Oral probiotics are strains of bacteria that are good for your oral health. These bacteria already exist in your mouth and help maintain a healthy balance and pH level of your oral microbiome.
Sometimes, this balance can get out of whack and bad bacteria can outgrow the good bacteria. This can lead to problems like caries and periodontitis.
Taking oral probiotic supplements can help fight against bad breath, gum disease, and decay, and return your oral microbiome to a healthy balance. In this article, we'll talk more about the relationship between oral care probiotics and oral health, and we'll review some of the best oral probiotics you can buy.
Before we continue, if you want to see the best oral probiotics on the market, we compare three that are topping our charts:
cariPRO Dental Probiotics
L. paracasei, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, S. salivarius K12
Best for gum disease
Great Oral Health
L. acidophilus, L. reuteri, L. paracasei, L. salivarius, S. thermophilus, S. salivarius
Best for bad breath
L. paracasei, L. reuteri, L. sakei, L. salivarius
Table of contents
What are oral probiotics?
Oral probiotics, also called dental probiotics, are strains of bacteria that improve oral health and support a healthy mouth. These probiotics encourage good bacteria to grow. They also help stop the growth of bad bacteria.
Many people in the United States don't have access to proper oral care, as dental care is seen as separate to healthcare. Therefore, good oral health and practising good dental hygiene is essential.
You've probably been hearing a lot about gut health lately since it's one of the latest health crazes. Well, just like with your gut, the mouth has its own ecosystem of bacteria, called the oral microbiome. In short, oral probiotics improve the health of the mouth's microbiome and help it maintain its balance of good bacteria.
Let's talk about oral bacteria
There are billions of bacteria that call your mouth home. They come from many different places. They began colonizing when you were born, and then more are added throughout your life — ingested with every glass of water your drink or every time you kiss someone.
Not all of them put their roots down in your mouth — some simply pass through — but plenty of them decide to set up camp in your mouth indefinitely.
These bacteria make up more than 700 different species of oral bacteria, and together they make up your oral microbiome. The healthy bacteria protect your mouth and help fight off decay, but the harmful bacteria can cause cavities and gum disease. All of these bacteria together form your biofilm, which is more commonly known as dental plaque.
When you have a healthy mouth, your bacteria live in harmony, but if you have a poor diet, poor oral hygiene, or other health and autoimmune issues, the balance is disrupted and the harmful bacteria can start to take over.
This is when myriad bad things can happen, including bad breath, decay, and tooth loss if left untreated.
The relationship between gut and oral microbiomes
Oral bacteria can travel to the stomach biome through — you guessed it — saliva. Saliva is a critical transport method of oral bacteria. These bacterial hitchhikers enter your saliva and thus spread to your gut.
Thankfully, the gut has stomach acid which works as a barrier, but some bad bacteria are acid-resistant like Porphyromonas gingivalis. This oral bacteria is responsible for gum disease, and can also cause dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the gut microbiome.
When this happens, there are all sorts of potential negative health effects, including:
- Type II diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Pancreatic cancer
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Alzheimer's disease
- …and, unfortunately, more
How your oral health affects your overall health
Your mouth is the gatekeeper for the rest of your body. If your mouth is unhealthy, this will likely affect your overall health.
Bad bacteria that grow in your mouth can transfer to your blood vessels and be carried to the rest of your body, as described in this review by Purnima S. Kumar in the Journal of Physiology.
In fact, your oral microbiome can even affect your lungs. Poor oral hygiene and lack of dental hygiene visits can increase the risk of developing pneumonia. This is an indication that bad oral bacteria might be a link between oral and lung diseases.
In the same vein, periodontal disease is also related to cardiovascular disease — anything from stroke to high blood pressure. In the 1990s it was found that both caries and periodontitis can result in tooth loss, although the effect of gum disease on stroke risk was much higher — a whopping 400% more.
In fact, according to Kumar, there are many other health problems and diseases that can be linked to an unhealthy mouth microbiome, including problems with pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and even Alzheimer's.
Are dental probiotics the same as gut probiotics?
No. Dental probiotics and gut probiotics are not the same. There are different organisms included in each, with some overlap, and the optimal method of delivery for each is also different.
To put it simply, gut probiotics contain strains of bacteria that naturally grow in the gut. And oral probiotics contain bacterial strains that naturally grow in the mouth.
In the video below you can see the maker of Great Oral Health oral probiotics explain the difference between dental and gut probiotics.
Uses for mouth probiotics
Dental probiotics offer a whole host of benefits, including improving bad breath, promoting gum health, and preventing plaque and cavities. Let's take a closer look at how this works.
Oral probiotics for bad breath
There's good news for those struggling with halitosis because probiotics have been shown to be a successful way to fight bad breath.
Approximately 90% of cases of halitosis are caused by periodontitis. Probiotics that help maintain gum health can also help fight halitosis that is caused by pathogens. They can also help promote healthy tongue ecology, especially in the harder-to-reach areas of the tongue, where the papillae tend to host more bacteria that cause bad odors. However, probiotic strains targeted to colonize periodontal tissues may struggle to colonize on the tongue in order to see a positive effect on halitosis. Essentially, species that normally live on the tongue are distinct from those that live on the gums.
One strain shown to help with bad breath is Streptococcus salivarius K12, as shown in this study where subjects took a 3-day regimen of chlorhexidine mouthwash and oral probiotic lozenges containing either the bacteria strain or a placebo. 85% of the treated group saw substantial reductions in halitosis, and only 30% of the placebo group did.
Authors of the study note that while these results are promising, there are still some obstacles to finding the optimal way to ingest oral probiotics for mouth health because these strains have trouble adhering to the tongue. This makes it more difficult for them to take effect, so more studies are needed to develop probiotics specifically targeted to this purpose.
You can read more about bad breath and how to prevent it in our full guide here.
Dental probiotics for gum disease and gingivitis
Probiotic therapy combined with gum treatment yields better results compared to clinical treatments alone. However, there are several aspects to probiotic therapy that need to be considered before getting started, including possible risks of administering probiotic strains to immunocompromised individuals.
One of the groups of helpful bacteria strains in the mouth is a type of lactobacilli. They fight against various types of bad bacteria and help keep the mouth's microbiome in a healthy balance. In one study, 59 patients with gingivitis were given two Lactobacillus reuteri formulations per day or a placebo.
The levels of gingivitis and plaque were measured at the beginning and the end of the trial. By the end of the study, the gingival index fell significantly among the groups who had taken the Lactobacillus, and the placebo group saw no change.
Thus, the L. reuteri effectively reduced gingivitis and plaque in these patients. Likewise, Lactobacillus rhamnosus has demonstrated positive effects on gingival health.
Read more about the causes of gum disease and how to cure it.
Oral probiotics for cavity prevention
There are some bacteria in the oral biofilm that are able to moderate pH and help prevent the development of decay. Strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, L. casei, L. reuteri and Bifidobacterium can potentially affect the colonization of cavity-causing bacteria. This study by the American Society for Microbiology analyzed the A12 strain of Streptococcus. It tested inhibiting the growth of dental caries pathogen Streptococcus mutans.
The conclusion of the study was that this A12 strain, and others like it, may be crucial in promoting sustainable oral biofilm health by maintaining healthy levels of plaque pH and deterring the growth of caries pathogens.
Find out more about what you can do to fight tooth decay and cavities.
Dental probiotics for plaque prevention
Similar to cavity prevention, the same study mentioned above talks about the possibilities for plaque prevention as well because the bacteria strain Streptococcus A12 deters the growth and virulence of the caries pathogen S. mutans.
This pathogen converts sugar into lactic acid, creating an environment with a low pH (more acidic), which results in a greater risk for plaque, and if not dealt with, cavities.
Oral probiotics for tonsil stones
Tonsil stones are little lumps that form on your tonsils, due to calcified food and debris. They typically aren't a serious health issue, and they don't cause pain or irritation. They can, however, cause bad breath, and it's best to get rid of them.
Oral probiotics can sometimes help prevent tonsil stones, when used as part of a healthy oral hygiene routine. In our separate article, you can find out more about oral probiotics for tonsil stones.
Do dental probiotics really work?
Yes, is what the preliminary data says. The study of oral probiotics and oral health is a relatively new area in oral medicine, but the data found in the preliminary studies is promising.
Participants throughout various trials showed an improvement in oral health after taking certain strains of bacteria. Doctors who participated in the studies mentioned above caution that while results are encouraging, more studies will be needed.
Oral probiotic side effects
In the first few days of taking probiotics for dental health, you might experience an upset stomach, bloating, or diarrhea. But, probiotics are bacteria that already live in your system, and taking them to support the health of these bacteria is generally safe.
However, you shouldn't take more than directed, and you should talk to your doctor before beginning any regimen. You should avoid taking these if you have a high risk of infection, and children, seniors, and pregnant women should always talk to their doctor first.
Best oral probiotics
Since dental probiotics for oral health are dietary supplements, you can buy them over the counter and online. This also means that they don't have to undergo the same rigorous testing that medications do to be sold on the market.
It's important that you choose a brand that conducts careful research and has a good reputation. In the dental probiotics reviews below, you'll find three products that are trustworthy, carefully studied, and receive positive customer reviews.
cariPRO Dental Probiotics
These cariPRO Dental Probiotics contain BLIS K12 probiotics and are designed to restore your oral microbiome to a healthy balance after you brush. They contain quality strains that can deter the growth of harmful bacteria, especially those that cause bad breath, plaque, and weakened immune defenses.
These probiotics for teeth are rigorously tested and made in the USA. They are also non-GMO, vegetarian, and free from soy, gluten, nuts, preservatives, sugar, eggs, and artificial colors and flavors.
To take them, you simply chew one tablet after brushing or after you use mouthwash. Don't rinse after chewing. The best time to take a tablet is before going to bed.
You don't have to worry about any strange tastes because these tablets have a delightful pomegranate berry flavor, naturally sweetened with stevia leaf extract.
CariPRO also makes oral probiotics for kids, designed to support sinus and oral health in children. Clinical studies have shown that these probiotics can help reduce ear, nose, and throat infections in children. You can read more in our separate article about oral probiotics for kids.
For both the kids' and adults' probiotics, if you're not completely satisfied with your purchase, you can return them for a full refund, so there's nothing to lose.
The full list of ingredients is:
- L. paracasei, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, S. salivarius K12
- Natural cherry pomegranate type flavor
- Stearic acid
- Dicalcium phosphate
- Malic acid
- Stevia leaf extract
Great Oral Health Probiotics
These oral health probiotics are formulated by Dr. Paul O'Malley and are designed to defend against bad bacteria. They feature a patented 7-strain formula, with BLIS K12 and BLIS M18, and are thoroughly researched using principles of holistic dentistry.
They are also made in the US and have all-natural ingredients, are sugar and lactose-free, and have no artificial flavors. Dr. O'Malley promises that with these oral probiotic supplements you can fight bad breath, gum disease, bleeding gums, oral thrush, gingivitis, plaque, cavities, and dry mouth. He even says that these probiotics for the mouth contain minerals that will support tooth remineralization.
The full list of ingredients is:
- L. acidophilus, L. reuteri, L. paracasei, L. salivarius, S. thermophilus
- Glyceryl behenate
- Spearmint flavor
- Dicalcium phosphate
- Stevia leaf extract
Windsor Botanicals Dental Probiotics
Windsor Botanicals makes 100% vegetarian oral probiotics with four probiotic strains: L. paracasei, L. reuteri, L. sakei, and L. salivarius. They contain 3,000,000,000 colony-forming units and a natural mint flavor.
Like those mentioned above, these are designed especially to treat bad breath, and they are gentle, meaning they won't give you a dry mouth or upset your stomach.
Thanks to their gentle formula, these oral probiotics are suitable for adults and children and can help support upper respiratory, tonsil, ear, nose, throat, and gut health.
The full list of ingredients is:
- L. paracasei, L. reuteri, L. sakei, L. salivarius
- Dicalcium phosphate
- Microcrystalline cellulose
- Natural peppermint flavor
- Natural spearmint flavor
Oral probiotics are supplements you can take to improve and maintain the health of your oral microbiome. In other words, they help you to keep the community of bacteria in your mouth in balance.
Our mouths contain good and bad bacteria, and sometimes, the bad bacteria can outgrow the good bacteria, causing problems like bad breath, decay, and periodontitis. Oral probiotics contain good bacterial strains that already exist in your mouth to help encourage the growth and health of those good bacteria.
Studies have shown that people who take oral probiotics see an improvement in areas like gum health and bad breath, so if you'd like some extra help improving your oral health, you may want to speak with your doctor or dentist about starting oral probiotics.
You can also purchase them online and over the counter since they are safe for most people to take at the recommended dosage.
Do oral probiotics work?
Preliminary studies point to yes. Oral probiotics have been shown to increase gum health, reduce plaque, and freshen breath. They do this by encouraging the growth of good bacteria. This helps keep a balance in your microbiome and levels out the pH.
What are the best probiotics for oral health?
The probiotics you should look for include Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Streptococcus salivarius strains K2 and M18.
What is the best oral probiotic for bad breath?
To fight the pathogens that cause bad breath, the best probiotic strains to take include Lactobacillus reuteri, L. salivarius, L. paracasei, L. sakei, and Streptococcus salivarius K12.
Do dentists recommend probiotics?
Many dentists recognize the positive outcomes in patients during preliminary studies of oral probiotics. And many dentists do promote oral probiotics as a way to supplement a proper oral care routine.
However, some dentists warn that because probiotics are dietary supplements and are not subject to the same standards as medications, it may be difficult to ensure you are obtaining an effective product. If you do choose to purchase oral probiotics, go for a dentist's recommendation, or choose a well-known and trustworthy brand.
Johnson & Johnson: 4 Fascinating Things Scientists Know About the Billions of Bacteria in Your Mouth. Consulted 13th October 2021.
Atlas BioMed: Dysbiosis of the Oral Microbiota Causes Gut and Health Problems. Consulted 13th October 2021.
American Society for Microbiology: A Highly Arginolytic Streptococcus Species That Potently Antagonizes Streptococcus mutans. Consulted 13th October 2021.
PubMed: Decreased Gum Bleeding and Reduced Gingivitis by the Probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri. Consulted 13th October 2021.
Journal of Physiology: From Focal Sepsis to Periodontal Medicine: A Century of Exploring the Role of the Oral Microbiome in Systemic Disease. Consulted 13th October 2021.
PubMed: A Preliminary Study of the Effect of Probiotic Streptococcus salivarius K12 on Oral Malodour Parameters. Consulted 13th October 2021.
NCBI: Probiotics and Oral Health. Consulted 13th October 2021.
Sunstar: Global Healthy Thinking Report. Consulted 12th April 2022.