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Probiotics are gaining popularity all over the world and are being endorsed by doctors as a scientifically valid treatment with health benefits. Their use is being expanded to a number of new fields and that includes dentistry. The question here is whether probiotics have matured enough to be considered a standalone therapy or whether their benefits are only adjunctive in nature.
What Are Probiotics?
The term probiotics means "for life". Probiotics are defined as live micro-organisms that confer a health benefit on the species which ingests them. The basic idea of using food to promote health has been around for centuries, and our ancestors actually used probiotic-rich food like yogurt for this purpose, albeit unknown to them. The idea behind their use is simple and has been proved scientifically. Our body is full of micro-organisms of many different strains and species, both beneficial and potentially harmful.
By increasing the amount of health promoting micro-organisms and creating conditions favorable to their colonization, the disease causing micro-organisms are supposed to be suppressed. Excellent results have been seen with the use of probiotics in cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and fighting food allergies.
Prevention of Tooth Decay
Diet is one of the most important factors in dentistry, with the growth of organisms that produce decay being directly related to what you ear. Decay or caries is one of the most widespread dental diseases. Rotten teeth are caused by the action of the streptococcus species, which metabolize sugars in the diet to release acids which attack the surface of the teeth.
The idea behind using probiotics is that the normal population of the micro-organisms in the mouth will shift towards a health-promoting ecosystem. Experimental studies conducted have shown a decrease in the number of streptococcus mutans species in the mouth in individuals who are taking probiotics, particularly those with the streptococcus salivarius M18 strain.
Also referred to as "pyorrhea" or simply gum disease, this condition actually affects all the supporting structures around the teeth including the gums, the periodontal ligament and the bone. The disease is slow to progress and does not cause any pain. This is one of the main reasons why it is often ignored until it is too late to save the tooth. The cause of periodontal disease lies in a complex interplay of micro-organisms which exist in a bio film. This bio film forms as soon as it is removed and is impossible to prevent. Researchers are focusing on modifying the nature of this bio film through probiotic species which can dissolve the extra cellular matrix and reduce the number of inflammatory products being released from it.