On topic with Dr. Dill: 

The pros and cons of probiotics

Some people use probiotic supplements as a source of “good bacteria” to help them achieve health-related goals. But what does “good bacteria” mean? And does it have a positive or negative effect on your oral health?

More research is needed, but some studies do indicate that certain groups of helpful bacteria — mainly Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria — can fight or cancel out some adverse oral health effects from the bad bacteria in your mouth.

Where do probiotics come from?

Probiotics naturally occur in certain foods, such as most yogurts, soft cheeses, fermented milk, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. They can also come as a supplement in a variety of forms — capsules, pills, powders, and liquids.

The pros of probiotics

Further research is needed to determine exactly how probiotics interact with your oral and overall health. There are a few ways probiotics may benefit your teeth, gums, and overall health.

Reduce bad breath

It’s possible that probiotics can reduce or eliminate bad breath in some people by combating the bacteria causing the bad breath.

Relieve symptoms of gum disease

Certain studies suggest that probiotics can help reduce symptoms of inflammation and tenderness caused by gingivitis.

Limit plaque and tooth decay

“Good” bacteria may help protect your tooth enamel, reducing your risk of cavities and tooth decay.

Other potential benefits

Certain probiotics can improve digestions and gut health.

Potential cons to consider

In general, probiotics are not harmful to your health. But potential side effects can come in the form of allergic reactions, an upset stomach, bloating, and diarrhea. You’re more likely to experience those symptoms if you use probiotics while you are already sick (with the flu, for instance) or if you have a compromised immune system.

Consult your physician before using probiotics

Most people get the good bacteria they need with a nutritious diet rich in fiber.

Also, be aware that when a probiotic is sold as a dietary supplement, it doesn't require approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration unless the product makes health claims. Because of this, it's best to talk to your physician before you start using a probiotic supplement.

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