Lacobacillus bulgaricus and 2 species of Bifidobacter. Those species of bacteria cannot form sustainable colonies in the oral cavity and that is a good thing – they produce so much lactic acid so fast, that if they did, they would become huge caries-causing offenders!