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Probiotics are essential to your good health. There are many different types and strains and their roles in your body are just as varied. Some help your body absorb nutrients better, some relieve unpleasant digestive symptoms, some prevent yeast overgrowth and still others boost your immune system. But did you know they may prevent cavities?
University of Florida Health researchers have identified a new strain of bacteria in the mouth that may keep bad bacteria in check — and could lead to a way to prevent cavities using probiotics.
To zero in on the bacteria capable of doing this, the researchers needed to find one that could affect the mechanism that controls the pH balance of the mouth. When a mouth is too acidic, that acid can dissolve your teeth.
One specific bacterium fit the bill because of its ability to break down arginine, an amino acid that works with the urea naturally secreted in your mouth, to maintain proper pH.
But that’s just part of the equation.
The cavity-fighting probiotic
A12 — the “name” of the beneficial bacteria — has a potent ability to battle a particularly harmful kind of streptococcal bacteria called Streptococcus mutans, which metabolizes sugar into lactic acid, contributing to acidic conditions in the mouth that form cavities. The UF researchers found that A12 not only helps neutralize acid by metabolizing arginine in the mouth, it also often kills Streptococcus mutans.
A12 can also decrease the ability of Streptococcus mutans to create biofilms on your teeth, otherwise known as dental plaque.
“Like a probiotic approach to the gut to promote health, what if a probiotic formulation could be developed from natural beneficial bacteria from humans who had a very high capacity to break down arginine?” says Robert Burne, Ph.D., associate dean for research and chair of the UF College of Dentistry’s department of oral biology. “You would implant this probiotic in a healthy child or adult who might be at risk for developing cavities. However many times you have to do that — once in a lifetime or once a week, the idea is that you could prevent a decline in oral health by populating the patient with natural beneficial organisms.”
Hopefully in the not too distant future, you can pick up this cavity-fighting probiotic at your nearest drugstore. In the meantime, you may want to consider eating more of the foods that can alkalinize your body, not only for good oral care but for full body care. For a list of those foods see this post by Dr. Isaac Eliaz.