Mouth Probiotics Speed Canker Sore Healing and Reduce Cavities, Arthritis Pain, Heart DiseaseWritten by: Alison Print This Article
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Probiotics lozenges for the mouth can help suppress harmful bacteria by growing many more “friendly” bacteria that release substances that block the growth of disease-causing bacteria. This can accelerate the healing of canker sores and other mouth injuries. It also helps reduce both cavities and oral inflammation such as gum diseases that lead to worsened arthritis, atherosclerosis, and other inflammatory diseases throughout the human body.
Do you get canker sores? These are the painful open sores that occur in your mouth, usually under your tongue, floor of your mouth, or in the soft linings of the cheeks. They are one of the most common ailments of the human mouth, yet remain poorly understood. Often they are triggered by stress as manifested by increased anxiety and cortisol levels. Many other times, they are the result of a minor physical injury such as biting the inside of the mouth while chewing food.
Canker sores can be extremely painful, making it hard to talk clearly and affecting how you eat. They may discourage you from eating certain healthy foods, especially acidic ones like citrus fruits and tomatoes. Often they take 7 to 10 days to heal. For some of us, the healing time may be as much as 2 to 4 weeks.
I’ve previously written about taking L-Lysine to reduce or eliminate canker sores. This dietary supplement eliminated all of my canker sores for a long time. Rob, another of our site authors, has written about how vitamin B12 supplements can also reduce canker sore frequency and severity.
But what happens when you get a canker sore despite taking effective supplements? I’ve personally had this happen recently from accidentally biting my tongue (argh!). Even though it wasn’t as painful and healed much faster than the multiple weeks before I started taking L-Lysine, it still took more than a week to heal. Per Rob’s article, I had also added more vitamin B12 to my diet previously. But even the combination of L-Lysine and vitamin B12 was not enough to keep me from getting a canker sore started by my botched bite.
So it was with great interest that I recently read about research in probiotics for the human mouth that have found that Bacillus coagulans probiotic lozenges can help speed the healing time of canker sores to as little as two to three days. Probiotics using this bacteria have been around for years, but are generally used for helping to maintain healthy digestive tract bacterial flora. The use of these bacteria in the mouth to improve health has been relatively unknown, even though Indian researchers were showing positive results as far back as 1970 to 1980. In their studies, they used a probiotic supplement sold in India called Sporlac that contains the Bacillus coagulans bacteria which were formerly known as Lactobacillus sporogenes when these studies were performed.
“Friendly” Bacteria Make Bacteriocins
It turns out that the reason the mouth probiotics work may have to do with how “friendly” bacteria set up an environment that is hostile to infection-causing bacteria. Researchers from New Zealand, India, Sweden, and elsewhere have documented how “friendly” oral bacteria such as Bacillus coagulans and Streptococcus salivarius impede the growth of harmful oral bacteria by producing and releasing bacteriocins into surrounding tissues. The bacteriocins block the growth of many pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria, including Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus that cause tooth cavities. They also impede the colonization, growth, and infection in the upper respiratory tract by Streptococcus pyogenes that causes diseases such as strep throat, rheumatic fever, and various skin infections that can become lethal if they spread deep into the body.
Mouth Probiotics May Reduce Inflammation and Arthritis Pain
Another benefit of mouth probiotics is the reduction in harmful substances output by the pathogenic bacteria and infected tissues that spread disease from the mouth into the rest of the body. As stated, these probiotics can block the growth of bacteria that cause gum disease, inflammation, and cavities. Cavities are obviously bad, unless perhaps you are a wealthy sado-masochist in regards to dental work. But it is less commonly understood that gum diseases and inflammation leads to high quantities of inflammatory cytokines being released by infected human tissues. These get into the blood stream, sometimes accompanied by harmful bacteria from the mouth, and wreak havoc in the body. They are one of the culprits in rheumatoid arthritis, atheroscelorsis, and heart diseases.
Researchers at Case Western Reserve found that the treating periodontal disease helps improve arthritis pain. They believe the reduction in TNF-A (tumor necrosis factor alpha) produced by inflamed gums is part of the reason for the pain reduction:
After receiving treatment for the gum disease, improvement in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms was seen in patients who did and did not receive the anti-TNF-A medications, which block the production of TNF-A that aggravate or can cause inflammation. Patients on the TNF-A inhibitors showed even greater improvements over those not receiving the drugs.
Gum Disease Leads to Heart Disease?
Researchers have found that the inflammatory proteins produced by both mouth bacteria in those with gum diseases can cause white blood cells to target both the bacterial proteins and similar human proteins. In the process, this auto-immune style reaction can lead to increased buildup of plaque in arteries and lead to heart disease.
“We found white blood cells called T cells in the lesions of arteries in patients affected by atherosclerosis. These T cells were able to bind to host heat shock proteins as well as those from bacteria that cause gum disease. This suggests that the similarity between the proteins could be the link between oral infection and atherosclerosis,” said Professor Seymour.
This molecular mimicry means that when the immune system reacts to oral infection, it also attacks host proteins, causing arterial disease. These findings could fundamentally change health policy, highlighting the importance of adult oral health to overall health and wellbeing: control of gum disease should be essential in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Oral Health Critical to Overall Health
As you can see from the numerous links between poor oral health and diseases throughout the human body, preventing periodontal diseases is a really important step for your health. Obviously regular dental visits are helpful, as are regular dental brushing, flossing, anti-plaque rinses, and other tools. But despite all of that, bacteria will continue to grow in your mouth. Stacking the deck to help ensure that the bacteria that are growing are far less likely to be harmful ones seems like a great idea.
One little problem with actually implementing this idea for your own personal use is that most of the probiotic products on the market today are intended for digestive tract health, not for your mouth. They contain bacteria that are great in your gut, but may not be so fine in your mouth. They may also taste horrible, be packaged in inconvenient powders, or lack the Bacillus coagulans and Streptococcus salivarius bacteria ideal for the mouth.
Suggested Products and Usage
Life Extension has recently introduced a mouth probiotic lozenge called Advanced Oral Hygiene. It contains both Bacillus coagulans and Streptococcus salivarius bacteria which help populate the mouth with friendly bacteria that out-compete those causing cavities and gum diseases. The suggested usage is to dissolve one or two per day in your mouth after you brush, floss, and do whatever other oral hygiene you do. The lozenges are flavored to make them more pleasant to use.
Some people use fluoride, hydrogen peroxide, and other mouth rinses. It may be advisable to dissolve the Advanced Oral Hygiene lozenges in your mouth at a time that there will not be residue from such rinses. For instance, I rinse with a fluoride solution before going to sleep and don’t rinse that out. So I’m thinking that for me, the best time to dissolve these or similar lozenges is probably after my morning oral hygiene and rinsing out my mouth really well with water to get rid of any traces of the peroxide teeth whitener/disinfectant rinse that I use.
There are many other types of probiotic supplements that incorporate Bacillus coagulans. One of them is Source Naturals DuraFlora, intended for helping colonize your digestive system with friendly bacteria.
In theory you could open a capsule of DuraFlora, then empty the powder in your mouth and chew it for a while. Since I already use DuraFlora daily as a digestive probiotic and wanted to report on how it worked in the mouth, I tried it as follows. It took under a minute to get the capsule open. I managed to drop the bacterial spores into my hand without losing many of them, and from there tossed and licked them into my mouth. While there wasn’t much taste, it was kind of gritty, a bit like getting some sand in the mouth. Definitely it wasn’t nasty tasting like some dietary supplement powders (such as acetyl-L-carnitine), but it isn’t so pleasant to have gritty spores in your mouth. It would be far more convenient to just take a lozenge.
I’ll have to get and try some Life Extension Advanced Oral Hygiene lozenges for comparison. I suspect they will be more pleasant and convenient without the gritty texture, maybe more like a sublingual B12 lozenge. Moreover, they will also have the Streptococcus salivarius missing from the DuraFlora product. After I’ve gotten to use some, I’ll either update this article or write another article about my opinion.
Update as of June 30, 2009: I’ve been using the Life Extension Advanced Oral Hygiene lozenges for a few days. In terms of the taste, they are mildly minty, not chalky, and remind me a fair amount of a mint Tic-Tac candy. They’re definitely more pleasant and convenient to use than opening up a capsule of DuraFlora.
If you run across some other good options for mouth probiotics, please post a comment on this article with your findings and opinions. Thanks!
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned on this post are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.