A new study suggests that four probiotics found in fermented foods may help reduce the sulfur compounds that cause bad breath.

One of the main sources of halitosis, otherwise known as bad breath, is the accumulation in the mouth of volatile sulfur compounds produced by anaerobic bacteria that feed on food left behind. A new meta-analysis has found that ingesting four probiotics can reduce the compounds that cause bad breath, at least in the short term.

The four beneficial probiotics are Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus reuteri, Streptococcus salivarius, and Weissella cibaria, all of which may benefit gut health. They are found in fermented foods. There are many possible causes of persistent bad breath, or halitosis, with poor dental hygiene being the main contributing factor.

A recent meta-analysis suggests that certain probiotics may tackle one of the main causes of bad breath. The results show that probiotics help eliminate the buildup of malodorous volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) in oral biofilms. The review authors report that Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus reuteri, Streptococcus salivarius and Weissella cibaria, which are found in fermented foods, reduce volatile sulfur compounds for up to 4 weeks compared to control groups.
The study results were recently published in BMJ Open.

Analysis of the effects of probiotics on bad breath

To perform the meta-analysis, the researchers looked at the results of seven randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving 278 participants. The number of participants in each study ranged from 23 to 68, and people’s ages ranged from 19 to 70 years. Each study was analyzed to measure halitosis subjectively and objectively for up to 12 weeks.
The researchers detected the halitosis levels of participants who had closed their mouths for one minute before exhaling into the rater’s nose from a distance of 10 centimeters. Their subjective impressions resulted in organoleptic scores (OLPs), which are based on senses like smell and taste. Next, volatile sulfur compounds, or VSCs, were objectively measured using a halimeter, an instrument that detects and measures the presence of gas.

How do volatile sulfur compounds arise?

VSCs are produced by anaerobic bacteria that interact with food remaining in the mouth due to poor dental hygiene. Specific bacteria can live in the mouth and break down food, resulting in the production and release of volatile sulfur compounds that contribute to bad breath. The bacteria most associated with halitosis are gram-negative bacteria. The new study identified four beneficial probiotics containing gram-positive bacteria. These bacteria modify the oral microbiota to reduce the accumulation of these volatile sulfur compounds.

The antibacterial effects of probiotics

The authors of the present study cite a growing body of evidence that probiotics can crowd out the bacteria responsible for breaking down amino acids and proteins.
The results show a significant decrease in halitosis according to the two measurement methods they used. Compared to control groups, OLP scores decreased by 58%, while VSC scores decreased by 26%. However, based on VSC scores, the positive effect of the probiotics did not last beyond 4 weeks. But the improvement in OLP scores remained beyond 4 weeks. The analysis also revealed that probiotics do not address the other two main sources of halitosis, namely plaque buildup and tongue coating. However, one of the studies showed beneficial effects on plaque buildup after 12 weeks.

Why oral hygiene is important

People can try a variety of ways to reduce bad breath, including teeth scraping, tongue scraping, and mouthwashes. Others may try to improve their breath by chewing gum, which may not be the most effective long-term solution. When you chew, your body triggers stomach acid and digestive enzymes. When there is no food entering the body, you put yourself at risk for GERD [ou] acid reflux and more dental problems. Oral health, or lack thereof, has been linked to many diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, respiratory disease and even heart disease.

What foods contain probiotics?

The authors of the present study suggest that probiotics can improve oral hygiene by combating bad breath. Probiotics are living organisms, beneficial bacteria and yeasts, found naturally in the human body. They can be consumed in the form of supplements or in food. While both methods can provide benefits, a 2016 meta-analysis found that consuming probiotics found in food sources may be the optimal way to obtain them.

To benefit from the probiotics Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus reuteri and Streptococcus salivarius, Routhenstein recommends fermented foods such as Greek yogurt, kefir, kimchi and pickled beets.

Having a variety of probiotic-rich foods can benefit not only the oral microbiota, but also the gut microbiome, which is an important component of overall health and heart health in particular. Miso and real sauerkraut, fermented cheeses and sourdough bread are other great food sources of probiotics, noting that the Weissella cibariais bacteria present in these foods allows them to ferment.

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