What is the Deal with Probiotics? Can They Help My Cavities?
There are certain times where probiotics are very effective, primarily with regard to gut and digestive health. However, the story of probiotics and dental caries is a little different. There have been numerous approaches to both the type of probiotics and delivery systems of them to treat dental issues. The challenge is getting the probiotic to become a permanent member of the biofilm, and to this point it has yet to be done. Another challenge is probiotics must be used every single day in order to reap the benefit, if the user stops using it for a day or two, any benefit at all is lost. In dentistry the research has not shown much impact (if any) of probiotics benefit to dental caries.
Here are two recent studies:
Probiotic L. rhamnosus?
“Frequent nutrition supply significantly increased bacterial numbers. (6Xday). Biofilms in dentin cavities compared to smooth enamel harboured significantly more bacteria. Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG) induced mineral loss especially in dentin cavities and under highly cariogenic conditions. LGG did not have inhibitory effects on SM, but rather contributed to the caries process in vitro.”(Schwendicke F, Dörfer C, Kneist S, Meyer-Lueckel H, Paris S. Cariogenic effects of probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in a dental biofilm model. Caries Res. 2014;48(3):186-92. 240 bovine, 2x,6x, 10 days in vitro).
These probiotics not only didn’t treat the bacteria, they actually joined the party!
“Administration of Bifidobacterium animalis subspecies lactis BB-12 in infancy does not seem to increase or decrease the occurrence of caries by 4 years of age in a low-caries population.”(Taipale T, Pienihäkkinen K, Alanen P, Jokela J, Söderling E. Administration of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12 in early childhood: a post-trial effect on caries occurrence at four years of age. Caries Res. 2013;47(5):364-72.1-2mo-2, 4, Xyl,Sorb,Ba)
In this study the probiotic did not join the biofilm and did not have any impact on decreasing the occurrence of dental caries.
Probiotics seem like a good idea, however the research has not proven it to be very effective. I tell practitioners if they want to try it, go ahead, just don’t make it your only strategy.