Probiotics and Your Child's Teeth
The body’s ability to protect itself from harm is an incredible thing. And, just as blood goes through a clotting process to foil unfettered bleeding without us asking for its assistance, probiotics help to keep bad bacteria at bay without us even knowing they’re hard at work! The cool thing is, we can feed these bacteria what they want to help them do their job. How is that possible? With a little supplementation, of course!
What is a Probiotic?
A probiotic is one of many types of microorganisms that inhabit our body and act in cohort with other “good bacteria” to keep bad bacteria from multiplying to levels that compromise our health.
How Do Probiotics Work in Our Mouth?
You may be familiar with the idea of probiotics (“good” bacteria) helping to keep our intestinal flora in balance. Yogurt, sauerkraut and other fermented foods are a few examples of foods that contain this form of good bacteria.
A similar battle occurs in one’s mouth. There, probiotics prohibit the overgrowth of bad bacteria by consuming the same energy source (carbohydrates) bad bacteria need to survive. But the strains of bacteria that protect our mouth are different than those in our gut. And, those available in food aren’t among those that help maintain a balance in our mouth. As a result, science is looking for ways to boost these levels of good bacteria through supplementation. If your dentist and doctor were to recommend supplementation, the most common solutions come in the form of lozenges and rinses.
With rinses, look for S. salivarius K12 and M18 on the label, and with lozenges, you’ll want to see the combination of Streptococcus oralis KJ3, Streptococcus uberis KJ2, and Streptococcus rattus JH145. There is also research that suggests S. salivarius, in particular, can reduce the frequency of strep throat and tonsillitis in some children.
Are Probiotics Good for Everyone?
Not necessarily. Because probiotics are living organisms, you should never give your child supplemental probiotics (nor consume them yourself) without first consulting with your family doctor. This is especially important for those with immune-specific conditions or who are immunocompromised.
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