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An Intro to Probiotic Toothpaste: Is It for You?

October 28, 2020 6 min read

Person holding a bamboo toothbrush ready to brush their teeth

At a glance

It’s no secret that the foods you eat can have a profound effect on your health. However, you may not realize that your diet affects a lot more than your waistline. When you consume too many sugary foods and carbohydrates, it can shift the bacterial balance in your mouth, resulting in a host of health concerns. While brushing your teeth with regular toothpaste kills off harmful bacteria, it also destroys the good bacteria, thereby impacting your mouth’s delicate ecosystem. Probiotic toothpaste may offer a potential solution to the problem. 

A type of living bacteria that’s safe for human consumption, probiotics have long been used to promote healthy bacteria in the gut, skin, and other body parts. You can takeprobiotic supplements or consume foods prepared with bacterial fermentation, such as yogurt or kimchi, to enjoy these effects. 

While clinical studies are limited at this time,early research suggests that probiotics may be useful in treating and preventing several oral health concerns, including cavities, periodontal disease, and halitosis. Keep reading to learn more about probiotics and discover the pros and cons associated with brushing your teeth using a probiotic toothpaste.

How probiotics work

An increasing amount of evidence shows that the amount of bacteria in your body plays a crucial role in your overall health. While the quantity of good and bad bacteria varies from one person to the next, probiotics can help restore the balance, offering benefits for weight loss, digestive health, mental wellness, immunity, and more. These days, many people take probiotics to promote gut health and digestion. 

Still, new research reveals that these live microorganisms can have a significant effect on the oral microbiome. Like the intestines, your mouth is home to various bacteria. The state of the oral microbiome can impact your oral health, as well as the overall health of your body. 

In fact,studies show that an imbalance of mouth bacteria can lead to cavities and oral cancer, along with conditions such as diabetes, immune conditions, and pregnancy problems. Taking probiotics—or using a probiotic toothpaste—may help restore the balance of this bacteria and biofilm.

Also known as plaque, biofilm is a living film of bacteria that collects on the teeth. The presence of biofilm can indicate that your mouth’s ecosystem is out of balance, with the harmful bacteria that cause decay and disease overpowering the more beneficial bacteria that protect your health. 

If you’re suffering from excessive plaque, you might try to correct the problem with mouthwashes and other dental products professing antibacterial properties. Unfortunately, using these products has failed to help millions of people prevent tooth decay and other issues.

To preserve the helpful bacteria in their mouths, an increasing number of people are turning to probiotics. By brushing your teeth with probiotic toothpaste, you introduce “good” bacteria to your oral biome rather than solely removing the bad. 

Initial studies show that brushing with probiotic toothpaste for a few weeks can decrease bothdisease and halitosis-causing bacteria while also reducing biofilm buildup andgum inflammation. The result is a healthier mouth and more pleasant breath.

What is a probiotic toothpaste? 

Not all kinds of toothpaste claiming to contain probiotics are created equal. Although most of these products claim to promote healthy flora, ingredients can vary dramatically, with options including coconut oil, clay powder, diatomaceous earth, activated charcoal, probiotics, and prebiotics. Many companies sell probiotic toothpaste, but you can alsomake your own with natural ingredients. 

Whether you buy toothpaste or mix your own at home, you should aim to use about half a teaspoon every time you brush your teeth. For best results, brush the paste onto your teeth as well as other oral surfaces, including your tongue and the roof of your mouth. 

Many probiotic pastes liquify when you put them in your mouth, so you likely won’t need to add much water. After brushing your teeth, swish the paste around so it travels between the gaps in your teeth and reaches the spots a toothbrush can’t. Finally, spit out the paste and rinse your mouth using clean water. 

Toothbrush with black bristles on a tin of probiotic toothpaste

Pros of using a probiotic toothpaste

Numerous studies suggest that using a probiotic toothpaste can have a positive effect on your oral health. Read on for more details.

Protect your gums

One of the best reasons to consider probiotics is to protect your teeth and gums long-term.Studies show that oral lactic acid bacteria and Bifidobacterium, one of the mostcommonly used probiotic strains, can reduce your odds of suffering cavities and gum disease. 

Additionally, probiotics can be beneficial for patients already experiencing gum disease and other issues. In fact, the same study showed that nearly every patient with existing periodontal diseases, gingivitis, or periodontitis saw an improvement in their condition.

Freshen your breath

Along with preventing gum disease and cavities, oral probiotics help to freshen your breath. The average human mouth is home to more than 700 different species of bacteria. Probiotics can be useful in supporting good bacteria while preventing the growth of the harmful variety. 

According to research, 85% of people who took oral probiotics for one week saw a significant decrease in volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) produced by harmful bacteria. These and othersulfur-containing compounds have long been associated with bad breath. Moreover, the VSC levels remained suppressed for two weeks following the initial probiotic exposure. 

Beautify your smile

Probiotic toothpaste may also improve the physical appearance of your teeth, depending on other ingredients in the formula. Many of the top probiotic pastes on the market feature activated charcoal or activated coconut charcoal, a product made from coconut shells. 

Along with cleaning teeth, coconut charcoal is effective for whitening teeth, removing stains from coffee, tea, wine, and even cigarettes. If you want a whiter smile without harsh chemicals, a probiotic toothpaste with activated coconut charcoal may be the solution. 

Stay natural

Probiotic toothpaste has numerous benefits for your oral health and hygiene. However, another reason to consider these products is that they’re part of a larger movement toward using natural dental products. 

Most probiotic toothpaste is free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and other ingredients found in traditional toothpaste. Along with irritating sensitive teeth, exposure to SLS can lead to canker sores

Two toothbrushes in a jar on the bathroom counter

Cons of using probiotic toothpaste

Of course, using a probiotic toothpaste is not without its drawbacks. Here are some of the downsides to using probiotic pastes.

Less cavity protection

Many dentists note that traditional toothpaste remains more effective at preventing cavities. If you’re looking for a toothpaste that boasts theAmerican Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance, you’ll likely need to use a product that contains fluoride. 

Immune system issues

Some research reveals that probiotic consumption can be harmful to those with weakened immune systems. While the supplements are usually well-tolerated by individuals in good health, critically ill or immunocompromised individuals may want to talk to their doctor before consuming them. For some, probiotics can cause upset stomach, bloating, gas, and diarrhea

Unattractive to kids

While not a health concern, children may be resistant to using a probiotic toothpaste. Free from dyes and artificial ingredients, many of these products lack the fun colors and flavors that kids enjoy. 

You may be able to make probiotic pastes more child-friendly by buying a product that containsxylitol. Though it looks and tastes like real sugar, xylitol has fewer calories and doesn't raise blood sugar levels. For this reason, it’s a popular ingredient in diabetes-friendly foods and oral healthcare products.

In summary 

Despite brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash, many people still suffer from oral health issues. While some of these conditions are on the mild side, such as cavities and bad breath, others have the potential to affect your health for years to come. That’s where probiotics can help.

A relatively new option for treating gum disease and gingivitis, probiotic toothpaste promotes a healthy balance of bacteria in your mouth. Long used to improve gut flora, probiotics can also help fight harmful bacteria in the mouth while enabling helpful bacteria to flourish. The result is less plaque, healthier gums, and fresher breath. 

While probiotic toothpaste offers significant benefits, this oral hygiene option is not without its drawbacks. Individuals considering probiotic and natural toothpaste should consider that these options don’t contain fluoride, an ingredient most dentists believe is crucial for fighting cavities. Those who are seriously ill or immunocompromised should speak with a doctor before incorporating probiotics into their lifestyle. Your doctor may also be able to recommend a good probiotic toothpaste for your special oral health needs.

April Maguire - Contributing Writer, Physician’s Choice