Probiotics: Good Bacteria

Dentistry Today


While the oral cavity may contain more than 600 species of bacteria, not all of them are harmful—a very small percentage actually cause periodontal disease and decay. The same is true in the digestive tract. Healthy digestion relies on good bacteria, which aid in absorption and elimination of food. A balance between good and bad bacteria is essential for overall health. These days, in order to achieve a balance, many people are taking supplements of good bacteria called probiotics. Probiotic bacteria have been defined as “live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a benefit on the host.” These are consumed daily in such foods as yogurt and other cultured or fermented foods. Probiotics help the immune system by increasing the number of anti-inflammatory bacteria in the intestinal system and also by binding to the intestinal walls. In this way, probiotics help with irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, infectious diarrhea, bladder and colon cancer, and vaginal infections. 
New research indicates positive results on rheumatoid arthritis, food allergies, atopic eczema, and HIV. Probiotics can be purchased as food or as powders, tablets, or capsules. There are vegetarian formulations as well. Concentrations of colony-forming units vary and make choosing the right one difficult. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bidifum are good choices as they are hearty enough to pass through stomach acids to reach the intestinal tract. Heat, moisture, and oxygen can affect these products, and probiotics should be taken with a meal. Research on probiotics to reduce oral health diseases is beginning, though only a few randomized and controlled studies have been reported.

(Source: Modern Hygienist, January 2008)